In this article, Bromseth discusses his research into 2 Norwegian email lists: Radical Forum (a socialist/Marxist forum) and The Doctor's List (a forum for general practitioners) in which the membership was divided approximately 85% men and 15% women. While the political group tended towards confrontational discussion and raw polemic, the medical forum was characterized by face-saving strategies and an emphasis on "brotherhood". Bromseth argues that the latter behavior should not be seen as "feminization" of male speech, but rather as an example of positive and definitively male social practices in modern (2001) Norway. To him, gender is constantly being constructed in relation to other social phenomena and contexts must always be examined independently to show such construction without stereotyping behavior. This argument runs in counter to the generally accepted thoughts towards men's speech and should definitely be considered as a reminder to readers to not make generalized assumptions based upon previous theories, but instead, to take into account mitigating cultural and social factors when analyzing any speech community.
Despite the fact that it was originally printed in 1987, Rice and Love's essay still provides interesting theoretical material about computer-mediated communication (CMC) in that it seeks to dispel myths that all computer-based communication is unemotional by nature and lack of bandwidth. Among socioemotional content found, they discuss face-saving mechanisms, disinhibition, and "flaming". They created 5 hypotheses about socioemotional content to be measured in the datasets of six weeks of transcripts from the Medsig/Compuserv public computer conference in order to attempt to prove their thesis that CMC over computer networks mirrors participation in real-world communities. While this study does not differentiate variables according to gender, it was interesting to me to read their conclusions that the participants did particpate in socioemotional discourse, although there was no increase in the amount of such discourse over time. I think that if the study were moved to a non-technical forum and increased in physical time length, that the results seen might be very different and more informative.
PDF/Text Available via Elsevier.
I became interested in Matsuda's analysis because, even though it has nothing directly related to gender, it shows a clear picture of how linguistic markers used in verbal speech are carried over into an internet context to delineate identity and power relations. Matsuda analysed the written communications in Japanese of Japanese ESL teachers on the online community TESOL Link for verbal markers such as formal verb endings, address terms, and honorifics that are used to signify deference and vertical social relations. Interestingly enough, he found that there was more horizontal than vertical social relationships on the list, and that when hierarchical distinctions were shown, they were created from a perception of knowledge as power more than seniority or social status. To this, Matsuda cites the teacher vs. learner role as invoked frequently on the list. While he notes that hierarchical relations were found to come into play in a theoretically hierarchy-free environment, Matsuda points out that the power relations were able to be re-negotiated by the members online in a way that might never have been possible in real face-to-face communication given social and linguistic norms in Japan.
Gefen and Ridings, both local Philadelphia scholars, begin by recapping women's and men's sociolinguistic patterns of discourse as prior discussed in the literature. They hypothesize that women, more than men, will wish to both receive support from and give support to a virtual community in which they are participating. In addition, they hypothesize that such support will influence women's assessment of the quality of that virtual community, and that women will more constantly than men rate their virtual community as having higher quality. They surveyed 39 discussion boards, which they divided into men's, women's, and mixed boards. As to be expected, women more than men were found to go to discussion boards for support. One of the interesting results they found is that the men surveyed also sought rapport and support, but did so more often in men's-only communities, presumably where an expectation of common language would be held, and did not rate them lower in quality, even though rapport-seeking can be considered as indicating inferior social status among men according to past sociolinguistic studies. When the men did seek rapport in mixed-gender groups, it did not affect their assessment of the board's quality because there was an expectation of rapport-seeking inherent in the mixed-gender environment, since women were present and rapport-seeking is a characteristic of women's speech. The authors admit that even as they tried to control for gender-bias in the chosen bulletin boards, that some of the communities were specifically support/rapport based (eg. cancer support) and that may have skewed the data towards women's speech and away from men's speech.
PDF/full text available
Winter and Huff's study focuses on a 1996 survey of a women's only online bulletin board for computer scientists called SYSTERS. Although the study is 9 years old, it still brings voice to women who were previously marginalized as gender minorities in their field of work/study. The authors discuss the issue of same-gender boards being both "havens" and "ghettos" for women online, and also provide some support for Cass Sunstein's theory that the internet allows for the consolidation of like opinions - both positive and negative, as in the case of women's forums and online sexual harassment, respectively. Based upon their work, the authors felt that the differences between the genders in online communication was equal or magnified to that present in speech.
Baron begins her analysis by situating instant messaging as a form of computer-mediated communication and attempting to create a profile for IM communications among undergraduate students. She first reviews the linguistic differences in spoken speech: social vs. informative speech and standard vs. non or sub-standard usage by men and women. In terms of written language, she reviews concepts related to personal letter writing and studies about gender identification of online texts. She analyzed the IM data for turn taking, sequences, conversation length, and lexical issues to determine possible effects of gender. She found no differences in turn taking, but found that women had greater overall conversation length and length of ending sequences. From the lexical analysis, Baron found that men used more contracted forms of words (e.g. "I'm" instead of "I am") than women. Most interesting to me, and not at all surprising given my real-world online experiences, was the finding that women used more emoticons than men in the IM conversations.