Krolokke begins her essay by recapping recent research in gender and language in cyberspace, including the role of "grrrls" who specifically resist male domination. She then describes her study of 5 MSN channels of Internet Relay Chat (IRC): gay chat, lesbian chat, transgender/transsexual chat, politics2000 chat, and African-American chat for what she calls "playful chat". She analyzes the transcribed speech for 4 types of language play: abbreviations, paralinguistic cues, hybrid language, and insulting speech. Krolokke uses performance theory to explain gender play online such that she considers "linguistic gender" to mean performing a speech pattern that follows social and cultural expectations or stereotypes associated with the speech of that gender. She explains that in some cases, "IRC provides a space for participants to play out their most convincing performances of parodic linguistic identities." As such, she provides an argument away from earlier linguists who argued about the inherent differences in male/female communication and towards later "third wave" linguists who see all communication and all contexts as marked for gender, not the speaker him or herself.
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.
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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.
While I may never actually cite this reference in my work, I think it is a valid reference for email in 1998. While Baron does not focus on gender in email communication, she seeks to provide a history of email and how it linguistically differs from both spoken language and other forms of writing. She puts forth an interesting theory that email could be considered a "creole" language, citing linguistic evidence of "pidgins" that have a highly restricted set of communicative functions while they function as a lingua franca, which matures into a creole as a second and third generation of native speakers grow up in the linguistic community. Since email is less than 40 years old, time will tell if the language used in email will become its own standard with grammar and conventions, or whether it will continue to creolize and adapt to the technological changes of its electronic medium.
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.
In this article, Herring discusses her research into both asynchronous communication via discussion list and synchronous communication via IRC in which women were subject to harassment and demeaning characterizations by men. In both instances, the result was that the affected women fell silent or complied with the male behavioral normatives. I think it is important to note the forums chosen, as there may have been some issues inherent to the discussion which should be considered above and beyond the linguistic patterns. The discussion list was Paglia-L, a group dedicated to discuss the writings of the cultural theorist Camille Paglia, who is often referred to as an "anti-feminist feminist" and who often generates polemical discussions among women as often as in mixed company. The IRC channel was #india which is primarily composed of expatriates from India living in English-speaking countries, and as such, specific Indian cultural patterns may have also influenced the speech found on that channel. What is most useful to me from this essay is how Herring defines harassment online, shows examples of its resistance and escalation, and finally shows how the female participants accommodate or conform to the degrading situation. If these examples can be extended across the internet, it would indicate that male-female communication suffers from similar breakdowns as those that can occur on the job or in any face-to-face situation where harassment may surface and as such, that we have a long way to go to address gender equality online.
Soukup's study focuses upon two chatrooms - one sports-related and male-dominated, and the other female-based and female-dominated. His results support the ideas cited by Tannen and others in linguistic studies of discourse, in that the male chatters were more aggressive, argumentative, and power-seeking than the female chatters. It's unclear to me whether the results can be viewed as reliable or representative, since there may be an inherent social context to a sports-related chatroom/bulletin board that goes above and beyond being merely a male-dominant community. For example, Soukup cites the fact that the sports-related chatroom essentially turned into a locker room replete with profane and sexist language, including sexual put-downs and challenges between male chatters. He goes on to note that when male chatters entered the chatroom of the female-based community, that there was frequent inappropriate behavior such that groups of male chatters would take-over the room with sexist remarks or propositioning of the female members.
Linguists such as Deborah Tannen and Robin Lakoff have sought to examine the conversational styles and practices between men and women in order to formulate theories of gender-specific discourse. In my final paper, I plan to take the theories of such linguists and apply them specifically to Internet venues (chatrooms, discussion boards, and Yahoo groups) to highlight differences in male and female user communication strategies. It is my theory that while online, female members employ more verbal deference mechanisms and more consistently defend the use of “netiquette” than male members of similar age and regional background in order to preserve group unity and cohesiveness while discouraging group divisiveness. From the theoretical readings assigned in class, I plan to cite from Republic.com by Cass Sunstein, and possibly also the 2 articles by Henry Jenkins, in addition to the other bibliographic citations.