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Cultural Aspects Of Communication Online

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Cultural Aspects of Communication Processes Online: Identity, Gender, and Language in Synchronous Cybercultures. Charlotte N.(Lani) Gunawardena. Professor

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Cultural Aspects Of Communication Online

  1. 1. Cultural Aspects of Communication Processes Online: Identity, Gender, and Language in Synchronous Cybercultures Charlotte N.(Lani) Gunawardena Professor University of New Mexico USA EDEN 08 Annual Conference June 11-14 June, Lisbon
  2. 2. How Do We Learn? Where Do We Learn? <ul><li>How do diverse sociocultural contexts shape communication processes online? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the communication conventions naturally developed by Internet users when they use the medium informally? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Morocco Arzou AinLeuh Ifrane Fez
  4. 4. Sri Lanka Galle Batticaloa Colombo Kandy
  5. 5. Purpose <ul><li>Generate a conceptual framework of sociocultural factors in visually anonymous synchronous chat by studying the informal use of the medium (often to build relationships with strangers) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Research Questions Focused on: <ul><li>How is identity expressed in informal visually anonymous online chat? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there gender differences in the negotiation of identity? </li></ul><ul><li>How is language used to express identity and communicate online? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Study Design <ul><ul><li>Qualitative, ethnographic perspective to examine communication conventions and conduct interviews </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grounded theory building to develop a conceptual framework </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus group and individual interviews conducted in Moroccan Arabic, French, Sinhala, Tamil & English </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary research team of 4: USA (1), Morocco (2), Sri Lanka (1). </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Similarities and Differences in the Study Contexts <ul><li>Morocco – Arab, Berber, Muslim, Mediterranean African country, more recently colonized by the French, speaking Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Berber, and French </li></ul><ul><li>Sri Lanka – Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim country, predominantly Buddhist, more recently colonized by the English, speaking Sinhala, Tamil, and English. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Participants <ul><li>General public who used Internet Cafés and university students who used the Internet in campus labs </li></ul><ul><li>Specifically those who used chat to communicate with people they do not know </li></ul><ul><li>Morocco – 55 adults (36 males, 19 females) </li></ul><ul><li>Sri Lanka – 50 adults (33 males, 17 females) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Findings: Emerging Conceptual Framework <ul><li>Identity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust building </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self disclosure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Gender differences </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Innovation of language forms to express identity and generate immediacy </li></ul>
  11. 11. Tokens of Identity <ul><li>ASL (Age, Sex, and Location) </li></ul><ul><li>Depending on context will reveal true identity, create a different identity, or blend identity in and ID (e.g.: “lone wolf”) </li></ul><ul><li>Moroccan concept of self is collective –calling on traits of groups to establish identity </li></ul><ul><li>Moroccans often caught between the “high context” world of Moroccan culture and the “low context” world of their European interlocutors </li></ul>
  12. 12. Identity Play <ul><li>Anonymity - more open expression of identity –need not conform to social expectations of stating sex, geographical origin, class, age, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Age and sex are more important than location when expressing identity. Location hinders access. </li></ul><ul><li>Stereotyping takes place more easily in text only environments (e.g.: Mohammed to “Green Python” to gain access to people) </li></ul><ul><li>Identity can be changed to appeal to different audiences </li></ul>
  13. 13. Crossing Boundaries <ul><li>Role play in anonymous chat – Posing as Europeans or claiming a different gender identity </li></ul><ul><li>Construction of cybernetic identities enabled disenfranchised persons and communities to deal with exclusion & marginalization. Eg: AinLeuh – where the café is the domain of men, women make connections with men outside their community through the Internet </li></ul>
  14. 14. Identity and Trust Building <ul><li>Techniques to determine trust worthiness: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Asking a series of questions in the initial encounter and asking the same questions later to determine consistency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extensive exaggeration usually signals someone faking “gender” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile phones to verify authencity </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Trust Building and Use of Media <ul><li>Chatters have “heirarchized” methods of communication: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chatting – low risk, easy to dismiss </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-mail – more personal and presents a larger risk than chat. More serious and honest when compared to chat. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile phones – are riskier and incorporate a level of trust. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Identity, Trust Building and Self Disclosure <ul><li>Disclosure of private life and personal experiences increases trust building </li></ul><ul><li>Self disclosure and building trust enhances social presence </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity increases ability to self-disclose. </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity also encourages superficial relationships </li></ul>
  17. 17. Gender Differences <ul><li>Virtual identities breach the dichotomy of public and private space in Moroccan society (Graiouid 2004). Females enjoy the anonymity which allows them to build relationships without compromising themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>Sri Lankan women less comfortable with self-disclosure online </li></ul>
  18. 18. Gender Differences <ul><li>Women will take the extra effort to resolve misunderstandings even if the relationship is not that strong </li></ul><ul><li>Females reported being harassed online, and therefore, were more cautious </li></ul>
  19. 19. Language <ul><li>Native language is transliterated on the Latin keyboard to increase social presence </li></ul>
  20. 20. I. MNIN DEFNOU’H MA ZA’ROU’H (“Since they buried him, they forgot about him,” an expression which means “After you used me, you forgot me”)   3 7 9 ع ح ق   II. Why = 3lach ( ع )   III. Salam 3alikoum ! (Greeting)   IV. Numbers used to express Arabic characters and sounds 3 -> ع (ain) 9 -> ق (kah) 8 -> ه (hah)     Moroccan Arabic in Latin Script:
  21. 21. Examples of Sinhala written in English: Ayubowan – How are you? Paw – I feel sorry for you Hondai – good   Examples of Tamil written in English: Aniyayam – what a waste!
  22. 22. Language of Chat <ul><li>Different idioms to express realness- feel of the conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Ideas or opinions that acknowledge chatter’s culture </li></ul><ul><li>French used for polite conversations, Moroccan Arabic to deal with conflict and difficult situations </li></ul><ul><li>Emoticons </li></ul><ul><li>Using other media- cell phones, webcams, e-mail </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge- in a high context culture, providing context when typing is difficult </li></ul>
  23. 23. Language (continued) <ul><li>Paralanguage –a method for communicating social information – imagined ID, or pseudonym </li></ul><ul><li>Different font sizes and colors: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To enhance photos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comic sans for friends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Arial and Century Gothic for more formal communication </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Implications for Learning Cultures <ul><li>Expression of identity is important for relationship building, but self-disclosure is not easy, especially for women. Developing protocols for introductions will help </li></ul><ul><li>Creation of identity enables one to experience the world in a new way – will lend itself well to role play & simulations </li></ul><ul><li>Anonymity is important to facilitate honest dialogue on controversial issues </li></ul>
  25. 25. Implications for Learning Cultures <ul><li>Posting photos with introductions can lead to stereotyping and reduce anonymity. It is important to devise other means of self-disclosure and provide a comfort zone especially for women </li></ul><ul><li>Context is key to understanding messages and participants should be encouraged to provide context to enable the deciphering of a message </li></ul>
  26. 26. Future Considerations: <ul><li>How is identity, gender and language expressed in virtual worlds such as Second Life? </li></ul>
  27. 27. Reference <ul><li>This study will be published as a book chapter in the forthcoming book on “ Learning Cultures ” edited by Robin Goodfellow and Marie Noelle Lamy of the Open University, U.K., to be published by Continuum. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Acknowledgements <ul><li>U.S. Dept. of State Fulbright Regional Research Scholarship 2004-2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Research Assistants: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fadwa Bouachrine, Al-Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Morocco </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ahmed Idrissi Alami, University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Fez, Morocco </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gayathri Jayatilleke, Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka </li></ul></ul>