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Chatting online: comparing spoken and online written interaction between friends

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posted on 19.03.2014, 08:54 by Joanne Meredith
This thesis addresses the question of whether or not online interactional practices are systematically different from interaction in other contexts, particularly spoken interaction. I will establish how the organization of online interaction demonstrates participants orientations to the technological affordances of the online medium. The dataset for the study comprises one-to-one interaction between friends, conducted using the chat application of the social networking site, Facebook. Chat logs and screen capture data were used to analyze how participants engaged in, and managed, their unfolding interaction. The data were analyzed using conversation analysis (CA). CA was developed originally for the analysis of spoken talk, but in this dissertation it provides an empirical basis for comparing Facebook chat and spoken interaction. The thesis demonstrates how CA can be used for analyzing online interaction. The first analytic chapter provides an overview of how participants organize the generic orders of interaction. The findings suggest that participants draw on their knowledge of both spoken and written interaction when managing the particular interactional constraints and affordances of Facebook chat. The second analytic chapter focuses on chat openings, comparing them to openings in spoken interaction. The findings reveal some similarities, but also systematic differences which orient to the design of the chat software. The third analytic chapter examines topic management, including topic-initiation, topic change and the management of simultaneous topics. The findings suggest that the CA categorization of topic-initiating turns could potentially be extended by also analyzing action-orientation and also the epistemic stance displayed. The analysis also reveals remarkable similarities between topic change in spoken interaction and in Facebook chat. Finally in this chapter I show how organizational components of spoken interaction, such as adjacency pairs and tying techniques, are used to manage simultaneous topics. The final analytic chapter focuses on self-repair in Facebook chat. The analysis reveals that self-repairs completed during message construction orient to the same interactional contingencies as self-repairs in spoken interaction. However, the affordances of Facebook chat enable these repairs to be hidden from the recipient. Visible repairs tend to be corrections, with the affordances impacting the sequential placement of such repairs. Finally, I show how participants self-repair in response to the actions of their co-participant. Overall, the findings reveal a number of similarities between the organization of Facebook chat and spoken interaction. The analysis also reveals that participants attend to the technological affordances of Facebook in a variety of ways. Finally, this thesis demonstrates that, while there are differences between the interactional practices of spoken and online written interaction, CA can be used to analyze, and subsequently explain, such differences.





  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Joanne Meredith

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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