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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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Presentation on theme: "Cultural Aspects of Communication Processes Online: Identity, Gender, and Language in Synchronous Cybercultures Charlotte N.(Lani) Gunawardena Professor."— Presentation transcript:

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 June, Lisbon

2 How Do We Learn? Where Do We Learn? How do diverse sociocultural contexts shape communication processes online? How do diverse sociocultural contexts shape communication processes online? What are the communication conventions naturally developed by Internet users when they use the medium informally? What are the communication conventions naturally developed by Internet users when they use the medium informally?

3 Morocco ArzouAinLeuh Ifrane Fez

4 Sri Lanka GalleBatticaloa Colombo Kandy

5 Purpose 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) 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)

6 Research Questions Focused on: 1. How is identity expressed in informal visually anonymous online chat? 2. Are there gender differences in the negotiation of identity? 3. How is language used to express identity and communicate online?

7 Study Design  Qualitative, ethnographic perspective to examine communication conventions and conduct interviews  Grounded theory building to develop a conceptual framework  Focus group and individual interviews conducted in Moroccan Arabic, French, Sinhala, Tamil & English  Interdisciplinary research team of 4: USA (1), Morocco (2), Sri Lanka (1).

8 Similarities and Differences in the Study Contexts Morocco – Arab, Berber, Muslim, Mediterranean African country, more recently colonized by the French, speaking Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Berber, and French Morocco – Arab, Berber, Muslim, Mediterranean African country, more recently colonized by the French, speaking Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Berber, and French Sri Lanka – Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim country, predominantly Buddhist, more recently colonized by the English, speaking Sinhala, Tamil, and English. Sri Lanka – Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim country, predominantly Buddhist, more recently colonized by the English, speaking Sinhala, Tamil, and English.

9 Participants General public who used Internet Cafés and university students who used the Internet in campus labs General public who used Internet Cafés and university students who used the Internet in campus labs Specifically those who used chat to communicate with people they do not know Specifically those who used chat to communicate with people they do not know Morocco – 55 adults (36 males, 19 females) Morocco – 55 adults (36 males, 19 females) Sri Lanka – 50 adults (33 males, 17 females) Sri Lanka – 50 adults (33 males, 17 females)

10 Findings: Emerging Conceptual Framework Identity Identity  Trust building  Self disclosure  Gender differences Innovation of language forms to express identity and generate immediacy Innovation of language forms to express identity and generate immediacy

11 Tokens of Identity ASL (Age, Sex, and Location) ASL (Age, Sex, and Location) Depending on context will reveal true identity, create a different identity, or blend identity in and ID (e.g.: “lone wolf”) Depending on context will reveal true identity, create a different identity, or blend identity in and ID (e.g.: “lone wolf”) Moroccan concept of self is collective –calling on traits of groups to establish identity Moroccan concept of self is collective –calling on traits of groups to establish identity Moroccans often caught between the “high context” world of Moroccan culture and the “low context” world of their European interlocutors Moroccans often caught between the “high context” world of Moroccan culture and the “low context” world of their European interlocutors

12 Identity Play Anonymity - more open expression of identity – need not conform to social expectations of stating sex, geographical origin, class, age, etc. Anonymity - more open expression of identity – need not conform to social expectations of stating sex, geographical origin, class, age, etc. Age and sex are more important than location when expressing identity. Location hinders access. Age and sex are more important than location when expressing identity. Location hinders access. Stereotyping takes place more easily in text only environments (e.g.: Mohammed to “Green Python” to gain access to people) Stereotyping takes place more easily in text only environments (e.g.: Mohammed to “Green Python” to gain access to people) Identity can be changed to appeal to different audiences Identity can be changed to appeal to different audiences

13 Crossing Boundaries Role play in anonymous chat – Posing as Europeans or claiming a different gender identity Role play in anonymous chat – Posing as Europeans or claiming a different gender identity 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 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

14 Identity and Trust Building Techniques to determine trust worthiness: Techniques to determine trust worthiness:  Asking a series of questions in the initial encounter and asking the same questions later to determine consistency  Extensive exaggeration usually signals someone faking “gender”  Mobile phones to verify authencity

15 Trust Building and Use of Media Chatters have “heirarchized” methods of communication: Chatters have “heirarchized” methods of communication:  Chatting – low risk, easy to dismiss  – more personal and presents a larger risk than chat. More serious and honest when compared to chat.  Mobile phones – are riskier and incorporate a level of trust.

16 Identity, Trust Building and Self Disclosure Disclosure of private life and personal experiences increases trust building Disclosure of private life and personal experiences increases trust building Self disclosure and building trust enhances social presence Self disclosure and building trust enhances social presence Anonymity increases ability to self- disclose. Anonymity increases ability to self- disclose. Anonymity also encourages superficial relationships Anonymity also encourages superficial relationships

17 Gender Differences 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. 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. Sri Lankan women less comfortable with self-disclosure online Sri Lankan women less comfortable with self-disclosure online

18 Gender Differences Women will take the extra effort to resolve misunderstandings even if the relationship is not that strong Women will take the extra effort to resolve misunderstandings even if the relationship is not that strong Females reported being harassed online, and therefore, were more cautious Females reported being harassed online, and therefore, were more cautious

19 Language Native language is transliterated on the Latin keyboard to increase social presence Native language is transliterated on the Latin keyboard to increase social presence

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”) 37 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 Examples of Sinhala written in English: Ayubowan – How are you? Ayubowan – How are you? Paw – I feel sorry for you Paw – I feel sorry for you Hondai – good Hondai – good Examples of Tamil written in English: Aniyayam – what a waste! Aniyayam – what a waste!

22 Language of Chat Different idioms to express realness- feel of the conversation Different idioms to express realness- feel of the conversation Ideas or opinions that acknowledge chatter’s culture Ideas or opinions that acknowledge chatter’s culture French used for polite conversations, Moroccan Arabic to deal with conflict and difficult situations French used for polite conversations, Moroccan Arabic to deal with conflict and difficult situations Emoticons Emoticons Using other media- cell phones, webcams, Using other media- cell phones, webcams, Challenge- in a high context culture, providing context when typing is difficult Challenge- in a high context culture, providing context when typing is difficult

23 Language (continued) Paralanguage –a method for communicating social information – imagined ID, or pseudonym Paralanguage –a method for communicating social information – imagined ID, or pseudonym Different font sizes and colors: Different font sizes and colors:  To enhance photos  Comic sans for friends  Arial and Century Gothic for more formal communication

24 Implications for Learning Cultures Expression of identity is important for relationship building, but self-disclosure is not easy, especially for women. Developing protocols for introductions will help Expression of identity is important for relationship building, but self-disclosure is not easy, especially for women. Developing protocols for introductions will help Creation of identity enables one to experience the world in a new way – will lend itself well to role play & simulations Creation of identity enables one to experience the world in a new way – will lend itself well to role play & simulations Anonymity is important to facilitate honest dialogue on controversial issues Anonymity is important to facilitate honest dialogue on controversial issues

25 Implications for Learning Cultures 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 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 Context is key to understanding messages and participants should be encouraged to provide context to enable the deciphering of a message Context is key to understanding messages and participants should be encouraged to provide context to enable the deciphering of a message

26 Future Considerations: How is identity, gender and language expressed in virtual worlds such as Second Life? How is identity, gender and language expressed in virtual worlds such as Second Life? How is identity, gender and language expressed in virtual worlds such as Second Life? How is identity, gender and language expressed in virtual worlds such as Second Life?

27 Reference 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. 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.

28 Acknowledgements U.S. Dept. of State Fulbright Regional Research Scholarship U.S. Dept. of State Fulbright Regional Research Scholarship Research Assistants: Research Assistants:  Fadwa Bouachrine, Al-Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Morocco  Ahmed Idrissi Alami, University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Fez, Morocco  Gayathri Jayatilleke, Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka


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