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Communicative performance in a multi-media computer -mediated community

Charles Edward Soukup, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In this study, I explored the complex patterns of communicative performance of a multi-media, interactive computer-mediated setting. Theoretically, Erving Goffman's dramaturgical perspective and the ethnography of communication framed and guided the research project. Through ethnographic participant observation methods, I described the complex multi-media, contextual, and normative characteristics of a multi-media computer-mediated chat context called The Palace. ^ The findings emphasized the role of the visual setting, norms, and multi-media applications in the participants' communicative performances. The architecture and design of the space played a role in the communication patterns of the rooms of the Palace. The visual images of the rooms helped define the topics, conversation patterns, and movement used by the participants. Participants constructed unique contexts in the Palace. Participants decorated rooms, created a sense of community, and defined in and out group membership. In general, the participants defined a “virtual” situation that created a sense of community. ^ Further, the communities of the Palace had specialized rules and roles (e.g., wizards) for participants. The rules were enforced by complex sanctioning procedures. Further, the conversation patterns of the participants involved small talk, rhythms of talk, advice and empathy, metacommunication, and nonverbal communication and humor. The participants' communication patterns also involved the use of space/proxemics including touching and personal space cues. Props such as thought balloons and gestures provided important communicative messages. Avatars were also related to complex communicative processes such as the construction and presentation of self, the suspension of disbelief, and an idealized identity. ^ In general, the participants' performances closely related to the development and presentation of self, the construction of virtual dramas, and the formation of nonverbal communication expectancies. Moreover, the research study offers a number of important conclusions related to the functions of computer-mediated communication, the nature of the real and the virtual, the construction of identity, and the development of norms in small groups. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Soukup, Charles Edward, "Communicative performance in a multi-media computer -mediated community" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9974795.