Linguistik online1, 1/98


Julia Gousseva (Tucson, Arizona):

An experience in cyberspace communication: listserv interaction in a freshman composition class

1 Introduction

The idea of sharing messages and exchanges viewpoints via a public forum has been around since the times of ancient Greece, where citizens used to gather in specially allocated places for such public debates. In modern society, meetings at such public places have become less of a viable option, and, as a partial substitute, computer-mediated forums have emerged. Chat rooms, moos, listservs, electronic conferences and various distribution lists are a few of examples of such electronic gathering places set up for various purposes: from recreation to information exchange, and from cooperation in scientific research to business decision making.

The present study aims to describe listserv interaction as a specific genre of communication that has features and characteristics of both written and spoken communication, but can be viewed as an emerging genre of communication with characteristics specific to it. Research is conducted in the context of e-mail distribution list(s) of 101 and 107 freshman composition 101 (native speakers of English) and 107 (ESL) course and electronic small groups comprised of members of both classes. Two methods of data collection were used: e-mail printouts (both from small groups and from the class listserv), and student written reactions to their experiences with the listserv and electronic small group interaction.

The researcher's role in the project is that of participant observer and classroom teacher. Such dual role, as well as of the overall effects of the introduction of technology into the classroom that stretch far beyond the electronic domain, need to be considered carefully in these computer spaces. Hawisher and Pemberton (1991) believe that "the role of the teacher-researcher is particularly valuable in computer & writing research" (Hawisher/Pemberton 1991: 79), as we are connected to our classroom and the students in ways that outside researchers and observers are not. This connection enables us to be better observers and more effective researchers.

2 Listserv interaction as a new medium and a new genre of communication

In order to define listserv interaction as a specific genre of communication and to compare and contrast the language used in listserv interaction both with written and oral language, we will use criteria suggested by Allerton (1991). Allerton's (1991) comparison is based on the assumption that written and oral language are two different "media that have different uses, and this is partly a result of their very nature" (Allerton, 1991: 470). The following five criteria reflect some of the basic differences between written and oral languages.

(1) "speech is represented in writing, but only incompletely: to be more specific, intonation and rhythm are hardly represented at all; punctuation is only loosely related to them" (Allerton, 1991: 470)

Listserv interaction combines features of written and oral speech: it uses punctuation, as does written speech to convey intonation. However, it also uses other features that are not as common or are not used in conventional written speech, such as asterisks (e. g. *emphasis* ) instead of italics for emphasis, "smileys" (see examples 11, 12, 13, 18) to replace non-verbal communication, all caps (see example 8) to signal higher pitch (or shouting), and such signs as <grin>, <sigh> to indicate the writer's mood or attitude. Some of these features, although quite common in e-mail interaction, are not found in this project. I believe the reason for it is the freshman students' lack of experience with rules for electronic communication ("netiquette").

(2) "in spoken language the sender and the receiver of the message are in direct contact, in written language they are not; this means that spoken language tends to be more context dependent" (Allerton, 1991: 470)

Listserv interaction, again, seems to fall between these two situations. On the one hand, it is asynchronous, therefore, cannot be as context dependent as spoken language. At the same time, as it is instantaneous and, as people tend to reply very soon, the context is more present than in written speech or it can be re-created by paraphrasing, quoting ideas from a message or even including the previous message in a response.

(3) "whereas spoken language (ordinary conversation) is often unprepared or only partly prepared, written language is usually not only prepared but even prepared in different versions, so that the final version can be quite polished. . . spoken language often involves an imperfect performance, with errors, false starts, omissions, changes of plan, hesitations, etc. , while written language usually seems word-perfect" (Allerton 1991: 470)

I believe that in this criterion listserv interaction is closer to spoken language, as ellipsis, omissions, errors and false starts are often present (see examples 4 and 11). However, e-mail communication gives the participants more time than spoken conversation to change their plans, to re-word their ideas and to plan utterances. See example 5 -- it sounds structured, yet informal, a number of conversational structures are used ("something like this", "I would love to get in touch with you"). In example 6, the first paragraph and a half sound almost like a written introduction, whereas later it becomes more interactive and, therefore, sound more like oral language ("Is there anyone who went there? I'd like to go to the concert with some of you guys.").

(4) "whereas speech is a continuous stream of transitory sounds and thus lacks permanence, written language involves relatively permanent marks and signs; the net effect of this is that while spoken language needs more redundancy, including repetition, writers often aim to be more economical " (Allerton 1991: 470).

I believe that in this sense listserv interaction is closer to written speech, as there is not the same need for repetition as in spoken conversation. However, repetition is used in e-mail (see section on repetition for explanation of its function in electronic messages).

(5) "because speech is direct and immediate, it has come to be associated with informal situations, while writing is linked in our minds with formal situations" (Allerton, 1991, p. 470).

E-mail is instantaneous but not immediate, as the message itself reaches the receiver almost as fast as oral speech but the response usually takes longer, as the receiver is the one determining when to access the message (as opposed to oral communication where the receiver has to react to the message immediately, as soon as the speaker pronounced it). Listserv interaction is situation-bound but not completely dependent on the situation; it is not free from redundancy, it has errors, it is informal yet it has its own rules. I believe that this description suggests that the language used in listserv interaction shares some characteristics of both written and oral speech.

3 Analysis of e-mail exchanges as communicative events

After defining the general criteria for comparison of language used in listserv interaction with written and oral language, we can take our analysis a step further and provide a more detailed description of listserv interaction by looking at e-mail exchanges as communicative events. Saville-Troike (1989) defines the following components of a communicative event that are "likely to be salient" (ibd.: 138) in a spoken conversation: genre, topic, purpose/function, setting, key, participants, message form, message content, structure of conversation, rules for interaction, norms of interpretation.

The genre of an e-mail message/conversation could be as varied as those in oral or written speech such as joke, story, or greeting. Similarly, the topics of e-mail messages can be varied. Usually the topic is determined by the sender of the message on the basis of his/her own ideas, appropriateness for a given communicative situation and previous messages from the cyber-interlocutor. In this specific project, the topic in most cases is defined by the assignment. However, such "mandatory" choice of topic is not peculiar to an e-mail setting, as the same rules would apply to the choice of topic for an oral conversation in class on a given topic.

Purpose/function can also be varied. This paper looks at two different types of messages: (1) listserv messages, where the main purpose is to form group members with other students through listserv introductions of essay topics, and (2) small group messages, where the main purpose is to decide on a group name.

Setting is readily observable in a spoken conversation. In an e-mail exchange, however, this is the least obvious of the first four components and, in most cases, it differs from the sender to the receiver of the message (as opposed to a spoken conversation, where the setting is the same for the speaker and the listener). The setting can influence the tone of the message: the sender can sound very informal is s/he is writing a message at midnight at home in his/her pajamas or in the middle of a school day in a lab on campus. Hawisher and Moran (1997) refer to this phenomenon as the "apparent intimacy of on-line discourse" (Hawisher/Moran, 1997, pp. ). They believe that despite the impersonality of communication via a computer, it can "evoke an intimate and highly personal discourse" (Hawisher/Moran 1997: 116). They point out that the metaphors for electronic communication are almost always social: "parlor", "forum", "chat room" and others. At the same time, paradoxically enough, e-mail interaction is public as well as private, mainly due to the ease of copying and disseminating electronic texts.

The key, according to Hymes, '"is introduced to provide for the tone, manner, or spirit in which the act is done" (Hymes, 1972, 62). In a spoken conversation, key may be signaled by the choice of language variety, by non-verbal signals (e. g. wink, smile, posture), by paralinguistic features (e. g. degree of aspiration) or by a combination of elements. In case of e-mail interaction, most of these features obtain a different meaning: choice of language still applies, non-verbal signals are sometimes replaced by "smileys", e. g. : ) indicates a smile, ;-) indicates a wink to signal a pun or a wry statement, : ( indicates a frown to show that the writer is unhappy and others. It's interesting that "smileys" are used so commonly in e-mail to replace non-verbal interaction. As they are written signs, theoretically they could be used in letter as well but, although, occasionally, we come across a smiling face in a letter, they are not used nearly as much as in e-mail. It would be interesting to analyze why this is the case: is it due to a different level of formality? Is it due to stricter conventions for the written medium where ideas have to be expressed in words and words alone? Does the use of "smileys" suggest that e-mail is a different genre of (written) communication that allows for some non-verbal features usually associated with oral communication?

The description of participants in a spoken conversation usually includes not only observable traits, but also background information on the composition and role-relationship within a family or another social institution. In case of an e-mail interaction, this description is different, as "observable traits" are not that easily observed. In case of the project described here, only half of the participants were acquainted with one another at the beginning of small group interaction (and I am not sure if they will choose to meet in person later in the semester), as the listserv is comprised from both 101 and 107 students. Therefore, as one of my students put it in a class discussion, half of them are people, the other half are just names associated with their respective messages. Another student noted that he has "never talked face to face with any of the members from the other class and because of this it makes it hard to actually think that they are real in a way". I would define the role-relationship on the listserv as equal, as all participants in the same class. However, US students may generally feel more comfortable in a writing class, as they are native speakers. This factor may affect their roles on the listserv or within the small group. However, I haven't noticed any obvious differences in their interaction styles.

Message form: in a spoken conversation, both verbal and non-verbal forms are analyzed, including the use of silence, eye behavior and gestures. To establish the form of an e-mail message, it is necessary to study both verbal forms and written signs that signal non-verbal features (netiquette "smileys"). I would describe the form of most e-mail messages analyzed in this project as informal written English. However, the level of informality varies from message to message.

Message content refers to the topic of communication, i. e. what the communicative act is about and what meanings are being conveyed. In face-to-face communication meaning is derived not only from verbal and nonverbal message form and its content, but also from extralinguistic content. In e-mail interaction, the message content has to be derived from verbal information and netiquette "smileys". The content of all messages on the listserv is a brief introduction of the student and his/her topic. The level of detail, however, varies greatly by message. The content of most small group messages is related to group name selection.

The act sequence component includes information about the ordering of communicative acts within an event. The structure of conversation includes three major parts: opening, body and closing.

To open an oral conversation, it is important to create what Wardhaugh (1985) refers to as "pre-openings", i. e. smile, eye contact, getting attention of the potential interlocutor. In a study of Boston business environment, Brown and Ford (1961) found that "hi" was more common to intimates and subordinates while "Good morning" was used for distant acquaintances and superiors. Openings are also function to establish a bond between speakers -- a topic of mutual concern can be used for this purpose, a request for information, or an introduction "I am Jane" to which the other participant would naturally respond "I am Peter". In e-mail conventional formulaic expressions can function as openings. The listserv interaction examples contain the following openings: "Hi", "Hey, everyone", "Hi everyone", a more formal "Hello" and "Dear friends". A couple of messages skip the opening and start with the body of the message "My topic is about. . . " or "My name is. . . " which would not always be acceptable in a spoken conversation. However, if this part is treated as the second part of the adjacency pair (the first one being the teacher's request to post information about topics), then it seems appropriate. I could easily imagine the same exchange in a "real" classroom setting where each of the students, following the teacher's request, would introduce him/herself and his/her topic.

The body of a spoken conversation is a coherent whole in which all participants develop the topic/topics. Their task is to connect utterances to one another, getting the message right, asking for clarifications, building the structure and direction of conversation. Digressions can be introduced by "By the way", "Incidentally" or non-verbally with a change in intonation or a gesture. Interactive language is used in conversation that is constrained by time limits, human short term memory and unpredictable and fluid organization of the conversation. Oral language tends to be fragmentary, and to include single words, phrases and clauses.

The body of an e-mail message is different, as it relies on written language and not as much at non-verbal signs (such as "smileys"). The examples of listserv interaction provided in this paper are just one specific instance of the type of a message body possible in an e-mail message. All of them are brief introductions of students and topics, and the expected reply to each of them would be something like "I like your topic, let's form a group". However, none of the replies are available for this study as they were sent personally, and not through the listserv. The result of this "hidden" interaction was small group formation. Interaction within one of small groups will be analyzed in the next section.

Closings in a spoken conversation can be made explicitly by such expressions as "got to run", "well, back to work" or implicitly with body language (less eye contact, standing up, glancing at a clock, etc. ). Closings in e-mail are more complex. They can be very casual, e. g. "see you + name" or "Hope u enjoy the weekend. Tata. S" which seem to combine the conventions of oral and written communication. A more formal way to close an e-mail exchange that seems to be closer to the conventions of written speech is "Hope to hear from u soon. D. K. " or "Thank you. S. F. ". Just signing one's name after the message seems to be most appropriate in written speech. "Take care!" with an exclamation mark sound less formal and more similar to spoken conversation, while "Yours truly, J. " sounds more formal and more letter-like.

Rules for interaction are usually either "codified in the form of aphorisms, proverbs or even laws, or they may be held unconsciously and require more indirect elicitation and identification. Rules for interaction are often discoverable in reactions to their violation by others, and feelings that contrary behavior is 'impolite' or 'odd' in some respect" (Saville-Troike, 1989, p. 154). In this specific project, the participants are not experts on rules of listserv interaction, most of them are not familiar with netiquette, and they are still in the process of learning them through observation of other listservs, class discussions and explicit information (I posted a couple of messages on netiquette). I believe that this is one of the most interesting observations of this project, as it is possible to see how the participants transfer the rules of classroom interaction to the listserv and create additional ones.

What is netiquette? What is it based on? According to Kozma ("Cyberlore No 1. . . ") states that the rules that netiquette follows apply to any form of human interaction: treat others as you would have them treat you. The specific aspects of netiquette, however, are shaped by the unique characteristics of online messaging. In face-to-face conversation, verbal and visual cues (such as tone of voice, body language, gestures, and facial expressions) help us decipher meaning. But in electronic communication, there is only the text of the message. To compensate for the lack of other cues, people have adopted various techniques and devices to express nuance and emotion in their messages. The basic elements of netiquette style include intensifiers, emotions, and abbreviations. These rules are learned in a manner to the acquisition of first language communication rules. We observe what others do, and we gradually assimilate their actions into our own behavior. When we violate a principle, someone on the net probably will correct us. We learn about netiquette to fit in, to be good net citizens, to avoid public embarrassment and private wrath (Kozma).

Norms of interpretation refer to information about the speech community necessary to understand the communicative event, including the common knowledge, cultural presuppositions, shared understandings that allow particular inferences to be drawn about what is to be taken literally, what is to be discounted. I believe that most of this information is provided in the introduction.

4 Listserv interaction examples

Example 1

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 12: 36: 58 -0400

Subject: My topic is sexual harassment.


My topic will be sexual harassment. If yours is similar then please reply. Thank you!

S. S.

Example 2

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 12: 58: 17 -0700

Subject: Re: My topic is leaving home for college.

My topic for my essay is leaving home for college, if yours is similar E-Mail me.

-P. S. -

Example 3

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 15: 42: 37 -0700

Subject: My topic is Rape and dealing with it.

My topic is about personal experience with rape if your topic is similar please write back.


K. R.

Example 4

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 21: 45: 44 -0400

Subject: My subject isn't sexual harassment. . . . . . it's now suicide.


Sorry about the change. If your topic relates to suicide, depression, etc. . . . email me.

S. S.

Example 5

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 16: 31: 05 -0700

Subject: Accidental shot

Hi, my name is V. L. I am 23 years old and come from Norway. I am transfering from the Norwegian School of Management and plan to stay in the U. S. for 4 years. Hopefully I will get a degree as a Bachelor of Business/Administration. My majors are going to be in MIS and Finance.

My topic is about accidental shooting. When I served in the Norwegian military I experienced an episode I would like to share with you. One of my friends were shot by an accident. He was shot by one of the other guys in my platoon. This was a very frightening episode, that I think changed me. I am planning to go further on with this topic, maybe see on the difference between Norway/USA, regarding to the weapon laws. Try to find out what "the freedom to carry firearms in the US", result in. Maybe try to compare it to Norway. I haven't exactly decided yet , but something like this.

Outside school I have a lot of interests. I usually spend some hours at the recreation center each week. One of my reasons coming to Arizona, is because of a big sky diving center located only 30 minutes away from campus. My only problem is that I can't get there without a car, so if there is anybody out there with this interest , I would love to get in touch with you.

I am not sure exactly how this works, so I write my e-mail if there is anybody who wants to start a group and think my topic is interesting.

***@u. arizona. edu

Greetings from V.

Example 6

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 23: 35: 44 -0700

Subject: Travel abroad

Hello everyone in English 101/107! How's your essay going? My name is S. K. I'm from Japan, and my major is MIS. My topic is travel abroad. I'll write about what I learned through traveling in several countries.

Let me introduce about myself a bit. I like fishing, playing pool, tennis, and listening music. I saw Dokken's show in Tucson last June. That was really cool and crazy show. Is there anyone who went there? I'd like to go to the concert with some of you guys. If you are looking for someone to do something whatever or have similar essay topic please E-mail me.

Good luck on your first essay! Have a good day.

Example 7

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 08: 09: 13 -0700

Subject: Travel experience


My name is N. R. and I'm a 24 year old exchange student from Sweden. I have graduated from law school in Sweden and I will be at the U of A for two semesters at the BPA college. I'm writing about my travels in communist East Germany during the 1980's and what influence these travels have had on me. If your subject is about travel, please contact me on ***@u. arizona. edu.

Have a nice day,


Example 8

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 17: 02: 44 -0700

Subject: Introduction of my topic

Hello-! I am N. S. in the class 107. I am from Tokyo, Japan and have work experiences in several years. My topic this time is SEXUAL HARASSMENT. It contains my personal experience (don't expect too much like a movie "Disclosure") and general idea in the society. Please contact me if you have a similar topic to discuss.

Thank you!

Example 9

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 17: 49: 55 -0700

Subject: The handover of Hong Kong

Hi there,

This is S. C. from Engl107. My essay topic is about the handover of my country, Hong Kong. Feel free to email me if your topic is similar to mine : )

S. C.

(***@usa. net)

Example 10

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 19: 21: 20 -0700

Subject: My Departure

Hi everyone in the Composition Class of 101 and 107,

I am a student from the 107 class. My topic for the self exploratory essay is 'MY DEPARTURE'. Actually, it is about how I realize who and the importance of my friends and family are.

If any of you have about the similar topic as I have or anyone who wants to include me in their group, you can e-mail me at this e-mail address; ****@u. arizona. edu . I would appreciate it very much.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Y. M. or S.

Example 11

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 19: 24: 56 -0700

Subject: Friendship and Crisis ( Teenagers and death)

Hi =),

My name is M. L. and I am in English 101. I'm a freshman, originally from Tucson. (Amazing, isn't it?) I was born in Los Angeles, but basically spent my entire life here. (Exciting, isn't it?) Seriously, I'm writing my personal essay on the friendship I have with a girl who recently underwent many life altering experiences this past year(pregnancy, miscarriage, and the death of her boyfriend) and the way it affected our friendship. It's basically an essay about not taking life or anything it has to offer for granted. If anyone has anything at all close to this topic please e-mail me at ***@u. arizona. edu Thanks. BYE!

M. ^_^

5 Small group interaction examples

In order to analyze specific components of a typical conversation within listserv interaction, we will isolate one of the listserv conversations by using messages from one of the small groups.

5.1 Turn-taking

 Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974) describe the system involved in terms of "turn-constructional units", i. e. minimal contents of a single turn that can be made up of a single word, a phrase, a clause, a sentence, or multiples and combinations of these. These units must have a completion point so "transition-relevance place" so that the next speaker may begin his/her turn (Sacks, Schegloff,/Jefferson, 1974, p. 13). They have the following characteristics: speaker change recurs, one party talks at a time, turn order varies, turn size is not fixed, the length of conversation is not fixed or specified in advance, the number of parties can change, there are repair mechanisms for correcting turn-taking errors and violations (Sacks, Schegloff,/Jefferson, 1974).

Turn-taking in the listerv context is different from that in oral communication. When a message is sent to a single individual, there is no confusion as to whom it is addressed (vs. spoken conversation). However, in our example, most messages are sent to multiple individuals, and it is important for the senders to indicate who they expect responses from.

The sender may wish to get a response from each person, thus violating the one-speaker-at-at-time rule applicable to spoken conversation. Examples 13, 15 and 16 contain questions of this type, such as ". . . let's just e-mail each other the possible names we think up ok?" (example 13) "What do you all think?" (example 15), ". . . did you receive my email about rhetorical analysis?. . . What about the name of the group?, have we decided anything yet?" (example 16).

Another option is for the sender to want one reply but not specify from whom. The message quoted as example 20 was sent to the whole group and the first part was addressed to all group members ("I was wondering if we have all the people that we need to have a group?") but only one reply was required on the second question (" If any of you have any clue as to what we need to be doing, please tell me. . . ").

Still other option is to expect a response from one specific person named in the message or from someone who disagrees with the message (a rarity in spoken conversation), see example 19 ("Any suggestions in that category?" ) or example 12 that was posted to the listserv but addressed to one specific person.

In spoken conversation, questions are often quoted as examples of transition-relevance places. However, not all questions have the function of selecting the next speaker. Rhetorical questions, for example, can be used for emphasis without indicating that the speaker expects an answer (see example 11: "amazing, isn't it?", "exciting, isn't it?"). Both kinds of questions occur in electronic mail conversations.

5.2 Adjacency pairs

Ford (1993) offers a different way to look at conversational structure, and to see it as a sequence of paired exchanges, or adjacency pairs. In oral conversation, greetings and closings are typically adjacency pairs (Good morning-good morning, how are you - fine etc. ). Another class of adjacency pairs are proposals, offers, and invitations that will usually be followed by acceptance or rejection (Clark/Schaefer, 1989).

E-mail messages discussed in this section contain adjacency pairs of several types. For example, there were quite a few messages where group members were suggesting possible names for their group and others were responding. Examples 14 and 15 -- the sender suggests a group name and asks other group members to respond. Example 18 -- the sender responds to the suggested name (however, I am not sure if it is rejection or acceptance).

One more class of adjacency pairs are challenges, threats and requests for action (Wardhaugh, 1983). A request for action can be seen in example 19 where the sender addresses a specific group member asking for further suggestions, as well as in example 13 where a sender is requesting other group members to send in their ideas as to group names to which other group members respond with their suggestions (examples 14 and 15). Examples 15 and 16 contain requests to comment on the group name and ask for confirmation as to the receipt of a message sent earlier.

5.3 Repetition

According to Tannen (1989) repetition of sounds, words, phrases, clauses and utterances serves several functions in spoken conversation, such as enabling the speaker to produce fluent speech while formulating what to say next. By repetition the speaker facilitates comprehension since the listeners may not have heard the entire utterance. Repetition can also be used to link the pairs of a conversation by referring to a previous utterance. Foregrounding and emphasis may be achieved with repetition. Tannen (1989) also considers repetition to be a powerful tool for social maintenance -- by echoing the utterance the speaker can create rapport while contributing to the cohesion of the whole.

Repetition in e-mail serves somewhat different functions, as written medium allows planning and comprehension without time pressure, therefore, the speakers do not have the same need to extend an utterance while they plan what to say next or to aid the hearers in comprehension. "In e-mail repetition can be used to compensate for lack of features available in spoken discourse like intonation, stress, and body language. It can also be used in electronic mail conversations to mark the beginning and conclusion of episodes, or to create rapport among the participants (Godson, 1994). Repetition can be an exact echo or an approximate paraphrase or intermediate between the two. In example 18, the whole previous message is repeated to create continuity of discussion and the context for the conversation. Example 19 contains an echo/paraphrase of the message being responded to.

5.5 Examples

Example 12

Date: Mon, 6 Oct 1997 19: 46: 10 -0700

Subject: To Sara from 101

Hi S, It's M. I don't have your e-mail address, so I can't put you on the list serve. So e-mail me and then I can put you on! =)


Example 13

Date: Thu, 9 Oct 1997 15: 26: 22 -0700 (MST)

Subject: English Group-A name?

Hi Miss Gousseva, M, S, S, S, E,and S,

How's it going? Well, this is the final list of our group. Now we just have to come up with a name. . . . . . any suggestions. . . . I don't have any idea right now, so let's just e-mail each other the possible names we think up ok?

See Ya, M =) ^_^

Example 14

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 12: 47: 14 -0700 (MST)

Subject: Re: English Group-A name?

S suggests BananaBoat. Don't laugh, we have to be creative!! Look, I know I'm a nimrod and all, but I try to make myself laugh.

Example 15

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 13: 29: 32 -0700 (MST)

Subject: The Group Name

Hi! Everyone,

How's things going? The name that I would like to suggest is 'The

Seven Wonders'. I'm not sure whether this name is appropriate or not. What

do you all think?

Best regards.

S (YM)

Example 16

Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 22: 53: 40 -0700 (MST)

Subject: Group

Hi everybody!

Its S again, did you receive my email about the rhetorical

analysis? I hope you did. What about the name of the group?, have we

decided anything yet? Bye now. . .


Example 18

Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 21: 56: 02 -0700 (MST)

Subject: Re: The Group Name

I'm fairly loose on the name subject. . . the name is ok. . . . . . . I was kind of looking for something a little different, but it doesn't really matter. I kind of wanted something funny and loose. Whatever.


> Hi! Everyone,

> How's things going? The name that I would like to suggest is 'The

> Seven Wonders'. I'm not sure whether this name is appropriate or not. What

> do you all think?

> Best regards.

> S (YM)

Example 19

Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 22: 33: 19 -0700 (MST)

Subject: Re: The Group Name

Dear M,

I like your idea of having a funny and loose type of name. Any suggestions in that category? Give some examples. Then we can make a better decision on the name and have the best name.


Example 20

Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 14: 34: 44 -0700

Subject: hey you all

I was wondering if we have all the people that we need to have a group? I was also wondering what the second assignment that Julia Gousseva is talking about. If any of you have any clue as to what we need to be doing, please tell me because I am just to lazy to find out for myself.

thanks, D

Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 15: 55: 39 -0700 (MST)

Subject: Re: hey you all

I guess we're supposed to: "post a message to your email group discussing rhetorical analysis writing experience. You may want to include the following questions: was it easier/more difficult than you expected? do you feel that you understand the rhetorical analysis concept well? what is still unclear to you how do you see the transition from the thetorical analysis to the contextual essay?" well thats the homework. SO I guess have fun with it. bye


6 Conclusion

 Social interaction in small groups can be viewed from a number of different perspectives. The perspective with the longest tradition in small group research involves the use of category systems or ratings on behavioral dimensions to record the process or form of the interaction as it unfolds in a group. Another perspective has as its focus the analysis of the content of social interaction. Computer networks and the use of listservs for peer group work add to the controversy of small group interaction as issues of gender, group formation, personality factors, leadership acquire a new dimension over e-mail due to reduced social cues, such as "age, gender, race, ethnicity, status and mood" (Eldred and Hawisher, 1995, p. 335) , and a different context for interaction that can change the overall dynamics of classroom interaction.

The present paper provided an initial look into analysis of listserv interaction as an emerging genre of communication, and an overview of the language variety of listserv interaction as different both from spoken and written languages. I would like to conclude this paper by quoting opinions about electronic interaction expressed by my freshman students: "you gain a more conversational tone when e-mailing than when you are actually talking to the class as a whole", "some of my classmates open up more over the listserv", "I've learned that once we take away our colors, accents, and anything else that would separate us in a physical world, everyone is really similar".

Note: All references to personal names and e-mail addresses (except for mine) were replaced by initials or asterisks to protect the participants' privacy.


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