Speech community in the virtual world: the case of one listserv
Wick, Nancy B., 1947-
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This dissertation examines the discourse of an electronic mail listserv. Two research questions were specified: (1) Does this listserv (called Pednet) constitute a speech community? and (2) If Pednet is a speech community, in what way does this knowledge contribute to the notion of virtual communities?In pursuit of the first question, the data were compared to a framework to determine if a speech code existed. The following elements were looked for: (1) patterns in discourse, (2) metacommunication revealing rules or norms for communicating, (3) the invocation of metacommunicative rules to justify arguments or call others to account, and (4) culturally distinctive forms. In pursuit of the second question, articles critical of the idea of virtual community were analyzed in order to ferret out the authors' (unspecified) definitions of "community." The Pednet discourse was then compared to the elements of these definitions.Results of the study show clearly that the listserv in question was a speech community according to the definition used: "A speech community is an organization of diversity, a group that shares at least one common language, that shares knowledge of the rules for the use and interpretation of speech and attitudes toward speech, and that constitutes itself in the speaking even as it creates a history to ground future speaking." The listserv also met many of the qualifications for "community" listed by critics of virtual community. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that there can be speech communities online and that there is nothing about the online environment per se that precludes such a group from being a community in the larger sense.
- Speech