My subjects were an educated male and female within about 5 years age of each other that communicate, react to one another, online on almost a daily basis. From there, I plan to branch out and include more of each gender to see if the findings are found throughout each gender or are limited to just the communcation between the first two people.
Since weblogging (in either the journal
or diary sense) is so new, research on the communication, pragmatics,
and writing styles found in weblogs is nil. In fact, very little research
has been conducted at all with online writing whether it be hypertext,
chat rooms, or instant messenging.
What my preliminary research did include
was: looking at gender communication in more oral or print areas, talking
with others, including webloggers, on what they saw as differences in
their online writing, and looking online for specific essays/research
conducted by others that may include gender writing in the print arena
if not online as well. Lastly, I looked towards reserach in rhetoric and
composition for any connections between weblogging, alternative discourse,
and alternative styles.
Wolfram’s research (1998) on
gender concludes a contradiction: “Women appear to be more conservative
than men, in that they use more standard variants, which often represent
older language forms. At the same time, women appear to be more progressive
than men, because they adopt new variants more quickly”. (p. 187)
The webloggers I used for my study did not think they wrote in any certain
specific way (females thinking they were more progressive, etc) online
that was that unique or evolved from ‘normal’ or traditional
writing. In fact, the female weblogger replied: “It will be interesting
to see what you do find” since she did not think there was much
to be found in the first place. I have to agree with her. Before beginning
to analyze her and the male weblogger, I thought they would not back up
research I had been reading about in Wolfram or Fasold.
Continuing along those lines of pre-research dialog, a discussion in my Composition and Rhetoric class lead us to the conclusion that weblogging could be considered an alternative style (therefore, a part of alternative academic discourse) of writing. This, again, enhanced my pondering the possibilities I could find. I was unaware of what great findings were about to appear before me.
For my sources, Xanga.com was used
as my primary online weblogging service. The subjects were taken from
my list of webloggers that I read. Leaving it to people I know can construe
the research, but it also allowed me to even research inside jokes and
such since I know the people firsthand.
Of these two subjects, I have met
one of them- Jeremy. I do, however, communicate with Emily online. Once
these sources are researched to a level where I can start to pinpoint
possible findings, I will expand my research into other webloggers of
both genders (ones I know and do not know, perhaps) to see if those findings
can be generalized throughout all weblogging between genders or if it
was just narrowed to the first two subjects.
The format used to reserach went as
follows: Weblogging comes in a simple format, thus the entries these subjects
write are all in chronological order with the newest entry at the top
of the webpage. For the most non-bias reserach possible, I went through
various entries, tried to correlate the dates of the entries the same
(if the female had a November 25th entry, I tried to use the male’s
same November 25th entry to keep the data from the same date), and pasted
the entries into a blank document. I then changed all their fonts to the
same font and began reading/highlighting various differences that I saw.
Reasoning for this finding coorelates
to the research done by Wolfram that states women needing, in our society,
to prove who they are through how they look or appear to others. Men don’t
need to explain themselves or communicate effectively; they are judged
by what they do instead in our society. (p. 189)
2. Use of Emoticons.
3. Use of Tense.
For instance, after both webloggers
have had conversations with someone and are commenting on the experience
later, each one uses a different tense. Jeremy writes: “SHE WAS
A SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL” while Emily writes: “he’s damn
fun to flirt with”. By using the past tense, the male weblogger
emphasises that that person was something that he ‘did’ that
day whereas Emily simply comments that the person IS currently still around,
and she is not yet ‘done’ with that person.
In simply commenting on writing in
their blogs, Jeremy writes: “I have not been able to get into my
Xanga account for the past four or five days, not just yesterday”
whereas Emily comments: “I am bad...I’m really bad about reading
y’alls blog lately”. Emily accuses herself for not writing
and reading others’, and Jeremy focuses his reasoning elsewhere.
These examples were the most surprising
ones in that they emphasized current research, however, the overall use
of past tense is not as overwhelming in the male weblogging as I previously
thought. In certain cases, like in the examples above, however, the verb
tense is noticeable.
4. Vernacular Findings.
Throughout weblogging, the male weblogger
uses vernacular words more frequently while the female weblogger uses
vernacular pragmatics in her sentence structure. Looking at vernacular
word usage alone, Jeremy uses the full out version of “fuck”:
“Today fucking sucked at work” unlike Emily who tones it down:
“i frigging knew it, dude. i frigging knew it. add to that my jello-shotness..”.
This difference is found frequently. Emily uses a less-blunted form of
this such word with ‘frigging’ and ‘freaking’
or ‘fuked up’ instead of ‘fucked up’. ‘Freaking’
is found in Jeremy’s entries, but more as a verb and not an exclamation:
“She freaked out because of Christmas and how difficult it will
be now”. However, in one entry Jeremy contradicts the above and
says in discussing his hunting from the previous weekend: “Yeah,
I missed him. Twice. I spent the whole day saying the f-word repeatedly.”
The overall statistic here is not
as astounding as I would have expected. Emily, in her 10 entries, had
9 ‘swear’ words whereas Jeremy had 13. However, only in one
of Emily’s entries did she use the most harsh ‘swear’
word in our society, “fuck”, and that entry contains lots
of anger. Again, the tendency for male webloggers to ‘swear’
is a bit more than the other female webloggers I read and researched.
Like the findings with Emily and Jeremy, the males are much more likely
to use the rougher ‘swear’ words than the females.
In using Emily’s example from the previous paragraph, the vernacular is seen through her creation of the word ‘jello-shotness’. Again, in current research, this is perhaps an example of the second general finding on Gender and Language Variation found in Wolfram which states that “women tend to adopt innovative language features much more quickly than men”.
The unconventional-ness of weblogging
coorelates back to the tense usage findings, perhaps. Since webloggers
can write about anything, commenting on the past, writing poetry, or making
goals for the future are all possible topics and themes. If all webloggers
commented equally on daily life and events, then researchers may see a
larger difference in tense usage.
Weblogging is a new form of oral vernacular
used in the written form. While some webloggers are academic and traditional
in the content of their weblogs (Dr. Kevin Brooks), the format alone leads
to vernacular possibilities. Even though the content of entries don’t
comprise of all the different items associated with vernacular, (For example:
the spoken -in’ vs. -ing because it is a written language. Written
language is always more standard than spoken language.), it does encompass
the rest of Wolfram’s definition of vernacular. Weblogging is a
“dialect of a speech community” found in the written form
instead of spoken form, and webloggingg is often used to write in a “non-standard
or non-mainstream variet(y) as opposed to the standard variety”
(Wolfram, 1998, p. 365).
Weblogging can also, therefore, be seen as a dialect simply because it is “a variety of the language associated with a particular regional or social group” (Wolfram, 1998, p. 350). The region here would be the online region of our 21st century lives, and the social group of the weblogging community would be the ones that could disseminate the weblogging dialect from others. In the weblogging dialect, one weblogger interacting with another weblogger may use certain cyberspeak terms and emoticons that he would not use offline. In chat rooms too, another online activity, the use of emoticons and cyberspeak terms differ from chat room to chat room. Each room may have it’s own variety of what is acceptable with cyberspeak terms and emoticons, so going into a certain chat room, or responding to a particular weblogging conversation, is much like entering a region physically on the map. A person may not be acknowledged simply because he or she may not know that chat room or weblogger’s online dialect.
Access is a part of the Instrumentalities of weblogging. It is a written form of language but a written form only found online. In order to become a weblogger and gain the ‘online dialect’ experience, one must have access to a computer and the internet. Because it is open to only certain parts of society, one would think that it would be more traditionally based like the backbone of education, but even thought weblogging is only accessible to a few, it remains unconventional. There are no Norms to weblogging. There are, however, basic formats for the different sorts of weblogs one may find on the internet. The filter blog contains many links that have been sorted through by the filtering blogger so that the public, or visitors to the site, may check out places deemed the best whereas the format to the journal blog may or may not contain links to other sites. Genres included in weblogging range, like mentioned before, from poetry to quotes to conversations to lyrics of songs. The nonstandardness of weblogging, again, adds to the infinite possibilities of this online tool and service. Weblogging is just a slice of what online writing contains as far as research possibilities.
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