E 379S Senior Seminar: The No-Spam Zone: Final paper
At this point in the semester, you have been following your community for six to eight weeks, you have written two short papers describing the community and why it interests you and describing the use and meaning of selected terms within the community. You should also be working on a paper on conversational strategies and presentation of self within the community. The last short paper you will write (due April 19) will cover politeness conventions within your community: how the community deals with transgressive behavior and how disputes are resolved.
You should, by this time, have gained a strong sense of linguistic and social behavior in your communitywhether you are a newcomer or whether you are taking a close look at a community in which you are already a member. Although none of us can predict exactly what will happen the communities in the next several weeks, you have at least had ample opportunity to observe patterns of behavior. Itıs now time to start thinking about what your final paper will look like. Since the forums you are studying and your interests vary so greatly, the following is a sketch of topics your paper should address rather than a recipe for the final paper. In other words, these are topics that you should at least touch upon, but some of you may have more to say about individual aspects of particular topics than others. Except for the initial description of the community, itıs also not an outline of the order in which you should address topics.
Remember that the short papers are intended to serve as drafts, and I expect that the final paper will be largely an amplification or revision of topics you first addressed in the shorter papers. Remember too that we will meet in individual conferences the second-to-last week in the semester (April 23-27) to talk about how you want to go about putting your draft together into a final seminar paper.
Things your paper should address:
- A description of the community: including: its purpose, members (to the extent that you can know the members) founding (if you have information on that), medium, and general functions that is clear enough so that someone who is not a member of the community gets a strong sense of what the community is like.
- A description of some of the words used in your community, how they are used, what they mean, and a discussion of how you think they help define your community. As in assignment 2, these may be widely known online terms, or they may be terms specific to your community or its topic online or offline.
- A description and discussion of how behavior is mediated through language in your community. This might emphasize conversational or politeness strategies, it might emphasize the use of different media/technologies within your community (e.g. In Character vs. Out of Character communication or public vs. private channels of communication, the use of message boards or other technology for public posting); it might emphasize how power and status relations are worked out (e.g., though a formally recognized hierarchy, though a widely recognized but not formally spelled out series of status relationships based on experience, knowledge, or willingness to help others, or though more subtle interactions).
- A description and discussion of how members of your community use language to present their online selve(s). This will presumably vary greatly according to the community. Some of you are studying communities in which participants are expected to enact roles; others are studying communities which revolve around communication about a particular topic, but you will find that participants construct online personas through their use of language. Some of you are studying small, tightly-knit communities in which you can concentrate on small group interactions; others are studying larger, more anonymous communities, and it might be wise to concentrate on a few salient personas or ways of presenting self online.
- A discussion of the communityıs governance, i.e. how it regulates itself. This may be through formal policies, the fiat of a founding member, or it may be through informal interactions. But most communities will have (or will have evolved) ways of handling disruptive behavior or socializing new-comers.
- A discussion of any social or sociological implications of your community or the fact that it is online. For example, does it take an existing institution online, and if so, how is that institution modified or conserved? Does it represent the voluntary contributions of individuals to a larger project? Does your community bring together people from widely scattered sites in ways that would be difficult or impossible without the Internet? Is your community institutionally or individually sponsored? Does the community, its formation, or the behavior of its participants say something interesting about the behavior of people online in relation to the way they might behave offline?
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Comments to: Sara Kimball
Last updated March, 2001