Language, Gender, and Internet Discussion Lists

Essay by jericaUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2003

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The area of study I am focusing on is Internet chatgroups. Specifically, I will be looking at whether the gender identifiers and trends studied in class hold up over computer-mediated communication (CMC). One Internet email discussion list was chosen for the study, SacRaves ( SacRaves is an asynchronous chatgroup, meaning it is a discussion list that does not exist in real-time (Crystal, 2001). Messages exist forever and responses can be made at any time. Discussions can travel in any number of directions. The list is centered around electronic music and the greater Sacramento area (with users from as far away as Chico, Stockton, Reno, and Oakland). Originally intended as a communications medium for information about electronic music events in the area, the list has grown to encompass discussion about almost everything.

The list currently boasts 450 subscribers. Determining the number of males and females is impossible, as a breakdown of each subscriber is unavailable.

Also, many of the addresses subscribed are of indeterminable gender. The list is loosely moderated by a single user (the only posts which receive attention are those from non-subscribers). Events and self-promotion are to be preceded by the insertion of a "BSP" (blatant self promotion) in the subject header. Messages with a BSP header were ignored, as they are not typical of discussion on the list. Non-list relevant discussion is also to be preceded by "NRR" (non rave related) in the subject header. The listproc (the program which runs the list) also inserts "[SacDrama]" into the subject header. The original list name, "SacRaves," was replaced with "SacDrama," due to the direction of much of the discussion on the list (personal drama instead of electronic music).

A four-day period was chosen at random (May 3 through 6, 2002) and all the messages for those...