Dialogue on the Internet: Language, Civic Identity, and Computer-Mediated Communication

Dialogue on the Internet: Language, Civic Identity, and Computer-Mediated Communication

Dialogue on the Internet: Language, Civic Identity, and Computer-Mediated Communication

Dialogue on the Internet: Language, Civic Identity, and Computer-Mediated Communication

Synopsis

Richard Holt draws on his extensive experience in discourse analysis and Web design to present a picture of the Internet as a potentially powerful tool of civic discourse in the third millennium. Beginning with background on two of the Internet's most prevalent communication forms, email discussion messages and Web pages/sites, the book introduces the concepts of monologism and dialogism. Holt advocates a method of discursive analysis called dual reading, in which Internet utterance is analyzed first monologically and then, dialogically. This method is demonstrated by analyzing email discussions that deal with such varied topics as media, espionage, sexual identity, presidential politics, hate speech, and hate crimes.

Excerpt

The entire world is literally in every e-mail post you read and write on the Internet, and in every page you visit or compose on the Web. This is because, once uttered, neither the post nor the page is any longer owned by its composer. Rather, it is cast into a stream of ongoing discourse, thus becoming a property jointly owned (and fought over) by its composer and any person who may read it. The meaning of a post or a page (or any other spoken or written message) is not set, but is achieved collaboratively in the struggle over what it represents among those in the whole world—those who write, read, and represent it. Because meaning is inescapably social, all society (the world) must be included in the category of those who fashion the meaning of any Internet utterance. No matter how seemingly ordinary, any Internet interaction represents a nexus at which the vast universe of Internet users and their innumerable utterances coalesce—this is the “world” in the post and the page.

The preceding paragraph summarizes a view of communication and thought known as “dialogism” and a mode of communicating known as “dialogue.” Those espousing dialogistic perspectives are comfortable with, and indeed celebrate, multiplicity. In many ways the dialogical perspective resonates well with the familiar idiosyncratic features—immediacy, interconnectivity, global range—of Internet communication, features that make it noticeably different from many

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