Gendered Discourse Practices in Instant Messaging

Gendered Discourse Practices in Instant Messaging
Gisela Redeker
University of Groningen
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is rapidly becoming an essential part of (especially young
people’s) everyday social life in the information society. With the increased availability of reliable
internet access, interactive genres of CMC (email, text messaging via mobile phones, instant
messaging, electronic chat, and postings on social network sites) are regular alternatives for, or more
often additions to, face-to-face contacts for both work-related and private conversations.
In this talk, I will focus on one-to-one CMC among close friends, in particular, instant messaging (IM).
IM can be characterized as (i) sustained and (ii) mainly relational (as opposed to informational)
communication, and as such constitutes a discursive practice in which the participants project,
maintain, and negotiate their identities and their relation. As in face-to-face conversations, the
participants’ gender is a relevant and often salient aspect in these interactions.
Drawing on the extensive (if not unequivocal) literature on gender differences in face-to-face
conversations, chat rooms, online discussions and weblogs, and on the still sparse evidence on the role
of gender in IM, I will present a multi-faceted qualitative and quantitative analysis of dyadic instant
messaging conversations among young male and female university graduates. I will discuss
similarities and differences between male-male, female-female and male-female conversations with
respect to length, topics, openings and closings, stylistic choices, and the use of humor. Finally, I will
address the relevance of this investigation for the study of gendered discourse practices and for our
understanding of relational computer-mediated communication.
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