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There is an infinite amount of chat rooms available on the internet and each one can be defined as its own speech community. I have chosen to analyze a chat room that is devoted to the hit Fox reality show, American Idol. The transcript used was from a chat session that occurred at 10:00 PM on March 27, 2005. This online chat room seemed to be the source of a continuous flow of opinionated statements regarding the television show.
Due to the anonymity of the internet, members of the many speech communities within are uneasily identified. Members tend to rely solely on “screen names” for identification purposes. With names such as TanBear251 and MegaBob12, most statistical information regarding the identity of participants is limited. The context and purpose of the chat room, however, allow for various limited conclusions to be drawn. For the American Idol chat room, it can be assumed that participants include people who watch the television show regularly. These people are likely to statistically fall into the show’s target audience in regards to age and income, among other factors. The target audience of American Idol consists of middle to upper-middle class viewers between the ages of 20 and 45 years of age.
No physical location can truly be defined for this speech event. One participant may reside in Houston, Texas, while another may live in Puerto Rico. Due to the time of day, a casual setting can be assumed since it is likely that most participants are located within their own homes. Participation is fully voluntary and in most cases is for enjoyment purposes.
For this chat room in particular, knowledge truly is power. The status of a participant grows with their expertise on a subject of discussion. The chat room “regulars” seem to hold a higher status that those who are entering for the first time. This is seen with the amount of posted messages a person makes. Those who regularly participate in the chat room from day to day dominate the discussion while newcomers tend to sit back and watch. In order to gain inclusion in a discussion, one must prove themselves as knowledgeable about the subject at hand.
Some of the barriers that coexist with chat room communication include a limited ability to show emotion as well as a tedious typing requirement. To address these issues, many new abbreviated expressions have been introduced.
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