Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1984) suggests individuals strive to achieve or maintain a positive social identity. During face-to-face encounters our observations of other interactants influence our perceptions of the interaction. In computer-mediated contexts, these “cues” to understanding interactions are not as readily available. There are a vast number of cyber communities that rely solely upon CMC as a means of maintaining contact with one another and recruiting new members (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004). This study considers cues to individual group membership imbedded within the language dynamics of two such cyber communities. A white supremacist recording label discussion board and a punk rock recording label (control group) are examined. The study employs a content analysis of the online discussions of the respective discussion boards.
Content from the discussion text of the top 20 subject threads from each discussion board were collected, a total of 226,450 words were analysed using the computer aided content analysis program Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC). Results of analysis supported both of the studies hypotheses, as the white supremacist group more frequently used first person plural pronouns (We) within their discussions compared to the control group, and the control group more frequently used first person singular pronouns (I) compared to the white supremacist group.
Results of the analysis suggest that cues are embedded within the frequency of word choice of online discussion groups. These cues seem to function as one of many as members attempt to situate their membership within online groups. Limitations included the complexity of language dynamics and generalizability of findings to other CMC modalities.
|Keywords:||Computer Mediated Communication, White Supremacist, Social Identity Theory, Communication Accomodation Theory|
Director of Integrative Studies, Bachelor of Integrative Studies, Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA
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