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Just joking

13 May 2009

Should we include a chat feature in an online community? Currently we are designing a community which might be presented as a Ning, and I notice that not all Nings enable chat.

(photo at right: ‘Ludo’, uploaded on Flickr under Creative Commons by Bindaas Madhavi.)

Niesten and Sussex (2006, p. 73), talking about internet chat (IRC in generic terms), describe chat as covering a range of humour from vulgar burlesque to high intellectual wit, and do not feel that its ludicity (that is, playfulness) is entirely a force for good.

interactive sequences of ludic interventions, structured along a gradient from display for its own high-spirited enjoyment, through collaborative theme-exploration and competitive sparring, to the more aggressive routines used for group protection … Ludicity is expressed as an in-group code, unstable, developing …
(Niesten & Sussex, p. 75)

When you write a chat that depends on your in-group knowledge, you are excluding others – stopping them participating, using ‘knowledge or information to control social space’.

In working together to plan our proposed online community, we used the ‘Chat’ window in the meeting software (Go-To-Meeting) to run a parallel and not at all serious commentary on our spoken meeting. We used the chat window to supply ‘stage directions’ – one member lost the connecting instructions, and joined the online meeting late, so their first chats were:
whiterabbit: ): *pant*
[Spoken comment from another member: ‘Whiterabbit’ has just joined us, finally. ]
whiterabbit: (to All – Entire Audience): ok…i suck.
whiterabbit: *raises hand*
whiterabbit: (to All – Entire Audience): thanks to whoever sent that link to me again …

The second online meeting saw even more chats running alongside the spoken meeting, and because the team had become more friendly over time, their tone was more playful, more witty, and ruder.

In an article on what linguistic elements justify the description of Australian English as a distinct language, Roly Sussex claims that ludicity is a particularly Australian kind of linguistic creativity: that Australian English shows “playfulness, wilfulness, or the deliberate use of the outrageous … It often involves a self-reflexive potential ridicule.” Sussex cites the in-group talk of Roy and HG’s program The Dream during the Sydney Olympics (e.g. the Battered Sav approach to the men’s gymnastics) as evidence that Australian English takes its status from taking itself UNseriously.

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