The Language of Cyberspace

The Language of Cyberspace

Leah P. Macfadyen (The University of British Columbia, Canada) and Sabine Doff (Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München, Germany)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-562-7.ch060
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Amid the many published pages of excited hyperbole regarding the potential of the Internet for human communications, one salient feature of current Internet communication technologies is frequently overlooked: the reality that Internet- and computer-mediated communications, to date, are communicative environments constructed through language (mostly text). In cyberspace, written language therefore mediates the human-computer interface as well as the human-human interface. What are the implications of the domination of Internet and computer-mediated communications by text? Researchers from diverse disciplines—from distance educators to linguists to social scientists to postmodern philosophers—have begun to investigate this question. They ask: Who speaks online, and how? Is online language really text, or is it “speech”? How does culture affect the language of cyberspace? Approaching these questions from their own disciplinary perspectives, they variously position cyberlanguage as “text,” as “semiotic system,” as “socio-cultural discourse” or even as the medium of cultural hegemony (domination of one culture over another). These different perspectives necessarily shape their analytical and methodological approaches to investigating cyberlanguage, underlying decisions to examine, for example, the details of online text, the social contexts of cyberlanguage, and/or the social and cultural implications of English as Internet lingua franca. Not surprisingly, investigations of Internet communications cut across a number of pre-existing scholarly debates: on the nature and study of “discourse,” on the relationships between language, technology and culture, on the meaning and significance of literacy, and on the liter

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