Online Discussion and Interaction: The Case of Live Text Commentary

Online Discussion and Interaction: The Case of Live Text Commentary

Jan Chovanec (Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-863-0.ch012


This contribution discusses linguistic aspects of discussion and interaction in a new genre of journalism?live text commentary?that has recently come into existence thanks to new communication technologies, most notably the Internet. Live text commentary is a professional journalistic text that is produced online contemporaneously with the event that it describes. The technology enables the text’s consumers to provide instant feedback to the author, thus enhancing interpersonal interaction. Structurally, the resulting texts contain elements of discussion because readers’ comments are used to co-construct the texts, while also manifesting numerous linguistic features of reader-oriented interactiveness. Live text commentary is viewed as an instance of mediated quasi-interaction. This is because the readers interact in a virtual space, discursively enacting their membership in an imaginary community, rather than participating in a real interpersonal interaction. Using material from live text commentaries of sports events, this contribution provides an analysis of such online discussion and interaction from the perspective of discourse analysis and sociolinguistics.
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While some of the chapters in this volume deal with cases of online discussion and interaction in contexts which are interactive by their very nature, e.g., chat groups, Internet forums, personal and professional blogs, etc., this chapter documents the occurrence of interactive communication fostered by the use of modern information and communication technologies in an environment that is not inherently inclined towards discussion and interaction: Live reporting of factual events in the media. Generally speaking, the media are concerned with transmitting messages to their audiences, most typically represented by the canonical genre of news reporting (though there are other, interactive, genres, such as televised political debates and interviews, which are based on discussion).

This chapter focuses on one particular kind of reporting: Live text commentary, as represented by the written reporting of sports events online and in real time. While live sports reporting is an established spoken genre, online commentary is a relatively new phenomenon. The article shows how modern technology, in this case the Internet, may provide an opportunity for journalists to engage in unorthodox and innovative methods of journalism by inviting online discussion and interaction from their audiences during the process of the construction of the text.

The resulting product then integrates the functions of information-provision and interpersonal engagement in a text with a highly elaborate structure comprising two layers of narration. The description of the language and structure of live text commentary reveals that it is organized in complex thematic threads, which resemble other kinds of online interactions, e.g., chat communication. Noting the specific nature of live text commentary, this article offers a sociolinguistic explanation for this emerging genre. By relying on conversational language, dialogic structure and staged interpersonal interaction, the texts articulate the discourse participants’ identity of belonging to a virtual group of sports fans.

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