Social Interaction Process Analysis of Bengalis' on Orkut®

Social Interaction Process Analysis of Bengalis' on Orkut®

Anupam Das (Indiana University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch004
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Abstract

This study investigates what interlocutors do when they exchange messages on the social network site (SNS) Orkut® and how they do it. In so doing, the study examines the interplay of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) acts, interaction processes, and frequency of message exchange in text-based dyadic interactions of diasporic Bengalis on Orkut®. A total of 48 dyadic interactions were analyzed. The subjects were observed to have produced mostly bona-fide positive socioemotional content, primarily through ‘greet’ and ‘claim’. It was also noticed that dyads who exchange utterances more than global average, produce more task-oriented content than those who exchange utterances less than global average. Task communication is achieved primarily through ‘inquire’ and ‘inform’. ‘Bona-fide positive socioemotional’ content is argued to be providing users’ socio-emotional needs, while ‘task’ communication helps them accumulate social capital. The findings contribute to CMC, pragmatics, and social psychology. It further helps common people understand the benefits of interaction on SNSs.
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Introduction

Human to human interaction through the shared use of Inter-supported technologies is known as Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC; Herring, 2004). CMC has long been adopted for both instrumental and social interactions in organizational contexts (Steinfield & Steinfeld, 1986). However, only recently attention is being diverted to computer-mediated social communication (Ellison, Steinfeld, & Cliff, 2007; Honeycutt & Herring, 2009; Peña & Hancock, 2006). In fact, with the exponential growth of popularity of social network sites (SNSs), such as Facebook®, MySpace®, and Orkut®, more research is required to understand different aspects of users’ behaviors . On SNSs, users create profiles, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with others primarily through text-based communication (boyd & Ellison, 2007).

In recent years, our social mobility has gone up for various reasons. Both forced and voluntary migrations affect immigrant population socioemotionally (Jacobsen, 2002). CMC, however, plays an important role in creating and strengthening a sense of community among immigrants of the same linguistic and/or ethnic origin (Hiller & Franz, 2004). The internet in general, and SNSs in particular, offer migrants a new resource for the formation of social capital (Boase, et al., 2006; Ellison et al., 2007; Hiller & Franz, 2004). Social capital is broadly defined as the resources gathered through relationships among people (Coleman, 1988). However, very few studies have actually examined how immigrants benefit from using SNSs. It seems that inadequate empirical findings of users’ behavior on SNSs and popular mass media’s anecdotal reports on the bad aspects of these sites are some of the causes for some individuals’ and institutions’ unfavorable1 attitudes towards SNSs. Although text-based CMC offers a potentially rich source of insight into human behavior, to date, I am not aware of any studies that have substantiated their findings by systematically analyzing actual content of the interaction that goes on these sites among immigrants.

This study addresses the fundamental question: What is it that interlocutors are doing (or intending to do) when they exchange messages on Orkut®? In answering the question, the study proposes a new analytical method to analyze multi-dimensional aspects of communication. Drawing from pragmatics and conversation analysis, the new method investigates the interplay of CMC acts, interaction processes, and frequency of message exchanges in naturally-occurring text-based dyadic interactions of diasporic Bengalis2 in a small university town in the Midwestern USA. This method will be useful for researchers trying to understand the meaning of text-based CMC across languages and CMC modes since the method was developed using empirical data. Additionally, the findings of the study help us understand how conversations on the social network site, Orkut®, bring members of the immigrant community closer together to create a network which consequently provides social capital and socioemotional support to the members. Thus, the study helps us understand the benefits of conversations on SNSs in general.

Key Terms in this Chapter

SNS: A virtual platform where users create profiles, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with their ‘friends’ primarily through text-based communication.

Social Network: A map of all of the relevant ties (relationships between the social actors) between the nodes (individual social actors within the networks).

Social Capital: The resources gathered through relationships among people.

Diaspora: A population sharing ethnic and/or linguistic background who left their homeland, and became residents of a new place that is far from their homeland.

CMC acts: By text-based conversation, we perform something.

CMC: Human to human interaction through the shared use of Inter-supported technologies.

Small talk: A casual form of conversation in a socially appropriate context.

Politeness: A set of pragmatic norms that encompasses all linguistic and social forms of expression which help human beings achieve the goal of pleasant co-existence.

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