Gender Language Style and Group Composition in Internet Discussion Groups

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Abstract

This study focuses on group gender composition and the seeming relatedness between gender roles and group process functions described as task and maintenance, as found on the Internet. The sample was drawn from randomly selected set of 27 online discussion groups from both the Internet and from commercial information services (e.g. Compuserv) using the ProjectH dataset. The 2692 valid messages were coded for language content (fact, apology, first person flaming, status, etc.) that has been related to gender role in other research. Each message was also coded regarding the gender of its author. Results held with the conventional impression that men far outnumber women as participants in online discussion groups. However, results were mixed in regard to the relation of language patterns and group gender composition. Gender composition was related to patterns of computer mediated communication in this context. However, there were an unexpectedly high proportion of participants of indeterminate gender in this dataset, it is difficult to test the hypotheses with precision. However, the sample is comprised of “real-life” groups, so what is lost in experimental control is compensated for in generalization to other uncontrolled settings.

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