To demonstrate the alternation of speakers in telephone openings, Schegloff presents four representative interactions comprised of several nearly identical turns (1968, 115). We can see related levels of similarity between dyadic openings in IRC by extracting three interactions from Example 1 as Examples 2, 3, and 4. Interactant alternation is marked as A and B; collective address is marked as C; and individual address as I. Also marked are question (Q) and answer (Ans) pairs, and statement (S) and response (R) pairs. Examples 2, 3, and 4 each contain a collectively addressed greeting and the exchange of individually addressed greeting tokens, and it is in these latter exchanges that dyadic interaction is being initiated. Collective greeting displays orientation to the group nature of the medium but it is not itself a dyadic initiator unless taken up - as in a B response to an A initiation - by an existing public channel member. Examples 2 and 3 also show that to ratify a dyad, greetings generally follow the matching convention for adjacency-pair greetings found in FTF interaction (Edmondson 1981, 83; Braun 1998, 23–25), so, for Example, strawb's “hello” is matched by lion in Example 3. The serial nature of IRC's display leads to minor discrepancies in order (Reid 1991; Herring 1999), but this does not appear to cause interactional problems as long as the individual greeting is returned at some nearby point. This occurs in Example 4 when Angie appears to produce a collective greeting (7) after an individual greeting from Stinger (5). While the individual greeting response (16) is not ‘adjacent’, the interaction - and alternation - continues without reference or repair.
So, in terms of openings that function to begin an interaction, Examples 2, 3, and 4 demonstrate a partial orientation to normative telephone opening behavior and ABAB sequencing. However, Example 1, from which Examples 2, 3, and 4 were drawn, shows that most of the 22 initiations failed to produce responses in the public channel. Situations such as those of kwest (joins in 20, collectively greets the channel in 23 but receives no responses) and Fleet (joins in 22, does not greet the channel and is not greeted) are more common in Example 1 than the longer and apparently successful openings of Angie and strawb, Angie and stinger and lion and strawb. Further, each of those examples involved a common person in the dyad, reducing their general applicability. Assuming that initiations that do not appear to receive responses are not examples of users switching private interaction - which undoubtedly occurs at times - the multiple failed initiations in Example 1 indicate that there may be ambiguity in recognizing that an initiation is required/being attempted by a newly-joined user, or that there is scope for existing channel members to ignore an initiation attempt. The processes occurring directly at the point of joining a public channel thus bear closer analysis.
Structure of IRC openings: Channel Entry Phase (CEP) Progressions
Openings that occur directly after joining a public channel follow a similar pattern, dictated partly by the transmission system of the medium and partly by the choices of interactants. We have termed this pattern the Channel Entry Phase (CEP). In the abstract, a CEP consists of an ordered progression of three potential stages:
First, an Automated Joining Event (AJE) is produced by the server. The AJE of a user consists of twin mirrored messages from the server: The newly-joined user receives a Joining Confirmation (JC) notice, while the existing channel members receive a Joining Announcement (JA) about the newly-joined user.
Second, after receiving a JC, the newly-joined user may produce a collectively or individually addressed Joining Initial Behavior (JIB). At the same time, as a result of seeing a newly-joined user's JA, an existing channel member may direct a Joining Initial Reaction (JIR) at the newly-joined user.
Finally, following a JIB, an existing channel member may produce a JIB-Response, ratifying interaction. Alternatively, in response to a JIR, the newly-joined user may ratify interaction with a JIR-Response.
The data show these stages giving rise to six possible CEP Progressions for attempting initiation of dyadic interaction. The Progressions are based on who produces the first behavior, whether this behavior is collectively or individually addressed and who, if anyone, responds. Examples 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are brief illustrations of the six Progressions. Discussion of the links between Progressions and the instantiation and development of interpersonal relationships will occur throughout the remainder of the article.
Table Progression 1: . AJE >>> JIB (Collective address) [STOP] (No JIB-Response).
|AJE||734. [SERVER] email@example.com has joined this channel|
|JIB||737. [woody] hey all|
|STOP||758. [SERVER] woody has left this channel|
Table Progression 2: . AJE >>> JIB (Individual address) [STOP] (No JIB-Response).
|AJE||254. [SERVER] SaHaRafirstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|JIB||255. [Sahara] sup FAR!|
|STOP||312. [SERVER] FARemail@example.com has joined this channel|
|STOP||313. [benny] FAR thank god you are back…. I MISSED YOU.|
|STOP||319. [FAR] benny: =) thanks!|
|STOP||321. [FAR] **B0100000027fed4|
|I (Fails)||341. [Sahara] FAR!!!!!!!!!|
|STOP||397. [SERVER] Sahara has left this channel|
Table Progression 3: . AJE >>> JIR [STOP] (No JIR-Response).
|AJE||454. [SERVER] jsmith! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|JIR||489. [cutebabe] Hi jsmith|
|STOP||548. [jsmith] hello everyone|
|STOP||599. [jsmith] so are there just random conversations or what?|
|STOP||636. [SERVER] jsmith has left this channel|
Table Progression 4: . AJE >>> JIB (Collective address) >>> JIB-Response.
|AJE||30. [SERVER] IP_email@example.com has joined this channel|
|JIB (C)||36. [IP_] hi all|
|JIB-Response||37. [strawb] hello Yo|
Table Progression 5: . AJE >>> JIB (Individual address) >>> JIB-Response.
|AJE||384. [SERVER] erf! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|JIB (I)||390. [IP_] hey erf!|
|JIB-Response||407. [erf] hey YO|
Table Progression 6: . AJE >>> JIR >>> JIR-Response.
|AJE||2059. [SERVER] Drippemail@example.com has joined this channel|
|JIR||2064. [MoosE] hi dripp|
|JIR-Response||2065. [Dripp] moose: hi|
The data also shows that CEPs do not occur in either chronological or spatial isolation. Since IRC is a group medium, the CEP of a single user often involves multiple opening Progressions (a situation that does not occur in (most) FTF or telephone interactions). A newly-joined user may produce/experience any one or a combination of the CEP Progressions above, as the following Examples demonstrate. Again, these are brief illustrations, and discussion of the interpersonal ramifications will follow in later sections.
Table 7. Multiple Progression AJE >>> JIR-1 [STOP] (No JIR-Response). Example 1 AJE >>> JIR-2 >>> JIR-2-Response.
|AJE||850. [SERVER] TOMARfirstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|JIR-1||852. [iron] TOMARRRRRRR!|
|JIR-2||855. [Acus] TOMAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
|JIR-2-Response||864. [TOMAR] acus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
Table 8. Multiple Progression AJE >>> JIB-1 [STOP] (No JIB-Response). Example 2 AJE >>> JIB-2 [STOP] (No JIB-Response).AJE >>> JIB-3 [STOP] (No JIB-Response).AJE >>> JIR-1 [STOP] (No JIR-Response).
|AJE||318. [SERVER] email@example.com has joined this channel|
|JIB 1||319. [noway] piemannnnnnnnnnnnn|
|JIB 2||320. [noway] clare_________|
|JIB 3||322. [noway] bubbllllllllllll|
|JIR 1||323. [Lakerboy] NOWAY!!!!!!!|
|X||324. [SERVER] noway has left this channel|
Like telephone interactions, all CEP openings on IRC begin with an automated component, but as the Progressions above demonstrate, there is significant sequential variability. There is no clear logic to who takes the A and B positions in alternation, so both newly-joined users and existing public channel members may initiate interaction, and newly-joined users may attempt both collective and individually addressed initiations. The obvious problem with sequential ambiguity is the possibility that one may not be addressed or answered. The problem of IRC openings on public channels, then, appears to be linked to the fact that IRC's automated component does not provide the same useful structural resource for openings that the ring does for telephone interactions.
The Automated Joining Event (AJE)
That the first moment in user's CEP is automated is not in and of itself the necessary cause of the sequential ambiguity in IRC openings. People are quite used to the automated ring of the telephone. Then again, mere automation is not, in and of itself, an indicator of functional similarity, so more detailed comparison is necessary.
The AJE has several similarities to the telephone ring. Both are produced as a result of a conscious action of one interactant, and their structure and ‘content’ are dictated and produced by the medium. Further, both consist of twin, mirrored, components. The ring heard by the caller and the JC of a newly-joined user both provide feedback about the attempted connection, but the feedback is not evidence of connection to another person. The ring heard by the answerer and the JA to the existing public channel members both signal only that interaction is possible not that it has begun. However, while both automated events function as notification devices about potential interaction, the similarities between the AJE and telephone ring are outweighed by their differences. Both components of the AJE are verbal, while the telephone rings are mechanized alarms. The upshot is that the name of a newly-joined user is known, while the name of a phone caller is unknown (this is the general situation at present, though the advances in phone technology since Schegloff's research now enable the caller's number, and sometimes name, to be available to the recipient). As it turns out, that difference significantly changes the role of the automated components in initiation and direction.
As discussed above, the telephone ring is a crucial coordination feature in telephone openings; it acts as a summons which has an answer as a conditionally relevant response, and has the condition of non-terminality (1968; 1972; 1986). That is, the ring sets up ABAB sequencing in two stages. It acts as an initiatory cue, an A, which requires a response B. However, the automated A is not itself communicative beyond its summoning power, and it does not provide identity or goal information about the caller for the receiver. Thus the B response is also an A in the sense of being the first human step in the dyadic interaction. Several AB pairs may then follow to negotiate ‘greeting’ and ‘identification’. Importantly, the A summons also implies that the producer of the A has a reason for summoning the B respondent. It is this implication that causes the ring to require a response, and thereafter requires that the caller carry on producing turns related to the reason for calling and that the receiver respond. As a summons, therefore, the ring sets up a condition of non-terminality at least until the reason for the call has been dealt with in some way.
An AJE, on the other hand, is a broadcast, nonspecific notification of the possibility of interaction. Further, it is broadcast to a transient population composed of known (sometimes) and unknown people. The telephone ring heard by a caller is the result of a conscious decision to call a particular known person or institution, i.e. is a summons directed at a specific target defined by an assigned phone number. In both public channels the caller receives (verbal or mechanical) feedback of the success (or otherwise) of the attempted connection. Thus the key difference is that telephone callers (in general) have more information about the likely identity of the recipient and the success of the connection, and the upshot of these differences is that an answer is conditionally relevant to the summons of a telephone ring but is not conditionally relevant to the broadcast AJE.
The slight differences in the JC and JA components of the AJE mean that newly-joined users and existing public channel members also begin with very different perceptions of potential interaction structure.
The Joining Confirmation (JC) and newly-joined users
For a newly-joined user, the verbal nature of the JC is significant primarily because the collective reference implicit in the reference to the interaction environment immediately orients the newly-joined user to the group setting.
|AJE-JC||[SERVER] You have joined #Australia|
Critically, although the JC signals that interaction is possible and thus, in Laver's (1975, 221) terms, performs part of the initiatory function of an opening, it does not in and of itself ratify either the attention levels, the availability, or the desire of others to interact with the newly-joined user. Unlike a telephone ring, the JC is not directed at a particular class of interactant, nor can it indicate whether others are busy or potentially available as can be determined from differing telephone ring tones. The JC also provides few clues as to what should be done after its conclusion - unlike the phone it does not provide the clear indication of ‘answered’, ‘busy’ or ‘not answered’. “You have joined #[channel-name]” is not the feedback of a directed summons that would normatively require an answer by a specific individual (or category of individual), it does not require the user to produce a greeting on the basis that the class of interactant that they chose to call is now available and are expecting to be greeted to begin identification-recognition. The JC thus provides no “conditional relevance” (Schegloff 1968, 1083) for the newly-joined user to address any individual existing public channel member. Similarly, the newly-joined user knows that the JC is automated and self-directed, not a human-produced and interlocutor-directed token of initiation, propitiation, or exploration, so it signals that human interaction can now occur, but does not conclusively produce an expectation of action.
Those points being made, the JC notifies newly-joined users that they have intruded upon the interaction territory of a group of others. While the ‘territory’ here is spatially tenuous, in an environment where verbal interaction is all that is possible, it is reasonable to assume that there are boundary conditions for the production of new verbal behaviors. For Example, the JC may provide a weak ‘necessity’ for newly-joined users to produce an propitiatory utterance to allay the problems of territorial intrusion (Laver 1975, 226). The JC, as a user-directed notice, is not itself propitiatory, but it may alert the user to the need for propitiation. Newly-joined users know they are operating in a medium geared primarily towards interaction and that joining a public channel is an implicit statement of public presence and, possibly, a request for an invitation to interact. The closest the JC comes to having ‘conditional relevance’, then, is an implicit invitation for the newly-joined user to address the group. Following a JC with any form of address, however, is not a summons-answer sequence, since both moves are produced by the newly-joined user (AA).
The lack of directionality from the JC allows both woody (in Example 5) and jsmith (in Example 7) to deploy collectively addressed greetings, produced perhaps to allay feelings of territorial invasion. However in the same situation, Sahara (Example 6), erf (Example 9) and noway (Example 12) produce individually addressed greetings. Further, as Examples 7, 11 and 12 demonstrate, even when newly-joined users received responses to a greeting, the lack of ongoing response indicates that the JC does not clearly set up non-terminality (Schegloff 1968, 1081) - a precondition to an ongoing interaction, and hence the potential for an ongoing relationship.
From this variability we may argue that while newly-joined users with high expectations of interaction may expect their signaled entry to provoke a response, the AJE itself does not provide a clear indication of what is expected from whom. The most common response to this ambiguity is a lack of response, which may in turn lead to significant frustration of the relational process. Interestingly, users may be somewhat aware of the problems of ambiguity, as indicated by jsmith's “so are there just random conversations or what?” (Example 7, 599). jsmith's comment is interesting in its recognition of the problem of randomness of interactional moves and perhaps indicates a questioning of what counts as a ‘first thing’ in IRC openings.
The Joining Announcement (JA) and existing channel members
Like the JC, the JA provides few clear indicators for either the production of JIRs by existing public channel members or the expectation of JIBs from newly-joined users.
|AJE-JA||734. [SERVER] firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
Arguably the lack of a directed individual address in a JA implicitly sets up, or perhaps does not explicitly exclude, the possibility that all or any of existing public channel members may address the newly-joined user, as occurred in Examples 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12. However, unlike an answer to a summons, production of a JIR is a matter of choice. The JA provides only the knowledge that someone has joined a public forum of their own free will, and not at the behest of any one or a group of existing channel member/s. It follows, then, that the JA is not the first half of a to-be-finished summons-answer exchange and thus does not normatively require a response. If this were the case, the data set would have been ludicrously unbalanced with greetings, as every JA would have to have been followed by a greeting from every channel member, leaving little room for any further interaction! Such a rigid summons-answer situation is clearly an untenable option in a group medium. It should also be noted that because the JA is an automated notification, it is significantly different from the FTF introduction of a third party who is present by one person present to a group. Here the introduction carries some answer obligation on the basis that the introduced person has been deliberately brought into interactional proximity by another human for social purposes.
Even without a response to every JA, the data show a high level of initiation attempts in contrast with ongoing interactions, suggesting a ‘machine-gun’ approach to openings - greet enough people and someone will eventually respond. Without clear indications for the need to respond at all or continue to respond after an initial greeting, chance, then, is an active constraint of the medium on the possibility of forming interpersonal relationships. That being said, IRC is clearly a popular medium, indicating that users may positively regard the chance involved as ‘serendipity’ rather than as ‘risk’.
Not only does the JA lack answer-obligation for existing public channel members, but Examples 7, 11 and 12 also reveal that a JA is not necessarily indicative of a newly-joined user's desire to move past greeting with any existing channel members, as there are many instances of users exiting the channel at the end of greeting exchange. It may be weakly indicative of the general contextual expectations that users who are on a public channel are primarily geared to chat, and perhaps that a newly-joined user is ‘ready now’, but this is quite tenuous. The JA is, then, initiatory in the sense of a basic signal of presence, but it does not ratify the beginning of dyadic interaction.
Despite the quite comprehensive weaknesses in terms of response provision, the JA, unlike a phone ring, provides existing public channel members with two pieces of identity information about a newly-joined user: a nick and a server address. This information provision makes JAs into direct interactional resources if, as Examples 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12 illustrate, existing channel members so choose. Telephone users, on the other hand, must go through an explicit verbal identification/recognition phase after the ring to gain similar information (Schegloff 1986, 125–129; Hopper & Drummond 1992, 190). Existing IRC channel members, while not necessarily expected to do anything or expecting anything to occur, may immediately make judgments about whether they will produce JIRs or respond to JIBs even without having seen utterances from newly-joined users. Newly-joined users cannot make the same judgments based on their JC, although once in the channel they will see a list of existing channel members which then gives them similar options. Nevertheless, as JAs appear on screen, existing channel members have an advantage over newly-joined users in that they are immediately made aware of new users one at a time rather than having to read through a list.
Naturally, if one cannot raise the attention of an interlocutor, relationship development will simply be impossible. Initiation/propitiation must be ratified by an interlocutor, but in the crowded and transient interaction environments of IRC this can be very difficult. In the data, fully one-third of the users in the logs joined and left without producing any utterances, and the majority of that one-third were not addressed by existing public channel members. Even those users that succeeded appeared to find the task difficult, particularly when unknown to one another. Take the case of Nasa and Clown in Example 15. Judging by their questions, NASA and Clown are both inexperienced, non-regular users, who appear to know neither each other nor anyone else on the channel.
|1987. [SERVER] NASAemail@example.com has joined this channel|
|1988. [ACTION] NASA - hi to everyone|
|2040. [SERVER] Clownfirstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|2044. [ACTION] NASA - is here anyone who would like to talk with me?|
|2089. [Clown] hello there everyone|
|2099. [Clown] Hello?|
|2107. [Clown] Be sociable!|
|2111. [ACTION] NASA - talk to me too?|
|2120. [Clown] NASA: hello.|
|2131. [NASA] Clown-at least one who… umm, hi… :)|
|2145. [SERVER] NASA has left this channel|
|2148. [Clown] NASA: hi what's going down?|
Apart from the fact that NASA uses an action command format (1988), their greetings are very similar, both using the collective address element “everyone” (1988 and 2089). Neither user receives responses and both resort to metalingual strategies and connection checking when this becomes clear (NASA 2044, 2111; Clown 2099, 2107). The pair eventually find each other (2120, 2131) and have a chance at beginning an interaction. Interestingly, neither party directly relies on the AJE or even the collective greeting of the other as a coordinating device, both producing more utterances after receiving no responses. The opening essentially begins with the pair of individually addressed greetings which follow Nasa's “Clown - at least one who… umm, hi… :)” (2131), which starts as an attempt to get Clown's attention (A), but having unexpectedly received a greeting while typing, changes to a greeting response (B) (conveniently setting up ABAB sequencing). When Clown takes the next turn, a third greeting is produced (2148). This third greeting is (strictly) unnecessary now that two individual greetings have been exchanged and that NASA leaves the channel (2145) without receiving it.
However, had NASA remained on the channel, there is an argument to be made that, due to the difficulties both users have been experiencing, the AB pair ending with NASA's individual greeting response still does not signify that interaction has been ratified. The third greeting makes sense if Clown is unclear about NASA's attention - a justifiable strategy considering that NASA leaves ‘during’ the opening. A small amount of redundancy might aid ratification on IRC. Certainly, redundant greeting tokens occur frequently in the identification-recognition phases of Schegloff's telephone data (1986). Since IRC users already ‘recognize’ each other in the sense that they have known each other's nicks from the outset, there may be a case for arguing that in some IRC interactions a ratification phase might substitute for an identification-recognition phase. Confusion appears to occur primarily because the AJE does not provide clear indication of what is expected from whom. The work of coordination thus appears to begin with the verbal greeting exchange, making choice of greeting behavior critical.
Salutation choice: Ramifications for coordination and relationships
Token-based “verbal salutes” (Krivonos and Knapp 1977, 193) such as ‘hi’ are generally held to be important not for their semantic content but for their exploratory function (Laver 1975, 221; 1981, 298–300) and/or the potential social information encoded in token choice and phonetic behavior. These tokens are common signals that perform the critical functions of attention-getting and availability-establishment (McLaughlin 1987, 170–176; Schegloff 1968, 1090; 1986, 117–118). Salutation by nick, particularly the form in which a nick is used, is more semantically rich but performs the same function. Perhaps not surprisingly then, the choice of token or nick in IRC openings has similar ramifications to those proposed by Laver, although the choice emphasizes relational development more than social class.
In individual greetings, the use of a greeting token rather than a nick salutation usually indicates that the greeted user is unknown. This is illustrated in Example 16, in which SWAMI attempts openings with wendy (1517) and blotto (1413), both presumably unknown to SWAMI given that geographical location questions are asked (1536, 1850).
|1409. [Blotto] G'Day SWAMI!|
|1413. [SWAMI] hiya blotto|
|1493. [SERVER] Wendyemail@example.com has joined this channel|
|1495. [Wendy] hello 1515. [Wendy] hello?|
|1517. [SWAMI] hiya wendy|
|1522. [Wendy] hi SWAMI|
|1536. [SWAMI] wendy where r u?|
|1541. [SERVER] Wendy has left this channel|
|1850. [Blotto] SWAMI: Where you from?|
|1855. [SWAMI] Blotto [PlaceName]!|
Users known to one another most often deploy nick-based or nick-only greetings, as illustrated by Devil and babe in Example 17.
|44 [Devil] “Oh, I got the blues. Yeah, I've got the blues. I've got the ‘my girl ripped out my heart, and stomped on in and threw it in the fire’ blues.”|
|169 [Devil] :˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜(|
|461. [babe] Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil Devil!!!!!!!!|
|465. [Devil] babe!!!!|
|468. [Babe] Devil: wassup?|
|478. [Devil] babe: I'm singing the blues. Wazup wit u?|
We can argue that Devil and babe know each other based on babe's highly effusive, repetitive and multiple-exclamation-marked greeting of Devil. While this is not definitive evidence, it is very rare, and threatening, for a complete stranger to ‘flood’ another user in such a manner (Rintel & Pittam 1997, 519). We will come back to the other strategies in Example 17 shortly, but to continue the discussion of salutation choice, Examples 16 and 17 demonstrate that in an environment in which friends exchange nicks, traditional greeting tokens such as “hello” appear to act as social distance signals. Token use might indicate a recognition of the fact that seeing another's nick from the very first meeting does not equate to knowing the other user. Indeed, given that nicks are almost the total embodiment of a user on IRC, their use without a token in the interaction-initial slot is potentially very threatening, strongly invoking an intimacy which may not exist. In Example 18, Table's greeting of TwoFlour below displays strong orientation to the possible conventions of nick-based greetings for known users and token-based greetings for unknown users.
|197. [SERVER] TwoFlowerfirstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|199. [TwoFlour] HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
|202. [Table] Twoflower!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11|
|204. [Table] i don't know you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
|205. [Table] hahahahahahaha !!!!!!!!!!!!!|
|207. [ACTION] Table is silly|
|212. [TwoFlower] Hi table|
TwoFlower produces a token-based greeting (199). Table responds with a nick-only greeting but then reveals that TwoFlower is unknown (204). Table's laughter (205) and comment (“Table is silly” (207)) indicate that Table considers the response to be a trick based on false intimacy (evidence of a convention that nick-only greetings are intimate salutation devices). TwoFlower's reply, the token-plus-nick “hi table” (212), is also revealing. Whether TwoFlower is amused by Table's joke or not, it is interesting to note that after Table's jokes, TwoFlower, like Clown in Example 15, may be unsure as to the ratification of the interaction. Like many of the examples above there has been a collective-individual-individual greeting sequence, but Table's extra turns break the sequence somewhat. TwoFlower's final individually addressed greeting (212) functions as a new initiation with Table, requiring more conventional ABAB sequencing responses to lead to an ongoing interaction.
It should be noted that in Examples 17 and 18, the interactants ‘adorn’ their greetings with multiple exclamation marks. ‘Adornment’ is our term for the well-documented use of typographic extension (extra exclamation marks, letter extension, full upper-case, etc.) as somewhat analogous to phonetic indications of excitement in verbal interaction (Reid 1991; Bechar-Israeli 1996; Werry 1996; Danet, Ruedenberg-Wright and Rosenbaum-Tamari 1998; Doell 1998). Adornment is usually discussed in terms of positive excitement (eg. the glee inherent in multiple exclamation marks, sometimes also associated with relational intimacy, or at least knowledge) or negative excitement (eg. that use of all upper-case is the written analogy to shouting), but the logs show little evidence that the lack of adornment might indicate the subtle negativity sometimes presented in phonetic information, such as the trouble-premonitions implicit in a teary voice (Jefferson 1980; Schegloff 1986, 133–143). Example 17 does, however, demonstrate one interesting ramification of the links between adornment and negativity. Before babe's opening, Devil was clearly in a negative, upset mood (44, 169). Having seen babe's effusive greeting, Devil returns a greeting almost as positive, through the use of adornment. Devil's adornment appears to be a strategic orientation to positivity designed to consolidate the opening. Not only is this demonstrative of the ‘opening lie’ strategy similar to that pointed out by Sacks (that in certain ‘how are you?’ situations “everyone has to lie” rather than immediately burden interlocutors with negative knowledge and potentially stifle the interaction (1975, 69–74)), but also that adornment does not have constant and specific representational force. Rather, it is better to argue that adornment can be used for strategic purposes.
Adornment is not just an individualistic greeting strategy - greetings must, after all, function to coordinate interaction. In Examples 17 and 18, the interactants come close to matching each other's greetings, using almost the same number of exclamation marks. Matching can be a powerful demonstration of alignment to the dyad, establishing both intimacy and ABAB sequencing. Example 19 is a particularly good illustration of orthographic and adornment matching.
|289. [Hidee] FlatStrapeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee|
|302. [FlatStra] HideeeeePeeeeeeeeee !!!! :)|
Hidee is careful to use the capitalization that FlatStra uses in his nick (the ‘F’ and the ‘S’), and adds the letter ‘p’, converting the name into “FlatStrap”, a somewhat semantically meaningful addition. Hidee also adds a repeated string of the letter ‘e’ after the ‘p’, mimicking two common English phonetic intimacy devices: adding an ‘ee’‘ii’ or ‘y’ sound to the end of a name to signal intimacy and jokingly extending the vowel in the name to represent calling from a distance. FlatStra replies also adding a ‘p’ and repeated string of the letter ‘e’, mimicking not only the phonetic devices of the ‘e’ above but also the combined ‘pe’ unit. The addition of an ultimate ‘p’ also gives “HiDeeP” an orthographic matching of “FlatStrap”. FlatStra adds several ‘e's’ above the two at the end of the “Dee” unit, in keeping with Hidee's convention of ‘e’ extension, and capitalizes the ‘P’ of “HIdeeeeePeeeeeeeeee” to produce a mid-name capitalization similar to his own. The exclamation marks and smiling emoticon in FlatStra's salutation do not occur in Hidee's salutation but, in the context of matching, such small additions are probably not as detrimental as omissions might have been.
The exchange above is remarkable in its multilevel matching, but is even more remarkable given IRC's written nature. Matching on IRC requires users to work out the orthographic and adornment conventions of a salutation, then type and send their matched reply - stretching the already extended chronology of the medium. The data presented so far demonstrate that users in general display a distinct orientation to the opening behaviors in other interaction media, but this instance seems extreme. On the other hand, it is not so extreme when considered from the standpoint of function rather than the oddities of production. Coordination and intimacy establishment by matching are factors in keeping with the findings about matched token exchange (Edmondson 1981, 83) and address forms (Braun 1998, 23–25), and the communication accommodation strategy of convergence for representing liking and ingrouping (Gallois & Callan 1991; Giles et al. 1999).
The conventions of salutation choice and adornment are complicated by the fact that just as on the telephone (or FTF) people may have “signature hellos” (Jefferson's term in Schegloff 1986, 123), so too some IRC users have signature nick/token choices and adornment level features. Example 20 is a complex excerpt in which iron displays two forms of signature greeting. iron's greetings are marked in the first column: [S] marks a signature greeting element from iron, a second [S] and/or an [E] marks an additional element, [D] represents a minor deviation from standard signature style, and [C] represents a complete deviation from signature style. For the other users, [O] marks an element similar to iron's signature greeting.
|S|| ||43. [Iron] BLINDD!|
|S|| ||55. [Iron] FLATSTRA!|
|S,S,E|| ||58. [Iron] FLAtSTRAAAAAAAAAA!|
| || ||74. [SERVER] Wsxedcemail@example.com has joined this channel|
| || ||89. [BLIND2] iron!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
| || ||92. [SERVER] Wsxedc has left this channel|
|S|| ||93. [Iron] WSXEDC!|
|S|| ||95. [Iron] BLIND! RE DUDE!|
| || ||100. [BLIND2] iron!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
| || ||250. [SERVER] SNOT! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|S,D|| ||252. [Iron] SNOT?|
| || ||260. [SNOT] hi iron, what kind of iron are we talking about??|
|S,S|| ||274. [Iron] BLINDDDDDDD!|
| || ||280. [BLIND2] iron!!!!!!!|
|C|| ||308. [Iron] Kirsty, hello|
| || ||314. [Kirsty] hi iron!|
| || ||372. [SERVER] floppy! email@example.com has joined this channel|
|S|| ||378. [Iron] FLOPPY!|
|S,E|| ||385. [Iron] FLOP-PY! FLOPPY!|
| || ||401. [floppy] hi iron|
|S|| ||496. [Iron] FLATSTRA!|
| || ||540. [SERVER] FlatStra! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|S,E|| ||575. [Iron] EARTH TO FLATSTRA, EARTH TO FLATSTRAA!|
| || ||582. [FlatStra] iron: what ?|
| || ||613. [SERVER] Flasher! email@example.com has joined this channel|
| || ||635. [SERVER] Flasher's nickname is now bigDduk|
| || ||648. [SERVER] bigDduk's nickname is now Flasher|
|S|| ||659. [Iron] BIGDDUK!!!!|
|S,E|| ||660. [Iron] BIGD!! DUK!!!|
| || ||662. [Flasher] hiya iron!|
| ||O||675. [Wsxedc] BIGD FUK|
| ||O||693. [Bubbl_] BIGDFart|
| ||O||698. [Bubbl_] BIGDFart|
| || ||735. [SERVER] Banker! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|S|| ||753. [Iron] BANKER!!!|
| || ||756. [Banker] hey iron|
| || ||850. [SERVER] TOMAR! email@example.com has joined this channel|
|S,S|| ||852. [Iron] TOMARRRRRRR!|
| || ||931. [TOMAR] iron!!!!!!!!!|
| || ||1020. [SERVER] Enemy! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
|S,D|| ||1028. [Iron] ENEMY???|
| || ||1038. [Enemy] Iron Yes?|
|S|| ||1376. [Iron] ACUS!!!|
|S,S|| ||1394. [Iron] LADYYYYYBUGGGGGGGG!|
| || ||1416. [SERVER] Blowhard! email@example.com has joined this channel|
| || ||1417. [Blowhard] Heyt Hey Hey!!|
|S|| ||1421. [Iron] BLOWHARD!@!!!!|
| ||O||1427. [BLIND2] blow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
| ||O||1430. [Blowhard] BLIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
| || ||1431. [Blowhard] errr…2|
| ||O||1432. [BLIND2] hardblow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!|
| ||O||1436. [Blowhard] DNILB!!!!!!!! :P|
|S,E||O||1438. [iron] BLINDBLOW!|
| || ||1455. [SERVER] ORC_BOY! firstname.lastname@example.org has joined this channel|
| || ||1461. [ORC_BOY] HELLO ALL|
|S,S|| ||1465. [Iron] ORCBOYYY!|
Except in the case of Kirsty (308) and SNOT (252), iron's 16 greetings have identical formal elements: a nick-only exclamation written completely in upper-case. In 13 of the 16 greetings iron also uses at least one exclamation mark (Enemy (1028), SNOT and Kirsty are the exceptions). This basic signature greeting is extended in five instances with a repetition of the ultimate letter of the other user's nick (58, 274, 852, 1394 and 1465). When greeting FlatStra, Floppy, and BigDduk (AKA Flasher) iron displays a more exotic form of signature greeting, performing the salutation twice and, in the second salutation, extending the nick (FlatStra, 55 and 58) repeating the other user's nick (FlatStra, 496 and 575) or repeating the nick and splitting the syllables (Floppy's greeting 378 and 385; BigDduk 659 and 660). Syllable-splitting has an analogue in barracking or cheering, where the split increases vocal power and emphasis for each syllable. The repetition of syllables stands out against the other utterances, so this works well as an attention getting device. Iron may equate this ‘cheering’ style with positivity but it does not seem to result in an increased level of interaction nor a closely matched level of addressee positivity.
The one major exception to iron's use of his signature greeting - basic or exotic - is when he greets Kirsty (“Kirsty, hello” (308)). In so doing, iron may be following the convention for greeting unknown users discussed above, but iron does not do so in 15 other greetings, so why should this be the case here? Drawing on some contextual evidence, we know that iron appeared in three logs and was frequently granted chanop status (Reid 1991). iron was therefore probably a regular and experienced IRC user and would know both that typing completely in upper-case equates to shouting, which is generally discouraged on IRC. Further, in an earlier part of this log, iron stated that “iron needs a girlfriend badly”. In the context of this evidence and iron's signature greeting, it is possible that iron employs self-reflexive social logic for this greeting, based on orientation to greeting and general IRC conventions. The following causal chain appears reasonable to the researchers, although it is not claimed that iron was cognizant of it:
Kirsty is the only user that iron can see explicitly presenting as female;
Greeting leads to ongoing interaction;
Ongoing interactions are the basis of ongoing relationships;
Assuming no-one writes to Kirsty about iron, Kirsty will have no social context cues to make decisions about iron except those which iron produces, and the first of these will be in the greeting;
iron's own signature greeting uses full capitalization;
Full capitalization is often used to signify shouting on IRC;
iron's signature greeting may appear to signify shouting to Kirsty;
Shouting is threatening;
By switching from shouting to using a greeting token, iron orients to general IRC greeting conventions and minimizes threat;
By orienting to general IRC greeting conventions and minimizing threat iron may be more likely to achieve ongoing interaction, and hence an ongoing relationship, with Kirsty;
Since Kirsty is presenting as female, by achieving an ongoing relationship with Kirsty there is the potential to fulfill the goal of beginning a romantic relationship.
Thus while iron appears to know nothing of Kirsty beyond the fact that Kirsty explicitly presents as female “Kirsty, hello” is arguably a strategy designed to give iron the best possible chance to interact further. This is in explicit opposition to iron's more face-threatening greeting of Enemy. This Example, then, provides some evidence that IRC users may have some self-reflexive understanding of openings, perhaps facilitated by the slower, written nature of the medium (cf. Rodino 1998).
Responses to iron's greetings, when they occur, do not completely match iron's signature greeting style (89, 100, 280, 314, 582, 662, 756, and 931). All responses are nick-only but use lower-case and multiple exclamation marks - the general convention for greeting known users. Iron's signature shout would be unwelcome in many public channels, but it may be acceptable if iron is greeting known users. Certainly no user questions it in the log, but the taboo nature of iron's signature greeting may result in a weakening of the matching convention for regulars - iron receives primarily lower- or mixed-case responses.
That being said, on some occasions iron's exotic signature greeting results in some interesting take-ups by third parties. Wsxedc seems to parody iron in the separated and capitalized “BIGD FUK” (675). Bubbl_'s similar repeated utterance “BIGDFart” (693 and 698) is interesting in that Bubbl_ is actually a bot (‘robot’ - a computer program that can function like a user), and thus an unidentifiable user is satirizing by remote control. BLIND2's greeting of Blowhard (“blow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (1427); “hardblow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” 1432) appears inspired by iron's exotic signature greeting, although BLIND2 does not open with iron in such a fashion, nor does BLIND2 display any proclivity to such exotic greetings throughout the rest of the log. Blowhard, though, returns similar - almost matched - greetings to BLIND2, first producing a split nick greeting (1430 and 1431) and then, in the absence of syllables to rearrange, reversing the letters of BLIND2's name “DNILB!!!!!!!!” (1436)). Oddly enough, iron also produces an utterance that has a degree of reversal and syllable splitting, but it addresses both BLIND2 and Blowhard: “BLINDBLOW!” (1438). It is somewhat unclear whether iron's utterance is a greeting or not, for while it is similar to iron's exotic signature greetings, the reversal system is BLIND2 and Blowhard's. It appears that iron's exotic signature greeting has affected other users, has been transformed by them, and the transformation has been re-assimilated by iron.