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Abstract

Using Wittgenstein's (1953, 1969) language game framework, we analyze the evolution of an online discussion forum of information systems professionals in India. Three major dimensions of the forum's language game are documented: roles, social identity, and linguistic style. Our analysis shows how rules of linguistic interaction emerge around these three dimensions and help to shape social order in the forum over time. The forum's developmental pattern mirrors phases of small group development, including forming, norming, performing, and storming. Based on our findings, we posit general inferences regarding how professional groups with loose social ties can develop sustainable online discussion forums.