Background of the Problem
Text related computer mediated communication (CMC) has found a wide spread application across various fields that include interpersonal communication, social interaction, education, pedagogy, business communication and social and commercial networking. According to Shin Shin in ESL Students’ Computer-Mediated Communication Practices-2006, and Meskill & Anthony in Foreign language learning with CMC -2005, the amount of messages exchanged all over world runs in hundreds of millions, with personal messages constituting the bulk of the communication exchanges. In his paper on popularity and scope of text based CMC, Wireless world: Social and interactional aspects of the mobile age, Brown (2003) profiles users on text based communication to show that while its youngsters who are making most its most extensive us due to its simplicity, low cost, quick reach and easy accessibility, it is also being used on most extensive level in the business and corporate level, having almost entirely replaced paper communication. Brown also shows that while text based communication has been a total success in places where it is available, it is yet not gained a complete global acceptance due to non prevalence of computer and mobile technology in many under developed and developing countries of world.
Significance of the Study
The study is relevant in order to determine the way students at Kentucky University communicated through text messaging, and in the same way, significantly identify the aforementioned’s linguistic and semantic features. The manner in which people uses text messaging and their ways of shortening, contracting and clippings or use letters, numbers and other homophones affect how communication through the advent of technology is dramatically altered. In addition with this, the use of acronyms, misspellings, non-conventional spellings and accent stylizations appears to bring forth new ways of communication.
As such, it is on this respect that text messaging has been viewed as something that could evoke confusion or technological comfort to people. Some people who are new in the manner on how text messaging is done might find it hard to understand messages or even misunderstood them. However to people who are more inclined to the use of technology through communication, text messaging is a way in which they could efficiently, effectively and timely deliver their messages. In effect of this, it could be said that text messaging as a form of communication has created its own form of language game that only users themselves are capable of fully deciphering. The notion of the language game was introduced by the logical positivist philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in which he said that the meaning of certain words that are used by a particular group of people gain its own meaning in the manner on how they are used. As such, it could be said that this form of language game is also another evidence of the innate human need for social interaction, an imperative that is further elicited through the use of technology.
The research wanted to answer the following questions:
- What are the usual themes of text messages of students ages 18 to 30 years old at Kentucky University?
- What is the primary purpose why students communicate through text messaging?
- What are the most common linguistic forms that could be seen on their text messages?
- What are the meanings coined by students on the words and symbols that they use on their text messages?
Review of Related Literature
In his paper on CMC, Brown explains the technical aspects of text based computer mediated communication that allows two or more users to communicate directly or indirectly with each other using Internet or wireless Bluetooth technology (Brown, 2003). Brown presents a detailed analysis of the main forms of text-based conversation that are facilitated through select software providing options of online conversation, emails, and discussion boards where many people post messages simultaneously. Where all of previously mentioned communication takes place where users are accessing Internet simultaneously from their computer, sometimes text based communication takes place when one of the parties is not accessing the internet, and the message is stored as ‘offline’ or ‘scrap’ for the other use to access when they re-access their conversation software. Text based messages are also used extensively through mobile phones, making it as a proponent of a new communication technology that is sweeping through most of the world.
- Brown has studied the language architecture and innovations in his paper ‘The language and communication of SMS’ (2002) that are commonly used in text based communication. His study has found that users communicating through text have developed their own language syntax, spurred by need of fast communication process and to shorten the communication time to bring it at par with voice based communication as well as due to restriction on message lengths in online chat software and more specifically in handsets. Barons shows the necessity of language modification arising out of the small and integrated key pads of mobile phones that hinder typing long sentences. According to the paper, observation of standard language and grammar rules has become a cumbersome issue in effecting instantaneous communication; text communication on computers or mobiles follows a shortened, abbreviated or changed version of frequently used words and expressions. Brown has provided few examples of this users developed short hand in text based CMC
Shortening: Uni: University; Sis: Sister; Min: Minute; Sat: Saturday; Hone: Honey; Ed: Editing.
Contractions: Gd: Good; Nt: Night; Grp: Group; Bcum: Become; Sum: Some; Wknd: Weekends;
Letter/numbers/homophones: B: Be; 2gthr: Together; Gr8: Great: ne 1: any one;
Crystal D, in the paper Crystal, D., 2001, Language and the internet and Brown, Green and Harper, in their paper on Social and Interactional analysis of Mobile Age (2001) analyzes the modern communication system from point of view of SMS and online Chat tools that allow users to stay in non facial and non Vocal direct communication. According to the paper the functional effect of SMS and Online communication remains pre-dominantly of personal and intimate character, taking place almost exclusively among people known to each other. The nature of interaction among such users can be on private note or general. The paper further states that while private communication largely accounts for online chatting and interaction, SMS accounts for group and bulk messaging circulation. For the purpose of comparison, the paper has divided messages in following major categories.
- Practical and Information oriented messages: Usually takes place among people closely known to each other. The nature of messages is related purely to information exchange.
- Informal-Relational messages: Usually take place among people very closely known to each other, such as close friends, siblings, parents-children and couples. The nature and tone of messages is personal and specifically directed to just one or two persons.
- Informal coordination messages: Such messages are usually sent in close groups such as friends or peer circles. These messages are about planning out a joint activity.
- Congratulatory/Salutary messages: Such messages are circulated among more formal groups in forms of wishes and greetings. Examples are messages circulated at time of festivals, New Year eve etc.
- Friendship messages: Sent and shared among friends. Although not of very personal nature, yet the messages are targeted for particular audience
- Romantic messages: May take place among people already intimately known to each other or in the courtship process.
- Chain messages: They are most widely circulated messages spread through personal network of every person who has received the message. Here the original sender and final recipient may be completely unknown to each other. Chain messages are generic in character and they usually consist of jokes, puzzles, and general greetings.
The paper also cites research to state the case that that frequency of SMS sharing is highest among people closely known to each other than am among relatively stranger people. However the paper does not explain why SMS and Internet chat is not catching up with older generations. The paper also misses on continuing impact of text based communication as youngsters mature.
In his work ‘Dialogue on Internet’, Holt has discussed effect and scope of electronic mails (abbreviated Email) that has brought a comparable degree of revolution in communication channels as one brought by telephone more than a century earlier. Holt argues that today email is most preferred and dependable means of documented communication in personal and organizational communication system. According to him, Emails have made communication and information exchange extremely fast, dependable, relatively risk free, and flexible (Holt, 2004). But Hold does not explicitly state the dangers associated with Emails, notably their being susceptible as virus careers and their relatively lower security aspects. Baron , in his work ‘Letters by phone or speech by other means: The linguistics of Emails’ states the advantage of Email over SMS in carrying capacity as they can carry around 10 megabytes of data in every exchange. However, while SMS can and often does, elicit quick response, emails fall comparatively slower in their comparison. Nonetheless Email carries the bulk of official communication taking place around the world today
- Bordia (1997 has compared in detail CMC communication versus Face to Face (FTF) communication in his paper ‘Face-to-Face versus Computer-Mediated Communication’. Citing a number of academic sources such as Gallupe et al, Daly (193) and Wesiband (1992) Bordia compares text based c communication and face to face conversations (FTF) around several germane points. The paper argues against the commonly held conception of CMC that while they are easily accessible and possess efficiency in conveying messages, there are certain doubts especially at group levels on efficacy of CMC over face to face communication. The paper cites reports from many organizations to show that CMC has actually led to increase in workaround time for various projects leading to greater resource allocation and delay in project completions. As further pointed out by Bordia (1997), the delay caused is not due to any problem with CMC technology but with initial ineptness of many users in using it at the optimum performance level. Another issue identified with CMC groups is comparative less number of individual feedbacks during a FTF interactive session. But research also indicates that despite decrease in interactive feedbacks and reduced number of feedbacks generated through CMC system, the efficiency of the process has not suffered in any way.
Meanwhile the paper argues that CMC holds many advantages over FTF communication methods. Extensive research on CMC group discussions and brainstorming has shown that it produces more relevant and thoughtful ideas, the tendency of digression from main topic is minimum and group rarely loses its focus from the issue at the hand (Gallupe et al. 1992). The paper makes a very strong case in favor of CMC based discussions showing that FTF groups are known to inhibit equal contribution from all participants as some participants tend to dominate others. On contrary CMC discussion allows each participant to freely contribute with their ideas on opinions. As shown by Gallupe et al (1992), productivity in FTF discussions falls with increase in number of participants while it increases in CMC discussions and communication.
This part of the proposal discusses the tradition of research that study will be implementing, the research approach, the justification of the selected approach, the process of data collection, and the sampling method employed. In relation with this, the instrument design, and the former’s reliability and validity will be also discussed; finally how the data would be analyzed and interpreted will be also mentioned.
The study has four major objectives and these are:
- To know the themes of text messages of individuals ages from 18 to 30 years old at the Kentucky University.
- To know the primary purpose why individuals ages from 18 to 30 years old at the Kentucky University communicate through text messaging.
- To know the linguistic forms of the text messages of individuals ages from 18 to 30 years old at the Kentucky University.
- To know what are the specific meanings that students at Kentucky University coin to the words and symbols that they use in text messaging.
For the purpose of this research, the author will be adopting the Qualitative Research Tradition. Qualitative Research focused primarily on words rather than numbers. The main research instrument for such a type of tradition is the process of involvement of the researcher to the people whom he or she studies (Holloway, 2002, p. 5). In relation with this, the viewpoints of the participants are also taken into much account. The Qualitative research tradition focuses on small-scale studies wherein deep explorations are being conducted in order to provide a detailed and holistic description and explanation of a specific subject matter. Rather than focusing on a single or two isolated variables, the aforementioned takes into account interconnected activities, experiences, beliefs and values of people, hence adopting a multiple dimension for study.
This tradition of research is also flexible in a sense that certain factors are being explored due to not necessarily adhering to a strict method of data gathering. It also captures certain processes wherein changes in sequence of events, behaviors and transformation among cultures are closely taken into consideration. More importantly, a qualitative research is normally carried out in venues that are within a respondent’s natural environment such as schools, offices, homes, etc. This allowed participants to be more at ease and be able to express their ideas freely. Finally, the Qualitative research tradition is said to be inductive in nature in a sense that it starts by collecting and analyzing data and then coming to a particular conclusion. These data are then related to the literatures that were initially collected so that an analysis could be made, hence a deductive approach. Theories then that are formulated that result due to Qualitative research is made due to the result of the data collected and not really from the theories that were studied in the literature review (p. 6).
The Research Approach
For the purpose of this research, the study will be using a single case study approach wherein such includes an extensive examination of participants using multiple sources of evidence, which could be both qualitative or quantitative (p. 105). Case studies are normally associated with the location of the participants as a “case” could refer to an organization or a group of people, community, event, process, issue or a campaign. A case study is relevant in order to increase one’s knowledge regarding a real and contemporary phenomena and answers questions as to how and why certain things happen (p. 105).
Case studies allow researchers to know detailed information about a certain group of people. In addition with this, case studies also offer insights regarding the uniqueness of a particular group hence allowing to the creation of a unique theory or hypothesis (p. 106). On the case of the study, the participants will be coming from students and professors at the Kentucky University, hence it could be said that the survey population is homogenous and more suitable for a case study approach.
Justification of the Selected Approach
The single case study approach is useful when one is aiming to conduct a deep however limited of a particular group of people. The focus of the research in this type of approach is concentrated on a small number of people and are investigated in-depth for a certain period of time (p. 108). As such, this type of approach is particularly useful for the nature of this research as the author aims to concentrate on the primary themes of text messages, purpose why people communicate through such and the linguistic forms that are involved in it. The aforementioned will enable the researcher to focus on the said group of people and significantly identify their common text message themes, identify their reasons for the use of such communication methods and point out the linguistic forms that they use.
The data collection for the research will be composed of the primary data collection and the secondary data collection.
Secondary Data Collection
Ghauri, Gronhaug and Kristianslund (1995) emphasized the importance of secondary data collection most especially through desk or library research.
Secondary data collection normally includes data that were collected by another researcher or writer. It is often the case that they are lifted from books of recent publications, journals, magazines, newspapers and even trusted websites such as those of private organizations, non-government organizations, government organizations and the likes.
The review of related literature provided a scholarly perspective on the subject matter and at the same time made the researcher aware of both previous and contemporary research on the subject matter.
The data collection for secondary sources will be lifted from Questia Media America, an on-line Research Library and EBSCO Host with a special emphasis on journal articles on communication. In relation with this, the research is also looking forward to focus more on recent researches published on journals to assure the timeliness and accuracy of the research.
Primary Data Collection
For the primary data collection, the researcher will be focusing on getting the data that will be exactly needed for the research. With prior consideration on the objectives and the literature that were collected by the researcher, an instrument will be formulated that will make the participants describe their common text message themes, identify their reasons for the use of such communication methods and point out the linguistic forms that they commonly use.
Case studies often employ purposive sampling methods. In purposive sampling, the researcher has specific criteria that he or she has to look upon in order to have a particular individual participate in the study (p. 159).
For the purpose of this study, the participants who will be chosen will be based on the criteria of age, them being a student of the Kentucky University, and the length of time they are using text messaging. More specifically, the research is looking forward to have participants who are aged from18 to 20 and has been using text messaging from eight to ten years. Such a length of time assures that they are already familiar with the language game of the said type of communication.
The type of sampling that the researcher will use will be the “Self-selection Approach” wherein the author will inform a number of students about the study being conducted and requests for their participation (p.160). More importantly, on the process of gathering the informants, the researcher will assure that they are indeed willing to participate in the study so that an ethical stance among the participants are maintained.
Since all of the participants will be coming from Kentucky University, the participants of the study could be labeled as homogenous. All of the participants belong to a single subculture, that is the culture of the university and have the same characteristics in the sense that they have been using text messaging for a certain span of time. All of the participants will also be of the same ethnic background that is Caucasians, and more or less close range of educational attainment, that is college level. In addition with this, they should belong to an age group that is more or less the same.
For the sample size, it has been said by Holloway (2002) that in qualitative research, small sampling units are more preferred since they will be studied in depth (p. 163). For homogenous group, it is advisable to have at least six to eight data units. On this research, the author is looking forward to use 10 data units.
The research will first start by having all the participants gather in a common area with their mobile phones. After which, they will be asked to write their ten most recent text messages wherein the basis would be both the time and the date. They will be asked then to write in a piece of paper in exact manner in which how are these messages written.
In order to assure that the messages are written accurately, the researcher will cross reference them to the actual messages that are in their mobile phones. After which, these data will be analyzed and categorized according to their linguistic features and meanings. This will then be the basis for the interview that will be conducted after all the data has been properly categorized, sorted and interpreted.
Interviews are very relevant most especially in getting qualitative data as such could be a rich source of information. In addition with this, the aforementioned are also very important because they allow the researcher to ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions as well. Also, if there are certain misunderstandings or unclear information from the questions provided, such could also be cleared immediately by the interviewer (Cooper and Schindler, 1999, p.90-92).
For the interview, the author will be using a “Semi-Structured Interview” format which is by its nature focused interviews that are primarily done based on an interview guide. While focusing on a particular topic, particular areas to be covered and the lines of inquiry will be followed. The manner on how the questions will flow is primarily dependent upon the interviewee and their responses. The interview guide however assures the interviewer that he is collecting the same type of information for all participants (Daymon and Holloway, 2002, p.171).
For the purpose of this research the interview guide will be tailored depending on the initial data that will be gathered from the text messages. It is with this respect that the researcher will identify specific reasons for a particular use of word, symbols, or sentence construction. In relation with this, the researcher is also looking forward to gather other information that is not evident on the initial data provided by the text messages.
Reliability and Validity
Reliability primarily focuses on the internal consistency and the repeatability of the variables within the research. On the other hand, validity centers on the correctness and appropriateness of the question that one intends to measure (Ghauri, Gronhaug and Kristianslund 1995). According to Chisnall (1997), validity is generally considered and established through the relationship of the instrument to the content, criterion or construct that it attempts to measure. A lack of validity can lead to incorrect conclusion.
For the purpose of this study, the research will be describing the participants’ common text message themes, identify their reasons for the use of such communication methods and point out the linguistic forms that they commonly use. These types of information would be categorized, sorted and cross referenced to various rules of communication in order to significantly identify their linguistic differences. In addition with this, in order to further understand the meanings that are contained in these messages, the researcher will seek to verify them through the testimonies of the participants that will be gathered from the interview. Such a type of method assures that the objectives of the research will be attained and the data gathered are both reliable and valid.
Analysis of Data
The data will be analyzed using the rules and theories of linguistics and communication; for instance, the rules of grammar, such as morphology, syntax, phonetics, phonology and semantics. In addition with this, semiotics will be used in order to interpret the symbolisms that are normally used in text messages. These things will be interpreted together with various communication and sociological theories.
In addition with this, in certain cases, the SPSS (Statistical Products and Service Solutions) will be used. In order to provide a precise average and figures of certain data such as the demographics which includes age, ethnicity, educational attainment, and the likes the aforementioned will be the tool that the researcher will consider. Also, in some cases wherein the frequency of occurring linguistic forms and symbols will be needed, such software will also be considered. The SPSS is a powerful, easy to use statistical package designed in a Windows environment, which enabled researchers to tap into various options of interpreting data (Griego and Morgan, 2000, p. 2).
Ethical Considerations in Research
Part of the proposed methodology for the study is the anonymity of the respondents. The responses of the participants will be kept confidential and will only be used for the purpose of the study. In relation with this, the study also will seek to avoid duress most especially if a potential respondent declined the offer to participate in the study. The study will also consider the privacy of the respondents if they chose not to share any text message that contains any confidential or delicate information.
The research timeline of the research is divided into the months of October, November, December and January. In relation with this, the time line presents the tasks to be accomplished.
Research Time Line
Submission of Research Proposal
Review Research Proposal Comments and Revision
Writing of Chapter II: Review of Related Literature
Creation of Survey Forms / Questionnaire;
Writing of Chapter IV: Results and Discussions
Research of Relevant Literatures
Continuation of writing of Chapter II.
Pilot Study; Finalization of Survey Forms/ Questionnaire
Editing and Revision
Write Chapter I: Introduction
Editing and Revision
Writing of Conclusion and Recommendations
Editing and Revision
Writing of Methodology: Chapter III; Editing and Revision
Organize, Analyze and Interpret data.
Final editing and revision.
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