Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea for Understanding--Beyond False Dilemmas on the Net, by Charles Ess

Men's Communication Styles in CMC Environments

In her extensive studies of Internet discourse, linguist Susan Herring has discovered that (a) communication within CMC environments remains gendered--i.e., men and women tend to use recognizably distinct communication styles, and (b) the male style tends to drive out the female style--and with it, the many women (and some men) who seek to communicate using that style.

Somewhat more carefully: in a three-year study of various forms of Internet communication (including listserv e-mail exchanges and netiquette guidelines), Herring found that men as a group tend to use what she designates as an adversarial style, which affirms the value of direct debate and argument--even to the point of flaming. This style, she observes, is rooted in an "ethic of agonistic debate," one which believes that greater truth is achieved through an adversarial process--and which further values individual freedom from rules or imposition (i.e., negative freedom).

In contrast, Herring found women's styles as generally -- more positive.

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