Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Twitter Fights: The Internet as a Communication Medium for Dispute

Twitter Fights: The Internet as a Communication Medium for Dispute
Victoria Y. Hill

This paper examines the use of the Internet as a medium of exchange between individuals involved in a dispute. The microblogging website, Twitter, allows users to post short (140 characters or fewer) updates about themselves and what they are doing. The site also allows users to post direct responses to other users’ updates. Arguments that take place using these functions are the focus of this paper. The first example used is a dispute that took place between a news reporter and a public relations professional. The second example to be analyzed took place between two Hollywood celebrities: one, a young actor and the other, a well-known celebrity gossip blogger and television personality.

The “Twitter fights” which take place between these pairs of individuals were highly publicized (on the Internet) and are analyzed in this paper using previous linguistic research on written communication and the language of disputes. Contextual details are important to dispute analysis and can be difficult to establish for verbal disputes, but I argue that the use of the Internet as a medium of exchange and the nature of information storage makes it easier to determine the contextual details that surround a dispute. Affect displays have been studied in written language and email communication and are regarded as having developed a more emotional quality over time. I propose that affect displays are also significant components of communications made using microblogging websites such as Twitter, especially during disputes such as those examined here. These disputes are analyzed in terms of how much contextual information is available about each and emotional language indicators and content. This research will contribute to the growing body of literature that studies the development of language and communication using the Internet as a medium of exchange.

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April 17, 2009 - Posted by | abstract

2 Comments »

  1. This sounds like an interesting topic, because of the way in which twitter inherently constrains communication. Are you planning to investigate the time dimension of the fights at all, and how quickly contextual information was available for observers not directly connected to the exchanges?

    Comment by Elanya | April 20, 2009 | Reply

  2. “but I argue that the use of the Internet as a medium of exchange and the nature of information storage makes it easier to determine the contextual details that surround a dispute.”

    I love the aspect of the dispute as a way to convey emotional rantings in a way one may not if face-to-face. This sounds really interesting and this definitely infers an ‘evolutionary’ use of time and space…first in email, now in Twitter….there is something to be said about the ‘rush’ of some of American culture!

    Comment by Krystal | May 2, 2009 | Reply


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