Tharon Wayne Howard

The rhetoric of electronic communities

Tharon Wayne Howard

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1992; pp: 313
  • Advisor: Porter, James E.
  • Source: DAI-A 53/09, p. 3189, Mar 1993
  • Subjects: Language, General (0679); Education, Technology (0710); Mass Communications (0708)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN:
  • UMI Number: AAT 9301311

Abstract:

    • This study examines theoretical conceptions of community and how current communitarian theories either explain or are challenged by the emergence of electronic discussion groups in the computer-mediated communication (CMC) medium. It is a study of the power to monitor what is said, to authorize who may speak, and even to determine what is and is not knowable within the context of discourse communities and, furthermore, seeks to test the claim that CMC may serve as an agency for communal change by enabling the formation of resisting subjectivities.
    • A poststructuralist analysis of approaches to ‘community’ is used to show how communitarian theories are often caught in a binary between subjectivities which are able to resist interpellation into a community by appealing to universals outside the community versus subjectivities which are forced to accommodate the discursive practices of the community because they are constituted by it. In order to better understand the process of subject formation within communities, the discursive practices of an electronic discussion group known as PURTOPOI are examined.
    • Utilizing observations based on the examination of PURTOPOI and using insights from feminist standpoint theory, this project ultimately argues for a revised view of subjectivity within discourse communities. It is impossible to avoid the discursive practices of particular communities; yet, resistance and conflict are, paradoxically, required to maintain group unity. Thus, communities are both unified and sites of struggle. Communities are never unities because as soon as they become unified, as soon as they realize total consensus, they cease to function as communities; there’s no communication within them any longer so that the forces which bind their members together into a community are gone. Thus, there can never be a community which is completely successful in forcing its members to accommodate its discursive practices, nor can there ever be a community which is completely without hegemony. Both resistance and accommodation must be present in order for there to be a community. This calls into question the claim that CMC may serve as an agency for communal change by enabling the formation of resisting subjectivities because it suggests that CMC is too indebted to the discursive practices of other established media to produce radical new subjectivities.