Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Faceted Classification Scheme for Computer-Mediated Discourse, by Susan C. Herring

A Faceted Classification Scheme for Computer-Mediated Discourse, by Susan C. Herring

"The approach to the classification of computer-mediated discourse proposed in this article is based on multiple categories or “facets”. These categories cut across the boundaries of socio-technical modes, and combine to allow for the identification of a more nuanced set of computer-mediated discourse types, while avoiding the imprecision associated with the concept of genre. Since the classification scheme does not rely on pre-existing modes, it can also be applied to discourse mediated by emergent and experimental CMC systems. The scheme is intended primarily as a faceted lens through which to view CMD data in order to facilitate linguistic analysis, especially research conducted in the discourse analysis, conversation analysis, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics traditions. [3] It is intended to complement genre or mode-based analyses, which can provide a convenient shorthand for categorizing CMD types, but are less precise and flexible"

"Discourse analysts have traditionally classified discourse into types according to various criteria. These include modality, number of discourse participants, text type or discourse type, and genre or register (table 1). While the definitions and boundaries of these distinctions have been much debated, they can be understood as being in a generally non-exclusive and hierarchical relationship to one another (e.g., casual chat is a type of conversation, typically a dialogue and typically produced via speech). As noted above, however, genre can be analyzed on multiple levels of generality, and thus all of the types in table 1 have also been characterized as “genres”. [5] Further, Biber (1988) has challenged the validity of the spoken/written language distinction, proposing that discourse types be situated instead along multiple continua".

"Faceted classification is an approach to the organization of information with origins in the field of library and information science. First systematized as a science by Ranganathan (1933) to classify books in libraries, it was later developed by the U.K. Research on Classification Group (Vickery 1960) for the organization of document collections in scientific fields, where it proved effective in the storage and retrieval of compound and complex subjects. More recently, faceted classification has been implemented to assist automated search and retrieval of information (Prieto-Diaz 1991), including on the Web (Broughton & Lane 2000), and has been extended to other fields and knowledge domains (e.g., art and architecture; Tudhope et al. 2002"

"Facets are categories or concepts of the same inherent type. A faceted scheme has several facets and each facet may have several terms, or possible values, e.g., a faceted classification scheme for wine might include the facets (and terms) “grape varietal” (riesling, cabernet sauvignon, etc.), “region” (Napa Valley, Rhine, Bordeaux, etc.), and “year” (2001, 2002, etc.). Ranganathan (1933) described the faceted classification method as analytico-synthetic: A subject domain is first analyzed into component facets, and relevant facets are then synthesized into combinations to characterize items of interest. Thus many facets may be applied to the description of wine, but only a subset of them – such as varietal and region – may be relevant to classifying wines for the purpose of marketing them to casual consumers. The flexibility of faceted classification lies in its ability to describe a large number of items within the subject domain, including novel items, on the basis of a relatively economical, pre-defined set of facets and terms. The facets need not be ordered, nor be of the same type, although they should be clearly defined and mutually exclusive".

"The classification approach to CMD presented here is organized at the highest level by the assumption that computer-mediated discourse is subject to two basic types of influence: medium (technological) and situation (social). These are presented in an unordered, non-hierarchical relationship, on the further assumption that one cannot be assigned theoretical precedence over the other for CMD as a whole; rather, the relative strength of social and technical influences must be discovered for different contexts of CMD through empirical analysis.

"Under each influence type, a number of categories (facets) are posited, along with several possible realizations (terms) for each. The categories were arrived at in an inductive manner on the basis of empirical evidence from the CMD research literature in answer to the question: What factors condition variation in computer-mediated language use? The proposed scheme is a preliminary attempt to aggregate and classify this body of knowledge".

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