Paul Kei Matsuda
Negotiation of Identity and Power in a Japanese Online Discourse Community

Computers and Composition 19.1 (2002)

The study of electronic discourse in the computers and composition field has thus far focused mostly on the English language while electronic discourse practices in non-European languages have received relatively little attention. This article examines the discursive construction of identity and power in a Japanese online discourse community by focusing on an e-mail list for Japanese professionals in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Through the analysis of Japanese linguistic features—including formal verb endings, address terms, and honorifics—as well as metaphors for characterizing relationships, this study shows how social relations among the list members were transformed as the emphasis shifted from conventional criteria for establishing social relations (age, gender, and social status) to other criteria available online, that is, the amount of knowledge one demonstrates through discourse. Based on this analysis, I argue that online discourse communities do not diminish hierarchical social relations found in offline discourses but may allow the negotiation of criteria for hierarchical relations, thus, providing an alternative site for the negotiation of identity and power.

Matsuda, P. K. (2002). Negotiation of identity and power in a Japanese online discourse community. Computers and Composition, 19(1), 39-55.

Updated on April 28, 2013