How do two unsuspecting people initiate a conversation? When Susie encounters her best friend Miranda at the Cornell Dairy Bar, they do not strike up a conversation at the same exact moment. However, Susie may open up a dialogue with a simple “Hello. How are you?” Miranda obliges and proceeds to describe her day to Susie. By now this rote process, known as entry, has become ingrained in all of us, but according to Clark (1996) this is how all conversations begin (p. 331). Similarly, the exit process is an equally complex procedure in which each party must mutually agree to conclude the conversation (p. 334). Failure to effectively close a conversation may result in feelings of uneasiness on the part of one or both of the speakers.

Another important feature to consider during the entry and exit processes is the particular medium in which the participants are engaging in conversation. A face-to-face exit entails different actions and expressions than perhaps a conversation over the telephone. Susie and Miranda may conclude the conversation by parting ways and heading in separate directions while a simple “goodbye” is a sufficient exit over the telephone. Our group would like to explore the differences between the entry and exit patterns associated with face-to-face communication and instant messaging. The experiment would track the instances in which entry and exit sequences appeared in face-to-face conversations compared to online conversations. Our hypothesis is that the entry and exit pattern would be more prevalent in face-to-face communication as opposed to instant messaging. Therefore, how does the entry and exit pattern vary between face-to-face communication and instant message communication?

This project fulfills all four of Herring’s (2004) qualities of a good Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis (CMDA). Herring stipulates that a research question must be “empirically answerable from the available data” (p. 7). This is an integral part of the question as it eliminates any subjectivity. Therefore, we must discern what constitutes a proper entry and exit prior to conducting the experiments. In addition to examining instant messaging conversations, we would also examine face-to-face conversations under identical circumstances in which the participants share the same joint purpose as the instant message participants. From this comparison, we are able to draw significant conclusions.

This research question also meets Herring’s second criterion that the findings be “non-trivial” (p. 8). If our suspicions are confirmed and there is a lower occurrence of entry and exit displayed in instant messaging, what does this trend say about the innovation of new technology? Is face-to-face communication the most conducive environment for proper entries and exits? As we expand to other forms of communication, such as telephone conversations and emails, do entry and exit patterns become less noticeable? Herring also posits the research question be “motivated by a hypothesis” (p. 8). In this regard, our group believes the number of entries and exits will be more prevalent in face-to-face conversations in comparison to instant message communication. According to Herring, having an “informal hunch” increases interest in the project and makes the results easier to interpret (p. 8). Undeniably, the environment plays a pivotal role in shaping our hypothesis. Unlike in a face-to-face conversation, we believe the instant message medium forms an environment in which one is prone to neglect the joint commitment required for a face-to-face conversation. This contributes to a less challenging environment for the instant message user. Finally, Herring suggests leaving the question “open-ended” (p. 8). The primary idea behind this last characteristic is the results may yield more unexpected results in comparison to a closed question.

By applying these four characteristics to our research question, we have tried to ensure our project will yield some intriguing results without succumbing to the pitfalls of a research question that was too narrow in scope or unfeasible to achieve. Ultimately, we should be able to examine the intricacies of entry and exit patterns of face-to-face conversations compared to instant message communication and draw some significant conclusions.

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