Body Language On-line

Sociology 135: Non-verbal Communication
Prof. D. Archer
Copyright © 1999 B. A. Collie Collier
This paper is dedicated to the following individuals, as it most assurely could not have been written without them: Bob, Carroll, Dimitri, Horatio, Maki, Morgan, and Rokhan. Once again your willingness to answer my occasionally confused or panicky questions (sometimes on amazingly short notice!), and your calm encouragement as I discovered data 'massage' takes time, means more to me than I can adequately tell you.
Thank you all so much for your kindness.



This study investigates whether the use of 'poses' can be construed as conscious use of kinesics in a text-only communicative environment, and if so what are the most common forms of body language used in one particular computer-mediated communication (CMC) context, i.e. the MU* named RealityFault. A mixed-gender on-line group (5 male, 1 female) participated in pseudonymous, one-on-one interviews with the researcher to determine how they presented and interpreted CMC. Of necessity a glossary of terms was created in order to be able to communicate effectively on-line. Following the interviews the logs were examined for poses that could be considered deliberate use of body language. Consistent with expectations, it was found that i) participants in CMC strongly differentiate between what they consider 'speech' and 'action' on-line, considering posed actions to be directly analogous to physical, real-life body language, ii) the most common forms of acted-out, on-line kinesics are small gestures that are recognized as indicating nonverbal gestures, followed by sometimes elaborate greeting rituals which welcome group members back into the group, or reaffirm and enforce the group's cohesiveness, iii) there is a secondary category of on-line, acted-out body language which is intentionally playful, a sort of post-modern pastiche 'performance' that breaks down, ignores, or demystifies socially clear-cut, real life barriers such as gender, physicality, or class.

The Non-verbal Communication Paper:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References
  • Appendix
  • Tables

  • Last Updated: Fri Apr 21 2000