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TESOL | Working Papers

Number 4, February 2007

Editor: Naomi S. Baron

This special issue of the AU TESOL Program’s Working Papers grew out of a session on “Rethinking Discourse in Cyberspace” at the 2005 international meetings of the Association of Internet Researchers, held in Chicago, Illinois, October 5-9. Session participants were Erin Watkins, Tim Clem, Brian Rabinovitz, Lauren Squires, Rich Ling, and Naomi Baron.

We hope you enjoy this look at contemporary research on use of the Internet and cell phones for interpersonal communication.

Naomi S. Baron


Erin Watkin’s paper, "Instant Fame: Message Boards, Mobile Phones, and Clay Aiken,” grew out of a project she began two years earlier in a University Honors Colloquium taught by Naomi Baron, “Language in the New Millennium.” Watkins graduated from AU in Fall 2005 and is now studying at the London School of Economics.

Tim Clem and Brian Rabinovitz collaborated with Naomi Baron on a multitasking study, investigating the kinds of multitasking that undergraduates engage in while doing instant messaging. Major findings from that study are incorporated into Naomi Baron’s paper, "Adjusting the Volume: Technology and Multitasking in Discourse Control.” Clem will graduate from AU in Spring 2007 with majors in mathematics, computer science, and graphic design. Rabinovitz is completing his dissertation in the Department of Psychology’s Program in Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience.

Lauren Squires graduated from AU in Spring 2003 with majors in philosophy and public communication. As part of her master’s studies in linguistics at the University of Virginia, she undertook the research appearing in her paper "Whats the Use of Apostrophes? Gender Difference and Linguistic Variation in Instant Messaging.” Squires is presently a PhD student in linguistics at the University of Michigan.

Rich Ling is internationally known for his work on mobile communication. Author of The Mobile Connection: The Cell Phone’s Impact on Society, he is a senior researcher at Telenor R&D (in Norway) and Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan. Ling and Baron have collaborative on studies of American cell phone usage and on comparisons between instant messaging (on computers) and text messaging on cell phones. Ling’s contribution to this volume is "The Length of Text Messages and the Use of Predictive Texting: Who Uses It and How Much Do They Have to Say?”

Naomi Baron, Professor of Linguistics and Director of the AU TESOL Program, has been studying computer-mediated communication for over a decade. Author of Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolved and Where It’s Heading, her forthcoming book is Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Her conribution to this volume is "Adjusting the Volume: Technology and Multitasking in Discourse Control.”