Typing your way to technical identity: Interpreting participatory ideologies online

Patricia G. Lange


Informal, online environments facilitate creative self-expression through typographic and orthographic stylistics. Yet, ideologies of writing may be invoked to discourage written forms that are purportedly difficult to read. This paper analyzes how members of an online, text-based, gaming community negotiate appropriate, written communications as expressions of technical identity. These encounters may reify communities of technologists who are associated with using or avoiding forms such as abbreviations, capital letters, and “leet speak.” Amid the technologizing of the word, the paper argues that those who do not conform to assumed norms may be indexed as less technical than those who do. By examining troubled encounters, the paper explores how metapragmatic negotiations affect creativity and technical identity performance online. The paper argues that contrary to discourses that online interactants pay little attention to written stylistics, the present participants closely attended to subtle and small forms. Further, it discusses how ideologies may be idiosyncratically applied to assist in forming asymmetrical, technical identities. Finally, it argues that technical affiliations are just as important to study as other variables such as gender, ethnicity, age, and class that have traditionally received attention in analyses of ideologies of writing and New Literacy Studies.

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