Social networking among UWC students: instant messaging genres and registers
Contemporary research has pointed to the importance of social media in the lives of young people today. This project aims to explore the emerging discourse conventions and generic structures of chat conversations on social networking media applications such as MXit, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and WhatsApp. The data for this project was acquired from undergraduate students between first- and third-year of study at the University of the Western Cape across four years (2010-2012 and 2014). The data is of three types: instant messaging chats which were collected from 2010 to 2012, and questionnaires and a focus group interview which were conducted in 2014. The main theoretical frameworks used for this project are genre and register theory by Martin and Rose (2003), Eggins and Slade (1997), Chandler (1997), Eggins (2004), Halliday and Hasan (1985). Bock (2013) and Spilioti (2011) were also used for the chat analyses. In this project I argue that although generic structures in instant messaging (IM) are conventionalised they still show a great amount of hybridity and fluidity. One of the main findings illustrates how different participants choose to begin and end their chats, whether it is with or without a greeting, and although they may be flouting the conventions of IM chatting they are not necessarily considered to be impolite. Furthermore, the findings of this project explores how the evolution and advancement of technology has contributed to the style of chatting as well as the norms of instant messaging as a genre.