Lecture: Perceptions of rudeness in Free Software communities

Raising awareness for (potential) problems in intercultural online communication


This talk examines potential communication problems in Free Software communities from a sociolinguistic point of view. It shows how the perception of posts in a Linux support forum varies significantly depending on the users' cultural backgrounds - thus hopefully raising awareness with regard to "communicative tolerance" in diverse communities.

Free Software communities are a prime example for intercultural online communication: international and thus globally distributed, most of their interactions take place in virtual environments like forums, mailing lists, blogs and other channels. Also, most of the interactions take place in English, the Lingua Franca of the web.

But despite common goals and good English skills of most participants, conflicts arising from misunderstandings are still quite common. This can result in frustrating experiences for supporters and support seekers and thus harm a project, especially since Free Software communities critically depend on the voluntary effort of their members.

In my talk, I'll describe the problem with authentic examples. It is based on my MA thesis, in which I examined posts from ubuntuforums.org and conducted an online survey with members from the Ubuntu community. It focuses on two large groups, the US American and German community members. Together with the results I'll give some possible explanations for the differences in perception between the two - and try to offer some "communicative workarounds".

And since my whole software stack consisted of Free Software, this is a nice opportunity to give credit ;)


Day: 2011-08-21
Start time: 16:30
Duration: 01:00
Track: Community



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