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Searching for safe text: transfers on to the infobahn

Pasqualini, Rita (2003) Searching for safe text: transfers on to the infobahn. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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'Searching for safe text' is the main title of the dissertation, and also refers to the process involved in writing (and reading) it. 'Transfers on to the Infobahn' is the subtitle, which applies the guiding metaphor of movement to the central concept of transfer, used to explain potentially unsafe text, and to its application in cyberspace, seen as a further step from off-line experiences.

The research is on difficulties in interaction associated with differences in background languages and cultures, with an increasingly narrow focus on trans-cultural computer mediated communication using written text, mainly in English. The thesis investigates whether and how forms of linguistic interference, particularly negative transfers, lead to unsafe text and serious misunderstandings, which negatively affect interactions.

Aims of the project include increased awareness of the characteristics and problems of both media and messages, and promotion of basic skills and tools to recognise, resolve, reduce and prevent such misunderstandings, to supplement broadly applicable (trans-)linguistic and transcultural communication capabilities. For this research I have collected, analysed, evaluated and compared many relevant examples, which are mostly compatible with online settings, to illustrate problems and promote approaches to their resolution. The most serious outcomes are in areas which impact on basic human needs and values, such as life, liberty and self-esteem, and involving the notion of face, also in the context of linguistic conventions of politeness.

This work brings a lifelong interest in forms of transfer between different languages to the new and rapidly evolving arena of computer-mediated communication, with primary concern for interaction difficulties involving native and non-native users of a supposedly 'common' language. Attention to polyglots, though not exclusive, intends to highlight the often ignored issues of differences in background languages, particularly within the wide and varied English-speaking world. The challenges range from ethical concerns for equity, access and diversity in multicultural societies to economic needs for competitiveness and effectiveness in the international arena.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Aveling, Nado
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