First-Time Users - Values and Beliefs

Although there are countless topics that forums can cover, it’s important to know that one thing they have in common is that there are always values and beliefs that are encompassed within each forum. Now, values and beliefs change depending on which type of forum you are in. For example, a forum about Disney movies will have a much different value and belief system than a forum about slash films because the audience and/or content varies greatly. You can understand how important it is to recognize and abide by the values and beliefs of a certain forum if a user wants to effectively immerse themselves in the discussion. This page will give a quick "how to" guide on how to correctly identify the values and beliefs of a forum.

First, I think it's important to give you a little bit of background information on why forums have values and beliefs. In the book, The Breakup 2.0, Ilana Gershon explains a couple of important concepts: media ideologies and idioms of practice. She defines media ideologies as “a set of beliefs about communicative technologies with which users and designers explain perceived media structure and meaning” (Gershon 3). In other words what people think about a certain medium shapes how they use that particular medium. We can extend this idea to forums also. Meaning how a person feels about a certain forum topic shapes how they will use it. The other term that Gershon defines is idioms of practice. This means that “people figure out together how to use different media and often agree on the appropriate social uses of technology by asking advice and sharing stories with each other” (Gershon 6). ). In other words, people who use forums to communicate with others do so in a particular way because they all have a common understanding about how to use this specific type of forum. Regardless if a person has a positive or negative media ideology toward a forum it is important that they still know the correct idioms of practice (values and beliefs) otherwise you will not be able to effectively communicate with other users.

Here is a guide that will make it easier for you to identify the values and beliefs of a forum:

Is there a rules page?

On some forums values and beliefs can be located on page labeled "rules." This makes it extremely easy to be able to tell what is appropriate vs inappropriate because it is all spelled out directly in front of you. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. From the website here is an example of rules page: Reddiquette As you can see there are many different rules that help you deem what is appropriate when you are writing.

What are other people saying?

Take a second and scroll down the forum discussion. What kind of language are other participants using? What is the topic of the forum? What kind of language structure are they using? Does everyone seem to be using grammatically correct language? All of these questions are important when deciding what you will add to the discussion. I would say the most important thing to remember is to stay on topic of what is being discussed in the forum otherwise you're input to the discussion is void. For more information on how to appropriately identify the topic of a forum visit Ranging Focus of Forum Topics

What are other people not saying?

This is another extremely important point. As you are scrolling you need to recognize what is not only being said but what is not being said. Is there profanity being used? Are people name-calling? I cannot stress enough how much you do not want to use profanity if no one else within the forum is. It sets you aside from the group which is the opposite of what you are trying to do. Even if you don't necessarily agree with what everyone is saying there is a more polite and effective way to get your point across. For more advanced information about how to effectively communicate within a forum see Effective and Persuasive Forum Language

Follow this guide and you will be well on your way to becoming a forum expert!

Gershon, Ilana. The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2010. Print.

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