Conversation and Community: Discourse in a Social MUD is an examination of the speech community in an Internet "virtual community." Based on ethnographic research on a community of users of a MUD, or "multi-user dimension," the book describes a closeknit community united in features of their language use, shared history, and relationships to other online communities.
The author invokes the notion of register, or the variety of speech adapted to the communication situation, in her discussion of how users overcome the limitations of the typed, text medium and exploit its affordances for comfortable communication. Routines, conventional vocabulary and abbreviations, syntactic and semantic phenomena, and special turn-taking and repair strategies distinguish the MUD community's register. Because the MUD is programmable,commands may be added which reflect, alter, or reinforce the linguistic practices and culture of the community; competent speakers must also know the commands that produce the correct linguistic forms. Power structures in the community impact speech practices, with the technically empowered being most influential. In contrast with much utopian literature about online community, this work offers consideration of the role of elites and conflicts over membership categories in a discussion of how definitions of "community" apply or fail to apply to this virtual ethnographic site. Discussion of methods and ethics for online research are included.