Troubles talk, (dis)affiliation and the participation order in Taiwanese-Chinese online discussion boards

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Online discussion boards are a common forum in which everyday users sharetroubles, elicit various forms of empathy and sympathy, and also seek advicefrom others. One challenge facing participants, as well as analysts, is the interpretationof expressions of discontent or dissatisfaction as either troubles talk,complaining, seeking advice, or some combination of these, given that eachof these social actions/activities invokes a distinct preference structure andpresumed differences in what counts as an affiliative or disaffiliative response.In this paper, drawing on an analysis of threads in a Taiwanese online parentingdiscussion board, we propose that one way in which participants navigatethis complex array of preferences and (dis)affiliative responses is through theinstantiation of a locally situated participation order, which is both afforded andconstrained by the interactions that are mediated via online discussion boards.We further argue that emotional support can be indicated through both affiliativeresponses, such as mutual encouraging, mutual bemoaning, and empathicsuggesting, as well as through disaffiliative responses, such as accusing andadvising. We conclude that soliciting emotional support constitutes an importantrelational practice in online parenting discussion boards, whereby a warrantfor sharing troubles with acquaintances and even strangers is establishedfor these kinds of interactions.


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