User forums on the Internet as a form of user support

Many Internet users join so-called user forums (discussion groups, listserv etc.) for acquiring help with technical problems concerning computers, software, or consumer electronics. In cooperation with students, I analyzed a number of these user groups to figure out how this form of reciprocal technical support works in practice. A first study focused on the content and phrasing of the help question that forms the start of a discussion thread. We discovered that in addition to an often very elaborated description of the problem, rhetorical elements play a role, such as credibility, justification of the help request, and politeness.

Publication in English about this subject

Steehouder, M. (2002). Beyond Technical Communication. Users helping each other. Paper presented at the IPCC 2002. Reflections on communication, Boston.