This study utilized in-depth, one-on-one interviews to examine the experiences, attitudes, and opinions, with regard to their use of the Internet for online intercultural communication (OIC), of a culturally diverse sample of 17 members of the global online social community, Interpals. The purpose of this study was threefold: first, the study sought to determine how OIC is shaping the intercultural perceptions of English-speaking Interpals members; second, the study sought to determine how OIC shapes and/or reinforces the cultural identities of English-speaking Interpals members; and finally, the study set out to examine the various ways that English-speaking Interpals members are using their community to engage with people from a variety of different geographical locations and cultural backgrounds. The themes and subthemes that emerged during analysis of the interview data led to the discovery of a typology of three distinct uses, each of which provided valuable information about how members are coming to feel more interconnected with—and understanding of—cultures that differ from their own. Through the first use, Interpals as a Place to Connect, participants demonstrated that the online community puts them in contact not only with people from countries and cultures that they originally intended to interact with when they joined the community, but also with people from countries and cultures that they knew nothing about. Participants claimed that these unanticipated interactions often caused them to become more knowledgeable and understanding of cultures that differ from their own. As to the second use, Interpals as an Escape, a number of participants claimed that the community gives them a way to escape the tedium, monotony, and poor living conditions of everyday life in their own villages, towns, and cities, by providing them with a way to virtually explore alternative and unfamiliar people, places, and lifestyles. Through the final use, Interpals as a Classroom, participants demonstrated that the community is a place where they can teach and learn foreign languages, which helps them to feel more connected to people from around the world. Several participants also claimed to use Interpals as a tool for teaching and showing other members what life is really like where they live. The study also found that OIC, at least in the context of the global online social community, can facilitate the shaping of a global village where the villagers maintain their own unique cultural identities and come together to form a cultural mosaic, as opposed to being shaped and transformed by the dominant global cultures.
College and Department
Fine Arts and Communications; Communications
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Bartlett, Ryan Scott, "Virtual Escapes and Intercultural Explorations: How Members of Interpals Are Using Their Online Community as a Window to the World" (2014). All Theses and Dissertations. 4387.
Interpals, online community, culture, intercultural communication, globalization