Tell me the goss OK: Urban indigenous girls (re)constructing norms, values and identities through email at school
Applied Linguistics Association of Australia
Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
Gossip has mainly been investigated as an oral discourse practice, one that serves as a mechanism to reaffirm relationships and to construct, monitor and maintain social norms and values within communities. This study investigates how a group of Aboriginal English speaking teenage girls constructed norms, values and identities in their email gossip. Adopting a communities of practice perspective and a social constructionist understanding of identity, the study draws on ethnographic data collected on the writing practices of a group of Indigenous girls in a high school program for educationally ‘at risk’ students. The findings indicate that the girls used email gossip to do friendship while constructing multifaceted identities and negotiating social norms and values relating to four themes: 1) the social practices of girls in friendship circles; 2) the physical attributes, characters and social practices of boys; 3) the relationships between girls and boys; and 4) risk-taking practices. By creating spaces in the curriculum for email writing (and gossip), teachers can make school a more personally meaningful place for ‘disaffected’ students. It can also enhance students’ writing, computer and analytical skills and raise their language awareness with respect to constructing identities needed to participate in the workplace and wider community.