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Q: dissertation help ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: dissertation help
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: woodiewoodford-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 08 Oct 2006 09:23 PDT
Expires: 07 Nov 2006 08:23 PST
Question ID: 771716
have been racking my brain all summer for this and would really love
if ANYBODY could help me..i plan on doing a dissertation (12,000 words
approx) on gossip, both interpersonal gossip ( work, office, family,
friends etc) and media gossip (celebrity magazines, human interest
stories in newspapers,blogs etc) ..i've been looking at different
research and have seen suggestions
that is is an innate characteristic, similar to apes grooming each
other,( Robin Dunbar) that we cant help it etc etc. anyway i really
need to come up with an angle on this, a dissertation statement and i
just cant think
of how best to approach it, like proving that it is a human
characteristic is simply too broad, was thinking of having an
interesting take on the whole concept of gossip, the social
implications, its functions etc but have thought about it so much that
i feel like i am hitting my head against a wall!!! i really dont know
if you can help but im just so stuck...any help would be so
appreciated.... im studying media at college.
thanks in advance

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 08 Oct 2006 18:39 PDT

Here are some thoughts on possible topics:

--Cyber-gossip.  How the internet, instant messaging, cell phones,
texting, etc have all changed the art, practice, and meaning of
gossip, and what the sociologicial implications of those changes are. 
Search on "viral gossip" to get a glimpse at this topic.

--A taxonomy of gossip.  We talk of gossip generally as a single
thing, and even the academic literature doesn't always offer
categories of gossip.  You've already mentioned interpersonal vs media
gossip, but I'm sure there are many ways to cut, dice and sort the
main category of 'gossip' into meaningful sub-categories, that can
become part of the sociological literature on this topic.

--Gossip and gender.  Is it mostly a gal thing?  Or are guys just as good at it?

Just some thoughts.  

Are any of these the sorts of suggestions you were hoping for?  And if
so, what additional information would you like?

And if not, perhaps you can clarify how we can best assist you here.



Clarification of Question by woodiewoodford-ga on 10 Oct 2006 09:48 PDT

yes, i like the idea of doing a taxonomy of gossip, finally getting my
brain ticking on the subject! part of the reason I was having trouble
was because the topic was so broad, there are so many areas of gossip
and defining it was proving to be so difficult. so a taxomony would be
like a collection of informative categories??? (i presume this is
suitable for a dissertation, well i guess i can speak to my tutor
about that) But my guess is its extensive research  on a topic so
should be fine. Do you think I should take a particular stance or
simply investigate what is out there and categorize it...can you brief
me with how a taxonomy is usually worked out, I have never done one
before! And with regards to gossip, what is a 'meaningful'
subcategory, ie what are the boundaries of one one type of
gossip...any help in sub-categorizing gossip would be greatly

Thank you
Subject: Re: dissertation help
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 10 Oct 2006 16:55 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Thanks for getting back to me on this, and I'm glad one of my
suggestions seems to have clicked.

Creating a taxonomy of gossip seems a manageable task, and more than
that, might actually turn out to be quite a useful contribution to the
literature on the topic.

Speaking of which...I gather you're already familiar with the
scholarly writings on gossip, some of which have already been
mentioned in the wikipedia article (linked to in the comments, below).
 If not, that's certainly the first place to start, since you'll need
to immerse yourself in the academic thinking on this topic.  I've
provided some useful links, below.

A taxonomy is simply a classification scheme, although, in truth,
there's rarely anything simple about them.  The human mind readily
recognizes different categories of things and ideas (dogs and cats,
art and science), but laying out a framework within which one can
place all animals, or all academic subjects, or all types of gossip is
a challenging task.

Usually, taxonomies take into account multiple features of a thing in
order to know in which category they belong.  In the case of animals,
for instance, it's not just a matter of, say, how they reproduce, or
whether or not they bear live young, or have fur...but a combination
of all those characteristics (and more) which determines their
appropriate category in the taxonomy of animals.

For gossip, you may want to consider a number of factors such as:

--Source -- is it personal, media gossip, internet, workplace, collegiate, etc?

--Content -- is it true, lies, a mix, indeterminate?

--Agressiveness -- is it trivial, mild, vicious

--Target -- is it aimed at a person, a celebrity, a politician, a
group, an organization?

--Intent -- is it meant to sting, undermine, embarass, ruin, distract?

I think you get the point.  

The above isn't meant as a taxonomy (it's not anything close), but
simply as some aspects you can consider as you think through what an
actual taxonomy of gossip might looks like.

And while we're on the topic, I suggest you do some Google searches on
[ types of gossip ], [ taxonomy of gossip ] and so on, which leads to
(among other things):
Guarding the Tongue

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in his book Jewish Literacy, describes three
types of gossip:

First is Rekhilut-This type of gossip involves talking about the
minute details of another person's life. The damage done by Rekhilut
is relatively minor, but it can led to worse types of gossip.

Second is Lashon ha-ra. Lashon ha-ra is negative but truthful
information about someone else. It is against Jewish law to spread
negative truthful information about others unless that person has the
need to know the information.

Third is Motzi shem ra- This is the spreading of malicious lies. Motzi
shem ra is the worst of the three and has the effect of murdering the
good name of a person.
Group Research Project: Gossip!!!
How Gossip Works
[good list of references]
Monitor on Psychology
The goods on gossip
Research on Gossip: Taxonomy, methods, and future directions

A half century of gossip research from multiple disciplines is
reviewed. Discussed are definitions of the construct; social,
evolutionary, and personal functions of the practice; and data
collection methods.

Best of luck with your thesis...let me know if there's anything else I
can help out with.

woodiewoodford-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
thanks for your help, finally heading somewhere with this....

Subject: Re: dissertation help
From: myoarin-ga on 08 Oct 2006 10:25 PDT
Gossip is the way people invent an explanation for bits of information
(true or untrue) about other people.
Maybe it is an innate trait to try make sense of the unknown, usually
to the detriment of someone else, which is more scintilating.

"She's got rings under her eyes."  
"She shouldn't be staying out that late at her age.  I bet she's ..."  
"You know about her husband ..."

"Did you hear that that he was seen with ...?  His niece!?"
"Yeah.  So-and-so said she looked too old for that excuse. ..."

"He's in the boss's office.  I wonder what for?"
"Again?!  Last time was after the office party, remember?"
"Again?!  If he thinks he can get ahead that way ..."
"Again?!  I don't trust him.  So-and-so got fired the next week."

Is there such a thing as harmless gossip, positive speculation that
absolutely does not present a problem if it comes to the ears of the
person involved?

Even suggesting correctly that two persons look like they might get
married is "unappreciated" if they haven't yet chosen to say so

Maybe one attraction of soap operas is that it really is harmless and
socially acceptable to speculate about the goings on of the fictional

Cheers, Myoarin
Subject: Re: dissertation help
From: elids-ga on 08 Oct 2006 13:11 PDT
* Gossip is the lowest form of discourse. 
o Jacqueline Bisset

* Whomever gossips to you will gossip about you.
o Spanish proverb

I'd like to read whatever you come up with.
Subject: Re: dissertation help
From: amber00-ga on 08 Oct 2006 14:58 PDT
Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on gossip.
(Unfortunately it's not clickable, so you'll have to cut and paste it
into your browser.)

The article mentions some useful books.

Another text which may interest you is:
Patricia Meyer Spacks, 'Gossip', Knopf, New York, 1985.

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