The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 3, No 1 (2015)

Online humour as a community-building cushioning glue

Vittorio Marone


This article examines the uses and functions of humour in an online community of gamers and nonprofessional game designers who present and critique user-generated artefacts created with the popular game series LittleBigPlanet. Findings show that participants use humour and “good humour” to achieve a variety of social goals: to veil statements of ability and effort, alleviate negative comments, present user-generated content, attract new players, support other participants, and overall engender a smiling atmosphere that incentives collaboration, peer feedback, and social cohesion. Far from being a trivial ornament, humour emerges as a community building “cushioning glue” that connects, seals, and buffers different gears of computer-mediated interaction, contributing to defining the boundaries and the identity of the analysed online space.


Androutsopoulos, J. (2008). ‘Potentials and limitations of discourse-centered online ethnography’. Language@Internet 5 (2008), article 8. urn:nbn:de:0009-7-16100. URL:

Angen, M. J. (2000). ‘Evaluating interpretive inquiry: Reviewing the validity debate and opening the dialogue’. Qualitative Health Research 10 (3), pp. 378-395.

Attardo, S. (2003). ‘Introduction: The pragmatics of humour’. Journal of Pragmatics 35 (9), pp. 1287-1294.

Baxter, L. A. (1992). ‘Forms and functions of intimate play in personal relationships’. Human Communication Research 18 (3), pp. 336-363.

Baym, N. K. (1995). ‘The performance of humour in computer-mediated communication’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 1 (2), p. 0.

Berger, A. A. (2013). ‘Forty five ways to make ‘em laugh’. Israeli Journal of Humor Research 1 (3), pp. 45-57.

Bousfield, D. (2008). Impoliteness in Interaction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Boxer, D., & Cortés-Conde, F. (1997). ‘From bonding to biting: Conversational joking and identity display’. Journal of Pragmatics 27 (3), pp. 275-294.

Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1978). ‘Universals in language usage: politeness phenomena’, in Goody, E. N. (ed.), Questions and Politeness, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 56-310.

Canary, D. J., Stafford, L., Hause, K. S., & Wallace, L. A. (1993). ‘An inductive analysis of relational maintenance strategies: Comparisons among lovers, relatives, friends, and others’. Communication Research Reports 10 (1), pp. 3-14.

Cann, A., Calhoun, L. G., & Bank, J. S. (1997). ‘On the role of humour appreciation in interpersonal attraction: It’s no joking matter’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 10 (1), pp. 77-89.

Culpeper, J. (1996). ‘Towards an anatomy of impoliteness’. Journal of Pragmatics 25 (3), pp. 349-367.

Danet, B. (2001). Cyberpl@y: Communicating Online. Oxford: Berg/Oxford International Publishers.

Dynel, M. (2009). ‘Beyond a joke: Types of conversational humour’. Language and Linguistics Compass 3 (5), pp. 1284-1299.

Edwards, D. (2000). ‘Extreme case formulations: Softeners, investment, and doing nonliteral’. Research on Language and Social Interaction 33 (4), pp. 347-373.

Ferrara, K., Brunner, H., & Whittemore, G. (1991). ‘Interactive written discourse as an emergent register’. Written Communication 8 (1), pp. 8-34.

Garcia, A. C., & Jacobs, J. B. (1998). ‘The interactional organisation of computer mediated communication in the college classroom’. Qualitative Sociology 21 (3), pp.299-317.

Garcia, A. C., & Jacobs, J. B. (1999). ‘The eyes of the beholder: Understanding the turn-taking system in quasi-synchronous computer-mediated communication’. Research on Language and Social Interaction 32 (4), pp. 337-367.

Garcia, A. C., Standlee, A. I., Bechkoff, J., & Cui, Y. (2009). ‘Ethnographic approaches to the internet and computer-mediated communication’. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 38 (1), pp. 52-84.

Gee, J. P. (2010). An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Geertz, C. (1983). Local Knowledge. New York: Basic Books.

Goddard, C. (2006). ‘“Lift your game, Martina!”: Deadpan jocular irony and the ethnopragmatics of Australian English’, in Goddard, C. (ed.), Ethnopragmatics: Understanding Discourse in Cultural Context, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 65-97.

Graham, E. E. (1995). ‘The involvement of sense of humour in the development of social relationships’. Communication Reports 8 (2), pp. 158-169.

Halliday, M. A. K. & Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2004). An Introduction to Functional Grammar (3rd ed.). London: Hodder Arnold.

Hampes, W. P. (1999). ‘The relationship between humour and trust’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 12 (3), pp. 253-259.

Hancock, J. T. (2004a). ‘LOL: Humour online’. ACM Interactions 11 (5), pp. 57-58.

Hancock, J. T. (2004b). ‘Verbal irony use in face-to-face and computer-mediated conversations’. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 23 (4), pp. 447-463.

Hayes, E. R. & Lee, Y. N. (2012). ‘Specialist language acquisition and trajectories of IT learning in a Sims fan site’ in Hayes, E.R. & Duncan, S.C. (eds.), Learning in Video Game Affinity Spaces,. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 186-211.

Herring, S. C. (ed.) (1996). Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Herring, S. C. (1999). ‘Interactional coherence in CMC’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 4 (4), p. 0.

Herring, S. C. (2001). ‘Computer-mediated discourse’, in Schiffrin, D., Tannen, D. & Hamilton, H. (eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 612-634.

Herring, S. C. (2004). ‘Computer-mediated discourse analysis: An approach to researching online behaviour’, in Barab, S.A., Kling, R. & Gray, J.H. (eds.), Designing Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 338-376.

Herring, S. C. (2013). ‘Introduction to the pragmatics of computer-mediated communication’, in Herring, S.C., Stein, D. & Virtanen, T. (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 3-31.

Hübler, M. T., & Bell, D. C. (2003). ‘Computer-mediated humour and ethos: Exploring threads of constitutive laughter in online communities’. Computers and Composition 20 (3), pp. 277-294.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kotthoff, H. (2002). ‘Irony, quotation, and other forms of staged intertextuality. Double or contrastive perspectivation in discourse’, in Graumann, K. & Kallmeyer, W. (eds.), Perspective and Perspectivation in Discourse, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 201-229.

Kücklich, J. (2005). ‘Precarious playbour: Modders and the digital games industry’. Fibreculture 5 (1). URL:

Kurtzberg, T. R., Naquin, C. E., & Belkin, L. Y. (2009). ‘Humour as a relationship-building tool in online negotiations’. International Journal of Conflict Management 20 (4), pp. 377-397.

Lammers, J. C., Curwood, J. S., & Magnifico, A. M. (2012). ‘Toward an affinity space methodology: Considerations for literacy research’. English Teaching: Practice and Critique 11 (2), pp. 44-58.

Lee, H. (2005). ‘Behavioural strategies for dealing with flaming in an online forum’. The Sociological Quarterly 46 (2), pp. 385-403.

Lefcourt, H. M. (2001). Humour: The Psychology of Living Buoyantly. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Long, D. L., & Graesser, A. C. (1988). ‘Wit and humour in discourse processing’. Discourse Processes 11 (1), pp. 35-60.

Martin, R. A. (1998). ‘Approaches to the sense of humour: A historical review’, in. Ruch, W. (ed.), The Sense of Humour: Explorations of a Personality Characteristic, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 15-60.

Martin, R. A. (2007). The Psychology of Humour: An Integrative Approach. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

Martineau, W. H. (1972). ‘A model of the social functions of humour’, in Goldstein, J.H., & McGhee, P.E. (eds.), The Psychology of Humour: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues, New York: Academic Press, pp. 101-125.

Mazur, J. (2004). ‘Conversation analysis for educational technologists: Theoretical and methodological issues for researching the structures, processes and meaning of on-line talk’, in Jonassen, D.H. (ed.), Handbook for Research in Educational Communications and Technology (2nd ed.), Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 1073-1098.

Mulkay, M. (1988). On Humour: Its Nature and its Place in Modern Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Norrick, N. R. (2003). ‘Issues in conversational joking’. Journal of Pragmatics 35 (9), pp. 1333-1359.

Norrick, N. R. (2010). ‘Humour in interaction’. Language and Linguistics Compass 4 (4), pp. 232-244.

Norrick, N. R., & Chiaro, D. (eds.) (2009). Humour in Interaction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Pennington, N., & Hall, J. A. (2014). ‘An analysis of humour orientation on Facebook: A lens model approach’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 27 (1), pp. 1-21.

Peräkylä, A. (2005). ‘Analysing talk and text’, in Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 695-727.

Pomerantz, A. (1986). ‘Extreme case formulations: A way of legitimising claims’. Human Studies 9 (2/3), pp. 219-229.

Saldaña, J. (2013). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Shifman, L. (2007). ‘Humour in the age of digital reproduction: Continuity and change in internet-based comic texts’. International Journal of Communication 1, pp. 187-209. URL:

Smart, G. (2012). ‘Discourse-oriented ethnography’, in Gee, J.P. & Handford, M. (eds.), Handbook of Discourse Analysis, New York: Routledge, pp. 147-159.

Sotamaa, O. (2007). ‘Let me take you to the movies: Productive players, commodification and transformative play’. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 13 (4), pp. 383-401.

Starks, H., & Brown Trinidad, S. (2007). ‘Choose your method: A comparison of phenomenology, discourse analysis, and grounded theory’. Qualitative Health Research 17 (10), pp. 1372-1380.

Tannen, D. (1984). Conversational Style: Analysing Talk among Friends. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2004). Computer Mediated Communication: Social Interaction and the Internet. London: Sage

Thurlow, C., & Mroczek, K. (eds.) (2011). Digital Discourse: Language in the New Media. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tracy, S. J. (2010). ‘Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research’. Qualitative Inquiry 16 (10), pp. 837-851.

Vandergriff, I., & Fuchs, C. (2012). ‘Humour support in synchronous computer-mediated classroom discussions’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 25 (4), pp. 437-458.

Wood, L. A., & Kroger. R. O. (2000). Doing Discourse Analysis: Methods for Studying Action in Talk and Text. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Woodward-Kron, R. (2008). ‘More than just jargon – The nature and role of specialist language in learning disciplinary knowledge’. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 7 (4), pp. 234-249.

Wyer, R. S., & Collins, J. (1992). ‘A theory of humour elicitation’. Psychological Review 99 (4), pp. 663-688.

Zajdman, A. (1995). ‘Humorous face-threatening acts: Humour as strategy’. Journal of Pragmatics 23 (3), pp. 325-339.

Ziv, A. (2010). ‘The social function of humour in interpersonal relationships’. Society 47 (1), pp. 11-18.