Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Margaret Eisenhart

Second Advisor

Ruben Donato

Third Advisor

Ben Kirshner


The experiences of black women offer a unique perspective on how life is lived at the juncture of race and gender in the United States. This case study of an online community for black women centers on the site‘s potentiality as an online learning community as well as a uniquely black woman‘s space. It also explores interrelated aspects of learning and identity development.

Using the Transcript Analysis Tool (TAT), multiple perspectives on the fundamental characteristics of learning communities, and information on common features of black communication, I analyzed 1,593 message board posts for insight into the ways in which black women use informal communication and collaborative behaviors on the site. I discovered that while the site was a dynamic distributed learning community of culture, it also featured several unique structural characteristics (e.g. a high level of identity management, private ownership, explicit status categories, commercial interests, etc.) which made it quite different from conventional online learning communities. I also found the women rejected anonymity on the internet and instead embraced their reality as black women in order to create enhanced opportunities for culturally-relevant learning.