The following comes from Karen Pennesi of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario. Professor Pennesi collected and organized suggestions from contributors to the LINGANTH email list recommending work analyzing discourse from online texts.
My query to LINGANTH listserve:
Can anyone recommend literature analyzing discourse from public online texts such as comments on news articles, blogs, discussion forums etc.? I am trying to get a sense of whether there are criteria for selecting “good data”, how one justifies using this kind of data, how to deal with the problem of anonymity when attempting to describe the groups, “speech communities” etc. who produce the texts and the context for these discourses, how to compare this data to other kinds of spoken discourse, and how to represent this data on the page in publications.
Answers (in order they were received):
Susan Herring has several publications on computer-mediated communication. Here is a link to her web site where many can be downloaded: http://info.ils.indiana.edu/~herring/pubs.html
Michael Silverstein‘s chapter includes data from the comment thread for an online news article, along with a detailed discussion of selection and method.
Silverstein, Michael (2014) “The Race from Place: Dialect Eradication vs. the Linguistic ‘Authenticity’ of ‘terroir’.” In Lacoste, et al. eds., Indexing Authenticity: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. de Gruyter.
Lauren Squires has several publications analyzing online discourse. See a list here: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=QzqfMp8AAAAJ&hl=en
Steve Black writes:
My own impression/ opinion is that this sort of analysis is strongest (from a linguistic anthropological perspective) when it is either accompanied by ethnographic work with some of the authors/users and/or is a supplement to previous ethnographic research with a particular community.
Thurlow and Mroczek (2011) Digital Discourse: Language in the New Media, which includes a piece by Graham Jones and Bambi Schieffelin.
Norma Mendoza-Denton. 2011. “The Semiotic Hitchhiker’s Guide to Creaky Voice.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.
Debra Spitulnik Vidali also has some work in this vein
Wilson and Peterson. 2002. “The Anthropology of Online Communities,” Annual Review of Anthropology.
I’ve published several articles analyzing comments on Arabic youtube postings and online newspaper articles in relation to language ideologies I encountered while doing fieldwork in Morocco and Lebanon. I don’t have a sense of how others manage this, but can share how I did so. As Steve mentioned, my analysis of the linguistic use is heavily informed by ethnographic fieldwork (some of it face-to-face, over the phone, via messaging services like whatsapp, skype, texting, etc.) In that sense, all data is good insofar as it is informed by previously observed interactions and participant framework analysis. I only chose youtube videos or newspaper comments for publication based on what Arab interlocutors brought to my attention, how I saw them circulating interactionally in my networks. The comments were another avenue for exploring the social life of these linguistic phenomena. In terms of representation on the page, I’m not sure I can help you. I already struggle to get publishers to include Arabic script–they almost always ask for Romanized transliteration which as a linguistic anthropologist kills my analytical points oftentimes. Online user names have so many lives and privacy policies that I’ve never figured out a very good strategy for them. Most of the time they were in romanized forms, including identity signifiers. I’ve only used ones that allowed me to illustrate a phenomenon but not reveal specific speakers.
Schulthies, Becky. 2015. Do You Speak Arabic? Axes of Adequation and Difference in Pan-Arab Talent Programs. Language and Communication 44:59-71
(see also Atiqa Hachimi‘s (2013) article about Mashreqi-Maghrebi ideologies and you tube comments—cited in the bibliography of this article).
Schulthies, Becky. 2014. Deposed Leaders, YouTube and the Contested Language of Arab Uprisings. In Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East. Donna Lee Bowen, Evelyn Early and Becky Schulthies, eds. 3rd edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 391-405.
Schulthies, Becky. 2014. Scripted Ideologies: Orthographic Heterogeneity in Online Arabics. Al-′Arabiyya, Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic 47:41-56.
Bonilla, Yarimar, and Jonathan Rosa. 2014. #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist 42(1):4-17.
Jane Hill. 2008. The Everyday Language of White Racism.
– use of letters to the editor and online board discussions regarding changing the name of the now Piestewa Peak
Dori-Hacohen, Gonen & Shavit*, N. (2013). The Cultural Meanings of Israeli Tokbek (Talk-Back Online Commenting) and their Relevance to the Online Democratic Public Sphere. International Journal of Electronic Governance, 6(4), 361-379.
Sidury Christiansen writes:
Jacob Eisenstein work on Twitter and other social media outlets.
Joel Bloch He analyzes writing in a listserv (or usernet).
The journal Language@internet
Christiansen, M. S. (2015). Appearances can be deceiving: Risks interpreting data in online ethnographic research. In M. Lengeling & I. Mora Pablo (eds.), Perspectives on Qualitative Research, (pp. 437-456). Guanajuato, Mexico: Universidad de Guanajuato Press. Link to full text here.
Christiansen, M. S. (2016). “¡Hable Bien M”ijo o Gringo o Mx!’: language ideologies in the digital communication practices of transnational Mexican bilinguals. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1–12. http://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2016.1181603
Christiansen, M. S. (2015a). “A ondi queras”: Ranchero identity construction by U.S. born Mexicans on Facebook. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 19(5), 688-702 http://doi.org/10.1111/josl.12155
Christiansen, M. S. (2015b). Mexicanness and Social Order in Digital Spaces: Contention Among Members of a Multigenerational Transnational Network. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 37(1), 3–22. http://doi.org/10.1177/0739986314565974
Hiramoto, Mie. 2015 Inked nostalgia: Displaying identity through tattoos as Hawai‘i local Practice. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 36(2): 107-123. Available on author’s web site: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/ellmh/
Modan, Gabriella. 2016. Writing the Relationship: Ethnographer-Informant Interactions in the New Media Era. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 26(1):98-107.
McIlwraith, Thomas. 2015. The Splatsin Cooke Creek Culture Camp and the Ironies of Access to The Shuswap River. Canadian Journal of Native Studies 35(2):153-181.
Koven, Michele and Isabelle Simões Marques. 2015. Performing and evaluating (non)modernities of Portuguese migrant figures on YouTube: The case of Antonio de Carglouch. Language in Society 44(2): 213-242
Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2011). Writing the Smile: Language ideologies in, and through, sign language scripts. Language and Communication 31(4): 435-355.
Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2013). (Don’t) Write My Lips: Interpretations of the Relationship between German Sign Language and German across Scales of SignWriting Practice. Signs and Society 1(2): 243-272.
Discussions about this from the perspectives of anthropological ethics:
Bell, Kirsten. 2014. Resisting Commensurability: Against Informed Consent as an Anthropological Virtue. American Anthropologist 116(3): 511-522.
Warner, Faith. 2009. Ethical Considerations for Digital Fieldwork. Anthropology News, September, p. 27.
The Association of Internet Researchers has a helpful website, including a statement on ethics of online research: http://aoir.org
Thanks to Karen Pennesi for the preceding contribution.