Sunday, 26 April 2009

Twitter, the backchannel and 'laminated discursive spaces'

Initial random thoughts on a Sunday morning (woken by children and unable to get back to sleep) on Twitter, the backchannel and 'laminated discursive spaces'.

What do I mean by 'laminated discursive spaces'? Um ... I don't stop being a father, husband, francophile, daydreaming timewaster, rebellious teenager (in his mid-40s!) etc. just because I enter a lecture theatre. Although a singular aspect - or one layer of a laminated identity - may be more in play in one particular context (e.g. my academic identity when I'm at a conference) , other identities may also enter the foreground too. So, there's always some element of identity lamination on our social interactions and I think the Twitter backchannel exemplifies this really well.

Here's a great quote from an article I've been reading:
Because social practice is dialogic, heterogeneous and distributed in functional systems, activity should be understood as laminated or layered in Goffman’s sense, and, following Goodwin and Duranti, as mutable, dynamic frames that are relatively foregrounded or relatively backgrounded. Thus, there are no spaces where the social histories of people, practices, artifacts, and institutions disappear, no pure monologic activity systems, no places where identities can be figured simply in terms offered by a dominant institution’s map (where a person is just an engineer, just a student, just a teacher). Lamination is not simply a notion of the multiple identities of the person, but also applies to mediational means, with heterogeneous histories embedded as affordances in the words, texts, tools, and institutions that mediate activity.
Prior, P. (2003). 'Are communities of practice really an alternative to discourse communities?'
Paper presented at the 2003 American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference
Accessed from: https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/pprior/Prior/PriorAAAL03.pdf

I think the Twitter-enabled conference backchannel is an example of a 'laminated discursive space' . What I've observed in the #pelc09, #shock09 and #beyond09Twitter backchannels are different socioliterate practices - some academic, others less so - woven into a stream of hashtag-specific conference tweets:

  • posting links
  • brief summaries
  • expression of appreciation/thanks to individual presenters/conference organisers
  • side conversations between participants (remote and proximate)
  • banter (participants also have a shared social history of nights out, common interests and projects, past conferences, shared contacts)
  • bitching ("salespitch suckfest" was one comment on an Apple presentation deemed too corporate)
  • sharing of other resources (mainly photos and URLs)
  • requests for information or attempts to collaborate (e.g. on a set of Delicious bookmarks)

20 comments:

Joe McCarthy said...

I really like that term - "laminated discursive spaces"! I also like your taxonomy of conference-related tweets (or, at least, hashtagged tweets).

I recently posted some thoughts on the dark side of digital channels in shared physical spaces, which included some examples where the "bitching" - or "harshtagging" as I recently read another person describe it - got pretty intense.

One of the cases involved the projection of the backchannel onto a large screen behind the speaker ... which adds yet another layer (or two) of intrigue, but not typically a very beneficial one, at least from the speaker's perspective.

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