AAA Panel on Mediated Boundaries: Language and Ethnography in the Internet Age

Faudree, Paja paja_faudree at BROWN.EDU
Tue Mar 6 06:56:38 UTC 2012

Dear All:

We are putting together a double panel on language and the internet for the
AAA meetings, which we hope to submit for SLA invited session status. Our
discussants will be Bambi Schieffelin and Norma Mendoza-Denton.  We are
still seeking potential participants.  If you are interested in joining the
panel, please contact us as soon as possible, preferably with an abstract
of your paper.  The panel abstract is below.

Paja Faudree and Becky Schulthies
"Paja Faudree" <paja_faudree at>, "Becky Schulthies" <
becky_schulthies at>
Department of Anthropology
Brown University

* * * * * * *

PANEL ABSTRACT: Mediated Boundaries: Language and Ethnography in
the Internet Age

This set of papers takes up the overarching conference theme of “borders
and crossings” by examining ethnographically some of the unique challenges
and opportunities that the digital age poses for how we think about
boundaries and their traversal.  Boundaries and borders have, of course,
long been a central locus of study in the discipline even as they have
challenged any straightforward understanding of “place.”  Place is, in
turn, a concept with long if contested currency in anthropology given the
discipline’s ongoing insistence on the importance of ethnographic method
and given the centrality of place to ethnographic research.  For a couple
of decades now the Internet and digital media have been transforming – or
perhaps reinventing, re-clothing the old in the garb of newness – this
complex intersection of the discipline’s most foundational concepts.  The
Internet’s flexible and translocal relationship to national borders, to
temporal units, and to the “biological boundaries” around particular
individuals and hence the social identities attached to them have
all conspired to trouble many received notions of place and locality,
of societies and the boundaries around them, of individuals and
social categories, and hence, in turn, the meaning of crossing
geo-political and cultural terrains within a virtual landscape.

This panel will feature a range of papers drawn from a variety
of ethnographic contexts that are united in examining how language use
is implicated in the digital mediation of social boundaries.  We
take language use on the Internet as a particular focus.  We employ
a multimodal approach in examining how speech, writing, and
different conventions for representing language in digital media are all in
play in Internet communication.  This allows us to build on recent
work calling for a broadly holistic approach to communication –
one foregrounding the sounded and sensorial dimensions of communication
as well as the multimodality of communicative resources that are available
to people in specific interactive contexts.  Focusing on the multimodal
dimensions of communication also allows us to examine texts and textuality
– which have long occupied a privileged analytic status in the discipline
(a status anthropologists have in turn long struggled to assess if not also
subvert) – in new light.  Through examining Internet and other digitally
mediated texts (such as text messages and twitter postings) within a
multimodal framework, we offer analyses encouraging us to rethink any
straightforward view of language socialization as grounded to places and
that privilege face-to-face interaction.  Other themes these papers will
take up include new meanings of community engendered by agonistic
linguistic practices rather than consensus-oriented ones, emplacement
practices deitically grounded in digital sociality, and new
boundary-building potentialities offered by multimodal electronic media.

Some of the specific topics taken up by panelists include [we will include
descriptions of the specific papers here].

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