AAA 2012 CFP: Mediating boundaries, mediating possibilities: language and technologies in the construction of identity

Rachel Flamenbaum rnflame at UCLA.EDU
Fri Mar 23 07:52:56 UTC 2012

*Mediating boundaries, mediating possibilities:
language and technologies in the construction of identity*

* *


Rachel Flamenbaum

Rachel George

Jan David Hauck


*Discussant: *

Janet McIntosh


This panel examines the role of technologies—broadly conceived—as mediators
in the semiotic processes of shaping, reshaping, and traversing boundaries.
 That is, we explore the ways in which technological skills and practices
(literacy, computer skills, or the use of cellphones) on the one hand, and
material-semiotic artifacts (books, DVDs, orthographies, scripts,
keyboards, cellphones, etc.) on the other, enable and constrain the
creation and modification of both communities of practice and the “iconic
indexes” of membership in such communities.  Further, we consider the ways
in which such practices and artifacts—as part of individuals’ “repertoires
of identity” (Kroskrity 1993)—become invested with symbolic capital; figure
centrally in individuals’ imagination of future trajectories, geographies,
and mobilities; and thus constitute repertoires of* possibility*.

On social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, when sending text
messages, and when writing down endangered languages, people draw on
multiple codes, registers, and orthographic repertoires; engage in
strategic practices of translation; and create novel hybrid forms. In so
doing, they draw and redraw linguistic boundaries and create and recreate
collective identities. These processes mediate the constitution of
communities of practice and imagined publics of cosmopolitan interlocutors,
providing both the resources and the forum for individuals to orient in new
ways to possible futures.

This panel draws broadly on insights from work on language and identity and
research on literacy and technology:

Firstly, we take as established that semiotic practices have social
histories. That is, they draw upon earlier semiotic relationships and
afford new ones (Silverstein 2003); are filtered through social-historical
processes as they* *come to represent, constitute, and delimit groups of
speakers (Irvine & Gal 2000); and can be leveraged as tactics in the
agentive construction of identity (Bucholtz & Hall 2004).

Secondly, we build on recent calls in literacy studies for attending to the
ways in which local practices are always implicated in larger networks of
power relations (Collins & Blot 2003) and for recognizing the importance of
the material aspects and durability of literacy objects (Barton & Hamilton
2005) which imbue them with “transcontextualing potential” (Brandt &
Clinton 2002). Thus we examine technological objects and practices as both
situated and available for de- and re-contextualization (Bauman & Briggs

We seek papers that consider the ways in which technological practices and
artifacts can play key roles in projects of boundary-making and
self-making, addressing questions such as: How are technological practices
and artifacts implicated in projects of language policy, policing, and
revitalization? How do social actors leverage them in navigating shifting
political economies and mediating/remaking/reimagining selves? How can they
create new participant frameworks, which make relevant new identity

*Interested participants should email paper abstracts to rnflame at by
April 5.*

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