LINGUIST List 26.5175

Wed Nov 18 2015

Review: Discourse; Pragmatics; Socioling: Dynel, Chovanec (2015)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 25-Jul-2015
From: Martine van Driel <>
Subject: Participation in Public and Social Media Interactions
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Marta Dynel
EDITOR: Jan Chovanec
TITLE: Participation in Public and Social Media Interactions
SERIES TITLE: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 256
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Martine van Driel, University of Birmingham

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


(1) Preface: Researching interactional forms and participant structures in public and social media, by Jan Chovanec and Marta Dynel

The preface focuses on an explanation of the origin of this volume, the theoretical frameworks it is grounded in and an overview of the articles contained inside. Chovanec and Dynel believe that with a changing media scape, it is important that participation frameworks are altered to fit the new media that audiences are getting involved in. They refer to Goffman’s (1981) initial work, which came from a more sociological perspective, as well as to a wide variety of linguistic scholars who used the framework to adopt it to the more current diverse range of communication (among others: Hymes 1972; Bell 1984; Clark 1996).

They go on to explain their perspective on two different forms of interaction in the participation frameworks: public media (e.g. TV) and social media; they have included articles in both areas in this volume. Their main aim with this volume is to address two topics: (1) “participation frameworks and interactional phenomena in traditional public media discourses” and (2) “the nature of participation and interaction in novel discourses arising in computer-mediated and technology-mediated communication” (Chovanec & Dynel 2015: 10). They explain that they have ordered the articles by the authors’ approaches to participation frameworks (though they mention the articles could also be grouped by theme: television and film discourse, news discourse and social media), and they provide the reader with a short overview of each chapter.

Part 1 - Reconsidering participation frameworks

Participation frameworks and participation in televised sitcom, candid camera and stand-up comedy, by Alexander Brock

Brock’s article is focused on re-arranging existing participation frameworks to account for the communication between TV characters (fictitious) as well as the communication between the collective sender and the TV audience (real). He shows how to add to existing frameworks by focusing on televised comedy, specifically sitcoms, candid camera shows and stand-up comedy. Brock refers to the real communication between the collective sender and the TV audience as Communicative Level 1 (CL1) and to the fictitious communication between the characters as Communicative Level 2 (CL2).

Brock considers many different situations in TV comedy which alter participation frameworks, such as hecklers during a stand-up comedy show, different camera perspectives (such as Point of View) and studio audiences present during sitcoms. His use of CL1 and CL2 is helpful in these situations; yet addressing such a wide variety of participation situations results in a lack of depth in terms of how these participation frameworks change the dynamics of audiences and producers, as well as how these participation frameworks assist in the production of comedic moments. Both these issues are alluded to by Brock, and he acknowledges that there is a “complexity of things yet to discover” (45).

(2) Participation structures in Twitter interaction: Arguing for the broadcaster role, by Fawn Draucker

Draucker’s paper focuses on Goffman’s (1981) theory of three different production roles: (1) the animator as the participant who “produces the talk in its physical form” (p 50), (2) the author who wrote the words and (3) the principal whose ideas are expressed in the words. Draucker argues that when we analyse Twitter, we should incorporate a fourth role: the broadcaster. She defines this role as “a ‘followable’ party that makes talk available to recipients” (p 63).

The role of broadcaster is different from any of the three other roles described by Goffman (1981) as it can re-distribute previously written tweets (with its own author, animator and principal) in the form of re-tweets. In that case, the followable party or the broadcaster, is still considered an active participant, Draucker argues, as they can be held accountable for the content of what they re-tweet. The role of broadcaster is also applicable in the case of company accounts, where one person in the company might be the animator, author and principal, while the company as a whole will be the distributor of the tweet through their Twitter account.

Draucker has also included previous research into computer-mediated discourse, which forms the basis of her idea that the broadcaster is an active participant in Twitter communication.

(3) Participant roles and embedded interactions in online sports broadcasts, by Jan Chovanec

Chovanec builds his paper around “Goffman’s (1981) observation that much of human talk contains embedded instances of prior talk” (p 68). He has taken this observation and applied it to online sports broadcasts. In his analysis, he employs frames of interaction based on Fetzer (2006) which reflect the different levels of interaction. For example in a television broadcast of an interviewer, the first frame will include the interviewer and interviewee as well as the studio audience. The second frame is the audience watching at home and will envelope that first frame. Chovanec’s analysis contains four frames: (1) the football match, (2) the television broadcast studio, (3) the audience at home and the online studio, (4) the online recipients. His analysis focuses on how the interactions within each frame as well as across frames are represented in the online commentary.

Chovanec’s analysis leads to two main conclusions: (1) embedding leads to a one-way flow of communication, meaning the final at home audience cannot interact with the interviewee on screen, but (2) with modern technology it is possible that final recipients can temporarily enter into a production role, through online commentary for example. According to Chocanec this reflects the trend of “participatory journalism” which includes audiences in the production of media communication.

Part 2 - Participation and interpersonal pragmatics

Troubles talk, (dis) affiliation and the participation order in Taiwanese-Chinese online discussion boards, by Michael Haugh and Wei-Lin Melody Chang

Haugh and Chang have analysed a Taiwanese-Chinese online discussion board on ‘mom talk’. Their interest lies in how participants on these forums understand their roles in the participation order as well as the moral order. By looking at how participants respond to ‘troubles talk’ which they define as “the expression of some degree of dissatisfaction or discontent with a particular situation (…) followed by (dis) affiliation with those troubles by a recipient (Jefferson 1988)” (p 102). Haugh and Chang lay out three types of talk found on online discussion boards with interlinked preferred responses: (1) troubles talk, (2) soliciting advice and (3) complaining.

They explain that participants displaying troubles talk have a preferred response of displaying emotional reciprocity but can sometimes encounter dispreferred responses of giving advice (preferred response to soliciting advice) or blaming or accusing (dispreferred response to complaining).

Their analysis shows that participants show emotional reciprocity through “mutual encouragement”, “mutual bemoaning” and “empathic suggesting”; however a small number of responses showed accusing and advising. Whereas in English culture this can be seen as face threatening, in Chinese culture giving advice is seen as a supportive response. This leads Huang and Chang to suggest that more work needs to be done in non-Western computer-mediated communication (CMC) in order to create the metalanguage to deal with these different cultural responses appropriately.

(2) Humour in microblogging: Exploiting linguistic humour strategies for identity construction in two Facebook focus groups, by Miriam A. Locher and Brook Bolander

Locher and Bolander have analysed status updates on Facebook from two groups: 10 students and young professional living in Switzerland, and 10 UK students. Their aim was to explore how these participants use humour and how that humour is used to create their identity. Locher and Bolander start by reviewing previous research on identity creation on (mainly) social media as well as briefly investigating how to define humour. Though they never clearly state their working definition of humour, they explain in their methodology that they decided what was humorous based on “clear evidence through linguistic means” and “background knowledge that warranted the status update to be taken humorously” (p 143).

Through their analysis they identify ten types of humour. The most common types being (1) appeal to shared knowledge, (2) irony, (3) word play and (4) self-deprecation. Not all these uses of humour were responded to and used in co-creating a group identity, but as Locher and Bolander state, since the statuses are published on a semi-public domain (Facebook) they are intended for an audience and therefore some form of identity creation. They also argue for the importance of studying the use of humour over time as one humorous status update will not lead to the creation of a humorous identity.

The researchers also identified five categories of identity creation: (1) personality, (2) pastime, (3) humour, (4) work and (5) relationship claims. Within each of the two groups (Swiss and UK) the individuals used these five identity claims differently. Locher and Bolander conclude that though differences could be found in their data, the technological advances that Facebook has made since their data collection in 2008 make it necessary for more research to be done.

(3) Impoliteness in the service of verisimilitude in film interaction by Marta Dynel

Dynel’s paper is the first paper in this collection to take a more theoretical approach, focusing on impoliteness in film interaction. She draws on the participation framework to separate the two communicative levels of film: (1) the inter-character level and (2) the recipient level. The inter-character level follows similar communicative behaviours as nonfictional situations, meaning that face threatening acts on this level can be considered impolite by the hearer (on the same level), whereas the recipient (the TV audience) might consider face threatening acts on the first level not as impoliteness but as a form of entertainment depending on the “inferential path devised by the collective sender” (p 159).

Through examples from the TV-series House, Dynel shows how the impoliteness of House (the main character) is linked to his power, both his expert power (he is the best diagnostician) and his legitimate power (he has subordinates) and how his impoliteness has different responses on each communicative level. She argues that even though on the inter-character level the impoliteness is neutralised as part of House’s personality and on the recipient level the impoliteness is classed as entertainment (this is first-order impoliteness), researchers can still classify his behaviour as second-order impoliteness. House’s impoliteness acts are not unmarked, she argues therefore are similar to how even in close relationships, candor can be viewed as impoliteness.

(4) “That’s none of your business, Sy”: The pragmatics of vocatives in film dialogue by Raffaele Zago

Zago’s paper continues on a topic similar to Dynel’s, as it looks at the pragmatics of vocatives both on the inter-character level and on the recipient level. He starts by giving an overview of English vocatives as well as the pragmatics of vocatives in film dialogue. The latter details methodologies used in the past as well as research outcomes. Zago then goes on to investigate different pragmatic functions and positions of vocatives in Sliding Doors (SD), One Hour Photo (OHP) and Erin Brockovich (EB). Zago selected these three films because they contain a variety of interactions.

On the inter-character level, Zago found that the use of vocatives mimics natural conversation. Vocatives are mainly used as “relational, attitudinal and expressive” rather than “in their identifying role” (p 203). He also found the use of vocatives particularly high in confrontational situations; these he labelled “adversarial vocatives” (p 203). Finally, they also mimic natural conversation when they are used in the final-position, thereby increasing the illocutionary force of the sentence.

On the recipient level, Zago found four functions of vocatives: (1) they simulate natural spoken discourse thereby increasing the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, (2) they increase “conversation dynamicity”, (3) they foreground certain segments of dialogue by drawing attention to whom each character is speaking, and (4) they foreground whole scenes in cases where they are overused.

Part 3 - Forms of participation

A participation perspective on television evening news in the age of immediacy by Linda Lombardo

Lombardo’s paper is the first to focus on television news media in this volume. TV news is still “among the most influential knowledge producing institutions of our time” (Ekstrom 2002: 274) and is developing constantly to grow along with the trend towards “communicating effectively” and with “improvisation and conversation as preferred mode of delivery” (p 212). Lombardo then compiled a corpus of BBC evening news programmes and is analysing the reporter - news presenter exchanges through a participation framework perspective. This dialogic exchange, she says, is performed on behalf of the audience and includes a ‘liveness’ as it takes the form of a conversation.

This ‘liveness’ in the reporter-news presenter exchanges is decreasing though as Lombardo’s corpus shows. The exchanges are shortening with “less discourse in a conversational mode” (p 229). This is replaced by a quick switches between news items and the inclusion of live links and invitations to visit the website and participate in the news through comments. Lombardo argues that these changes could have a negative effect on the TV audience as there is less chance for a full understanding of the news event.

She then draws again on Goffman’s (1981) participation framework, stating that the TV audience is positioned as a “ratified hearer/observer” in the news presenter - reporter exchanges and, with the directions to the website, is more and more becoming a “full recipient who can take on a (limited) role in producing language” (p 229).

(2) What I can (re)make out of it: Incoherence, non-cohesion, and re-interpretation in YouTube video responses by Elisabetta Adami

Adami’s paper focuses on video responses on YouTube and how cohesion and coherence are present in them. As YouTube videos allow participants to use a variety of multimodal resources for response which can result in only loosely related responses, Adami argues that a framework should be developed to “account for marginally related exchanges” (p 234). She follows Kress’s definition that “communication is always a response by one participant to a prompt” (2010; p 235). Therefore even responses that are not explicitly cohesive with the initial video can still be analysed as cohesive and coherent in some way.

Adami analysed 613 video responses to one of YouTube ‘most responded to’ videos entitled ‘best video ever’. The responses, she argues, can be tracked along “a relatedness continuum” (p 254) which ranges from “fully cohesive and attuned responses” through four other categories to responses that display “no explicit or implicit clues of relatedness with the initiating video” (p 254). With such a wide range of responses, Adami states that the success of a video does no longer depend on the author’s intended meaning, but instead on its “prompting potential” (p 255).

Finally she argues that sign-making through the different copy-and-paste methods participants use in their video responses is influencing what is accepted as explicit and implicit cohesiveness and calls for further research. This research will also need to take into account the changing, multimodal form of online participation, which is creating more focus on individualisation over community. Perhaps a redefinition of community is necessary in further research.

(3) Enhancing citizen engagement: Political weblogs and participatory democracy by Giorgia Riboni

Riboni’s paper investigates the difference between American political weblogs run by political parties and those run by citizens. Weblogs have been able to fill a gap in the market by favouring participation, helping to mobilise opinions and helping to organise citizens’ activities (p 260). Blogs run by citizens especially are subjective and mainly represent solely the viewpoint of the author. This is in contrast with blogs run by political parties who tend to represent the party as a whole rather than one individual. Riboni then adopts a corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis approach to identify these differences and how these different blogs represented the 2008 American elections.

She collected data from 10 citizen political blogs selected by popularity and from 10 party political blogs selected by their “political creed” (p 263). With 10,000 tokens taken from each blog, Riboni’s corpus consisted of 200,000 tokens.

Riboni’s analysis focuses on the use of pronouns, both first person singular and first person plural and finally the discursive construction of the candidates through the blogs. She shows that citizens’ blogs use more first person singular pronouns and represent their own ideology in their blogs. Party blogs use some first person singular pronouns, for example when posts are written by a member of congress who shares their experience in congress. They mainly use first person plural pronouns though, as they are representing the collective party and want to include the audience in that party. Riboni concludes by showing that the citizen bloggers tended to represent Obama and McCain (the two presidential candidates) through personal characteristics, whereas party blogs focused on their political programmes.


Dynel and Chovanec clearly set out the aims of this volume in the preface; they are to investigate (1) “participation frameworks and interactional phenomena in traditional public media discourses” and (2) “the nature of participation and interaction in novel discourses arising in computer-mediated and technology-mediated communication” (p 10). A quick answer to whether they have achieved those aims is yes. In each of the three parts, they give an opportunity to both scholars in traditional media and scholars in newer media to adjust existing participation frameworks as well as to propose new ideas. The traditional media discussed ranges from TV news to film, and while these topics have been thoroughly discussed in other work, the papers in this volume are able to give new insight into these media. They do this specifically by focusing on under-explored parts of Goffman’s (1981) participation framework (e.g. Brock in Chapter 2), or by focusing on the changes in the media due to technological advances (e.g. Lombardo in Chapter 9).

The newer media discussed in this volume includes both commonly discussed media such as Facebook and Twitter, and also less common media such as YouTube video responses and political weblogs. Especially in the new media chapters, the variety of methods is striking: corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis and multimodality to name a few. This use of a wide variety of methodologies strengthens the book and its representation of current research into new media.

Though the volume is coherent in its topic, Dynel’s own paper seems to not fit as well as other chapters. Although all the articles are related to the topic, Dynel's paper is more theoretical than the others. Perhaps the addition of another more theoretical paper would have made a difference and would at the same time have added a new perspective on participation in both public and social media. There is a lot of practical, analysis work in this field, and more theoretical work like Dynel’s chapter would be a great addition.

I recommend this volume to researchers in both participation and media research fields. Dynel and Chovanec have successfully integrated these two research areas, including methodologies and theoretical background from both fields. As interdisciplinary research is growing, this volume shows how well different fields can work together.


Bell, A. 1984. Language Style as Audience Design. Language in Society 13: 145-204.

Clark, H. 1996. Using Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ekstrom, M. 2002. Epistemologies of TV Journalism: A Theoretical Framework. Journalism 3(3): 259-282.

Fetzer, A. 2006. ‘Minister, We will see How the Public Judges You’. Media references in political interviews. Journal of Pragmatics 38: 180-195.

Goffman, E. 1981. Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.

Hymes, D. 1972. Models of the Interaction of Language and Social Life. In Directions in Sociolinguistics: the Ethnography of Communication, ed. by John Gumperz and Dell Hymes, 35-71. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Jefferson, G. 1988. On the Sequential Organisation of Troubles Talk in Ordinary Conversation. Social Problems 35(4): 418-441.

Kress, G. 2010. Multimodality. A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London: Routledge.


Martine van Driel is a PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her PhD research focuses on new forms of news media and reader response. Other research interests include: political discourse, multimodality, speech and thought presentation and gender and identity research.

She is a member of the Poetics and Linguistics Association (PALA) and has recently presented reader response data of readers of news live blogs at the annual PALA conference at the University of Kent (UK).

Aside her PhD, she is working on articles on multimodality, political tweets and radio interviews.

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