LINGUIST List 29.2885

Thu Jul 12 2018

Calls: Anthropological Linguistics, Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics/China

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 12-Jul-2018
From: Sofia Rüdiger <>
Subject: Formality and Informality in Online Performances
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Full Title: Formality and Informality in Online Performances

Date: 09-Jun-2019 - 14-Jun-2019
Location: Hong Kong, China
Contact Person: Sofia Rüdiger
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics

Call Deadline: 15-Oct-2018

Meeting Description:

Panel Convenors: Susanne Mühleisen & Sofia Rüdiger (University of Bayreuth)

In his seminal work on life as a stage, Goffman uses the concept of performance ''to refer to all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period marked by his [or her] continuous presence before a particular set of observers and which has some influence on the observers'' (1959: 22). Performance as a ''mode of speaking'' (Bauman 1975: 290) has a long tradition in ethnographic linguistic work and is characterized by a number of rules by which performance is signaled, among them also ''disclaimer of performance'' (Bauman 1975: 295). We argue that the performance framework can be productively applied to many of today's contexts on the world wide web, where users 'perform' specific personae online. One just needs to think, for example, about Facebook or Twitter, where the user profile created and the content posted represent a careful curation and management of one's presentation of self: in Goffman's terms the 'front stage' of the performance (Goffman 1959).

An essential role in performances on ''society's newest stage'' (Shulman 2017: 215), the internet, seems to be the blurring of the front and back stage or, more specifically, by pretending to show the back stage while the audience still observes a carefully arranged event. This collapse of front and back stage (Shulman 2017: 219) is often connected to the conscious use of and play with formality and informality. While notoriously difficult to define, informality is reflected in the breaking of the systematic organization of a speech event (Irvine 1979), which of course makes informality heavily context-dependent. From a language in use point of view, notions of formality and informality have so far been neglected in analyzing and explaining performances online and it is still unclear what it means to be 'informal online'. This panel seeks to redress this situation by placing emphasis on the performative nature of online interactions.


Bauman, Richard. 1975. ''Verbal Art as Performance.'' American Anthropologist 77: 290-311.
Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday.
Irvine, Judith T. 1979. ''Formality and Informality in Communicative Events.'' American Anthropologist 81: 773-790.
Shulman, David. 2017. The Presentation of Self in Contemporary Social Life. Los Angeles: Sage.

Call for Papers:

We would like to invite contributions which address formality and informality in a wide variety of online contexts. This includes, but is not limited to, YouTube shows, MOOCs, online dating websites and apps, Facebook, Instagram, etc. We particularly welcome empirical studies of verbal and multimodal aspects and their role in performing an online persona. Ideally, contributions address markers of online performances and what role formality and informality play in the very production of this performance. The aim of this panel is to open up the discussion of conceptualizing online behavior within a performance framework and relate this to linguistic notions of formality and informality.

Abstracts of 250 - 500 words (including references) can be submitted via the IPrA conference website Additional information regarding the abstract submission process can be found at

Page Updated: 12-Jul-2018