11 May 2011

Talk at Lancaster on 9 June

I will be giving an invited talk at Lancaster University next month (9 June). The title and abstract follow:
'We listen to god': Metaphor, impoliteness, and dominance in a YouTube drama episode
The often overwhelming presence of antagonistic, impolite interaction on YouTube has been the object of much popular and academic interest. In an attempt to understand how this interaction affects the emergence of informal group formation and user affiliation, a two-year longitudinal observation of Evangelical Christian users was undertaken in which episodes of antagonistic interaction were identified. Discourse activity was then analysed focusing on the categories and metaphorical language users employed to position themselves and others. This presentation will focus on one 'drama' episode in which an Evangelical Christian user referred to an atheist user as 'human garbage'. Consequently, both Evangelicals Christian and non-Christian users interacted with and interpreted the 'human garbage' metaphor, making arguments for and against the appropriacy of the term both in terms of YouTube social norms and as an interpretation of a Biblical parable (John 15:1-8). Findings will show: first, that users extended metaphors from the Biblical text, but used new metaphors in creative and novel ways (including 'human garbage'), extending and adapting metaphors to fit new discourse contexts; second, that metaphor use created a unique affordance for users to speak vaguely about other users as well as what is or is not appropriate behaviour on YouTube; and third, that group formation was observed in the positions users took while drawing on categories which often employed metaphor.