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Textese and Moral Panics: Much Ado about Nothing? A Generational Comparison of Habits and Discourse Features in the Use of Instant Messaging Software

Birmingham 2013

Alfonso Sánchez

on 1 March 2013

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Transcript of Textese and Moral Panics: Much Ado about Nothing? A Generational Comparison of Habits and Discourse Features in the Use of Instant Messaging Software

Textese and Moral Panics: Much Ado about Nothing?
A Generational Comparison of Habits and Discourse Features in the Use of Instant Messaging Software
Alfonso Sánchez-Moya
- Lancaster University -
- Complutense University, Madrid - OUTLINE General introduction
Theoretical starting points
Quick literature review
Conclusions General INTRODUCTION Generational comparison of habits and discourse features in the use of Instant Messaging (IM) Software (title!) METHODOLOGY RESULTS Thanks for
listening! CONCLUSIONS and
FINAL REMARKS WHATSAPP Textese developed MORAL PANICS failure in young’s people ability to communicate using the standard variety of any language
young people cannot escape the influence of textese when using the standard version of the same code in other contexts General INTRODUCTION
(cont'd) Not enough evidence to state that neither online writing nor textese obstruct young people’s abilities to comply with the standards of any language TEXTESE a different variety of any linguistic standard, which young people consciously adopt or not according to the communicative context and its circumstances General INTRODUCTION
(cont'd) Using textese and failing to communicate using the standard variety of a language cannot be systematically associated nor can it only stand for a symptom of teenagers’ literacy/communicative practicese So... Why the generational comparison? Theoretical issues McLuhan: developments in technology are drastically reshaping and restructuring the role we play in both social and individual terms Digital communication Barton and Lee (2013): “technology is part of people’s lived experiences across all contexts" "Domestication" of technology (Berker 2005) and communication: innovations and impacts in daily life IM communication, Instant Messaging
(Whatsapp!) Theoretical issues Selfe and Hawisher’s (2004): IM is integrated into people’s everyday lives because it is not isolated from other forms of human activity in social contexts IM and its importance in contemporary communication: CENTRALITY IM as a “social practice” to be understood as a human activity in context, whose uses are in fact “socially constructed” (Lee, 2007) Theoretical issues WHATSAPP KEY FACTS AFFORDANCES Created in 2009
Downloaded more than 50.000.000 times.
By far the most popular IM software for smartphones in Spain.
Country with the highest number of users (97% of who report using it on a daily basis) Send/receive information apart from text: Emoticons, images, voice notes, videos and web links...
Simultaneous talk to a single person or to group.
No friendship request whatsoever is needed, (privacy!).
A Whatsapp™ user does still have the chance to block contacts and delete both conversations and contacts Salient linguistic features of Whatsapp conversations Adapted from: Thurlow, 2003; Crystal, 2006; Pester et al., 2009; Drouin, 2011; Barton and Lee, 2012 (English) and Mayans i Planells, 2000 (Spanish) Despite being transmitted through writing, it can be claimed that textese is closer to speech (Crystal, 2006: p. 45; Baron, 2008: p. 66) than it is to writing Some previous research on IM, textese, and its effects The pillaging, savaging and raping of language: moral panics Is it so bad? MORAL PANICS (MEDIA!) Humphrys (2007): “vandals”, “destroying”, “pillaging”, “savaging” or “raping” collocate with textese users
“textese is penmanship of illiterates” (Sutherland, 2002)
textese is “causing conflict in [teenagers’] everyday life” (Visco, 2008)
textese is flooding students’ assignments with its “errant forms” (Lee, 2002)
Equally in Spanish media: linked to words such as “alarm”, “invasion” or even “infection” (Vilches, 2011) "decidedly negative and often exaggerated, published with little regard to the actual uses of text messaging, and often in the face of evidence to the contrary” (Plester et al., 2009) Should this “mediatised [...], empirically unfounded” discourse (Thurlow, 2006) be trusted? What does research have to add to this debate? Some scholars suggest these REPORTS are Detrimental effects in
the use of textese
(academic voices) Significant and negative relationships between text messaging frequency and formal writing skills, especially in adults (Rosen et al., 2010) Continued exposure to textese might lead to forgetting form in the standard variety (Katz and Frost, 2001) Is it so bad? Positive effects in
the use of textese
(academic voices) Positive connections between textese and the notion of linguistic register and spelling (O’Connor, 2005): textese and IM raise students’ awareness of the appropriateness of some linguistic varieties possess depending on the communicative context No negative association between the frequency in using textese and negative results in literacy skills tests (Drouin, 2011) No negative association between practicing textese and children’s spelling (Plester et al., 2009; Kemp and Bushnell, 2011) Choosing textese as a communicative variety is a conscious decision (Drouin, 2011; Millán Paredes and Ruano López, 2005) Textese as “hybrid register” (Tagliamonte and Denis, 2008), which allows textese users to change their linguistic variety in different written contexts accordingly (Lewis and Fabos, 2005) Groups and participants Materials participants from both groups were asked to send an original Whatsapp™ conversation they had recently had with a peer (thirty conversations) online questionnaire (15 questions) was sent to participants in both groups. Discourse
features Two groups’ literacy practices
towards Whatsapp Generational comparison of linguistic habits in Whatsapp CLAIM: teenagers and adults use textese in a more homogenous way than originally expected conversations from teenagers contain a higher density of textese Both: non-conventional use of spelling and punctuation.
ADULTS: tendency to shorten and abbreviate words
TEENS: eager to delete more peripheral elements of discourse that do not obstruct comprehension.
TEENS: more expressive textese (more instances of stylised spelling and emoticons) Generational comparison of communicative habits in Whatsapp: textese in context Graph 1
adults: more active (or at least more unrelenting) users of Whatsapp™ Graph 2
ADULTS: less selective users, using Whatsapp™ with a wider, more mixed type of audience.
Close friends and classmates and/or colleagues as their main interlocutors.
Family as audience: differs from one generation to another. Generational comparison of communicative habits in Whatsapp: textese in context Graph 3
participants in both groups: textese is dependent on the context in which a given communicative situation takes place Graph 4
TEENS: more polarised views than adults.
TEENS: The closer the intimacy, the more frequent the use of textese.
Teenagers’ use of textese is progressively reduced as the level of familiarity decreases. Graph 5

TEENS: neither the ‘always’ nor the ‘never’ ends of the scale are so recurrent in this case. The more central ends of the scale are now more visible.
ADULTS: no such a forged view on the appropriateness of textese in particular textese, using this variety in a wider range of communicative scenarios.
Still, comparable pattern in the ‘never’ end... Adults using textese share teenagers’ assumption that the less close, the less frequent the use of textese. Generational comparison of communicative habits in Whatsapp: textese in context Graph 6, 7, and 8

Neither teenagers nor adults opted to choose messages with a high density of textese in any of the communicative contexts.
Adults: prone to make use of messages where textese is clearly present if both groups are compared (challenges Sutherland, 2002).
Teenagers more aware of the need to comply with a register if it is required by the situation. Generational comparison of communicative habits in Whatsapp: textese and spelling Both teenage and adult participants were given a text with ten mistakes (5 = traditional spelling mistakes of varied sorts, 5 = textese-driven mistakes (over-stylised punctuation or lacking capitalisation).
Participants were asked to identify as many mistakes as they could find TEENS could identify more spelling mistakes than adults, who received higher education and are active in the job market.
Sharper difference (TEENS) at the correct identification of textese-driven mistakes (teenagers and textese as a variety).
Number of teenager participants excelling at identifying mistakes is higher than in the adults’ counterpart Overuse of textese in teenagers’ IM practices should not systematically stand for a failure in complying with the standard forms of a language. Thurlow (2006) “it appears that language and technology are (once again) not only being poorly represented, but also scapegoated for a range of adult anxieties about newness, change, and perceived threats to the status quo”. Why that much ado about textese then? Teenagers = more aware than adults when identifying which communicative situations allow their use of textese (still, a real examination of these situations is needed!) Teenagers write their Whatsapp™ messages with a higher density of textese features than adults. BUTteenagers show a greater ability to recognise spelling mistakes of various sorts, especially those created following typical features of textese.
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