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Heteroglossia Online

Translocal Processes of Meaning-Making in Facebook Posts


Caroline Schilling

The nature of communicative practices today, particularly in the context of digitalized media, has revealed that earlier paradigms on language contact do not prove to be fully satisfactory. Based on 1,507 Facebook posts of German university students participating in the Erasmus exchange program, the analysis aims at exploring how posters draw on their entire repertoire of local and «translocal» semiotic resources in interactions among speakers with diverse language backgrounds. The students under examination participate in actual processes of meaning-making by refashioning the semiotic potential of various features. As a result, the interlocutors create heteroglossic and polycentric posts to decollapse collided and fuzzy contexts and to negotiate potentially large and multiple audiences.

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4. Methodological Background


4. Methodological Background

4.1 Data Basis and Participants

The following study examines 1,507 posts on the Facebook Walls/Timelines of 47 students from German universities (University of Greifswald, University of Rostock, University of Bremen) participating in the Erasmus exchange program between 2010 and 2013. The data collection started in January 2012. Due to the digital storage of previous outputs on Facebook, I was able to gain access to earlier posts on the participants’ Walls/Timelines (i.e. prior to January 2012). The Erasmus students were invited to participate in this study via email forwarded by the International Offices of the University of Greifswald, the University of Rostock and the University of Bremen. They beFriended me on Facebook. This granted me access to their posts. I adopted the method of observation without interaction. In secondary literature, this approach in the context of research in mediated environments has been termed lurking (cf. Lenihan 2011). The observation may be characterized as both overt and covert at the same time because of the inclusion of data posted prior to January 2012 and because of the potential and partial invisibility of my online presence.

The analysis focuses only on Status Updates and Wall/Timeline Posts visible on the participants’ Walls/Timelines (i.e. posts written by the participant on the Walls/Timelines of their online contacts are not included) and issued during the time of studying abroad. The students either spent one or two semesters in the Erasmus host country. The following table summarizes information...

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