Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: Online spaces are increasingly seen to consist of communicative spaces of “light” identity work, where people can put forth temporarily relevant parts of themselves, leaving their “thick” identities (these are the structuralist ‘demographic’ identity markers) behind in the face to face offline world. In ethnographies that examine online identities over time, however, we can see how these longer-term, stable, ‘thick’ identity features come to be revealed and inform participants’ ‘light’ identity practices. In this panel, we investigate how thick identities are conveyed over time through self-presentations in online ‘light’ groups - and we simultaneously problematize this strict dichotomy.
In this session we explore these notions of “thick” and “light” identity work - particularly in political conversations - relying on the concepts of entextualization and resemiotization (Bauman & Briggs 1990; Leppanen et al. 2014; Sinatora 2019), and stance taking (Jacknick & Avni 2016; Jaffe 2009; Heritage 2012; Sharma 2014). In so doing, we are able to explore how online participants deploy multimodal texts in positioning themselves with regard to a) a longer term, “fixed” identity; b) other participants’ identity displays; c) more temporary and moveable opinions, which connect to d) more contextualized, online or group-specific light identity features.
The set of papers in this panel approach these issues in ways that bring up the methodological adaptations that are necessary in transferring “pre-internet” social theories into online spaces, and as such, a broader goal here will be to explore how offline social theories can be transferred onto and reworked in light of the various forms of online communication currently available.