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Multimodality as a Sociolinguistic Resource

Collister, Lauren Brittany (2013) Multimodality as a Sociolinguistic Resource. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This work explores the use of multimodal communication in a community of expert World of Warcraft® players and its impact on politeness, identity, and relationships. Players in the community regularly communicated using three linguistic modes quasi-simultaneously: text chat, voice chat, and face-to-face interaction. Using the ethnographic methods of observation, interviews, discourse analysis, and autoethnographic writing, modes are presented with a dual-function: as resources to use within interactions, as well as heuristics which shape the form of interactions. Within interactions, the modal affordances constrain the use of modes, leading to the phenomenon of mode-switching within individual interactions to take advantage of these differences.
Not all players make the same choices, however; player identity is a factor influencing mode choice in broader interactional contexts. The assumed heterosexual masculinity of the World of Warcraft culture results in non-native English speakers, young players, non-heterosexual players, and women reporting avoidance of voice chat in situations with uncertain social expectations because they may face harassment about their identities. However, habitual avoidance of voice chat is also practiced by isolated individuals who engage in identity deception, resulting in voice chat avoidance being a marked practice that raises suspicions about player identity. Because multimodal communication is an essential component of interaction in the community, players who do not identify as heterosexual adult males find themselves in a double-bind of potential harassment or if they do use voice chat and suspicion if they do not, both of which may result in exclusion from communities and activities. This work demonstrates that multimodal discourse analysis, though often overlooked, is an essential component of research on virtual communities. Modes of communication are embedded in the linguistic fabric of a community, and choice of mode is a salient resource for navigating the social landscape.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Collister, Lauren Brittanylbc8@pitt.eduLBC80000-0001-5767-8486
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKiesling, Scott F.Kiesling@pitt.eduKIESLING
Committee MemberGooden, Shelomesgooden@pitt.eduSGOODEN
Committee MemberBrown, Laura C.lcb32@pitt.eduLCB32
Committee MemberJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Date: 8 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 March 2013
Approval Date: 8 July 2013
Submission Date: 19 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 260
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: multimodality, digital games, video games, world of warcraft, mmorpgs, chat, identity online, modal affordances, ethnography,
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2013 20:22
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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