Dissertation Defense: Laura West
Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 3 pm, Poulton Hall room 230
Facebook 2.0: A Sociolinguistic Study Of Like, Coherence, And Epistemic Stancetaking In Facebook Discourse
Dissertation Advisor: Heidi E. Hamilton, Ph.D.
Committee Member: Anna Marie Trester, Ph.D.
Committee Member: Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday June 16 if you will attend
This investigation provides a linguistic analysis of discourse on Facebook. I combine ethnographic methods of data collection with the goals of interactional sociolinguistics and the systematic approach of conversation analysis to illuminate discursive practices on the site. Crucially, I detail the many off-screen influences on members' online interactional decisions, such as media ideologies and personal relationships, as well as the platform-specific affordances and challenges that support and problematize Facebook social interaction. I offer three analytical chapters focusing on related discursive aspects – the responsive meanings of Like, conversational coherence, and epistemic rights on Facebook – interpreting the findings in the context of the Facebook newsfeed and collapsed context (boyd 2008) audience.
I assert that the Like button is a highly nuanced discursive device, and reveal how participation frameworks specific to each post, both imagined and actual, contribute to the employment and evaluation of Like. I then inspect the construction of coherence between Facebook posts and Comments. Specifically, I demonstrate how posters draw on (near)immediate experiences for topical resources and how members create cohesive and intertextual ties with the poster's offline situation to build a coherent Facebook text. Finally, I examine the precarious act of epistemic stancetaking on Facebook. I outline how members use offline and online discourse to negotiate epistemic rights that are threatened by the site's reported actions and newsfeed and by "friends" overlapping epistemic claims.
This investigation contributes to computer-mediated communication and sociolinguistic literature by using established units of discursive analysis such as adjacency pairs (Schegloff & Sacks 1973), cohesive ties (Halliday & Hasan 1976), and first and second assessment positions (Heritage & Raymond 2005) as well as grounded frameworks such as intertextuality and epistemic rights to illuminate Facebook discourse. I hold that Facebook's size and influence make it a particularly important site for sociolinguistic discovery, sharing in Tannen and Trester's (2013: ix) conviction that social media "provide a new means of understanding who we are and how we connect through language."