Report on the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses

In October the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses, which we sponsored, took place at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. In this post the keynote speaker, Donal Carbaugh, reports on how it went.

The study of social and cultural lives today is inextricably tied to varieties in the languages people speak, particularities in views of communal practices, and complexities in social situations. Additionally, and increasingly, there is the special case of intercultural dynamics as these play out among people of difference on social occasions. Conducting our lives in these ways places a set of demanding constraints on our studies especially if this type of study is to honor the diversity at play in languages, practices and situations.

Jan Blommaert giving his keynote speech

This conference brought together scholars from around the world who are honoring such diversity in their studies. The cohering theme was, and has been for this community, a study of discourse which honors particularity in its cultural bases, structures, and forms. One plenary by Jan Blommaert, Tilburg University, the Netherlands, explored how “the selfie” as a form contributes not only to a surveillance of one’s own activities, but also to the creation of a data profile of the user, this being used to track one’s activities, purchases, locations, and so on; How do one’s actions carry unintended consequences and what cautions should be exercised? A second plenary by me, Donal Carbaugh of the University of Massachusetts USA, examined cultural discourses of emotion in the US as these involved gendered and political themes during the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings; what emotion is expressed, and should be felt during such complicated and trying times? Professor Manuela Guilherme of the Universidade Coimbra, Portugal, explored the variety of meanings in concepts that are central to the conference’s considerations; how do we use our key terms such as intercultural and multicultural, global and local dynamics, national and transnational arenas?

Professor Shi-xu giving his keynote speech

Professor Shi-xu of Hangzhou Normal University, China, highlighted China’s discourse of its defense policy as it activates Chinese traditions and values which are both “locally grounded and globally minded”; how are international relations revealed, structured and addressed through such discourses? Shi-xu’s lecture as many throughout the conference is particularly attentive to relations of power, in this case between China and the US, which serve the interests of some over others. The critical assessment of these dynamics in discourses, and their positioning of differences, was another central challenge and theme of those gathered.

It is impossible to capture the breadth and depth of the works discussed at this conference. But here are only a few of the presentations. Afrooz Rafiee of the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, explored the ways the discourse of the news is structured in different languages and for particular audiences. Her analyses discovered that the use of metaphorical language in Iranian newscasts were not present in Dutch news. The cross-cultural comparisons revealed different ideas about what might indeed constitute news including varieties in the styles of reporting it. Pomme van de Weerd of Maastricht University, the Netherlands, explored uses of vocabulary which identified people by group category such as being a “Turk” or “Moroccan” or “Dutch.” She found that teenage girls who were good friends used terms like these in endearing ways as a sign of friendship, but at the same time the same terms were dismissed as inappropriate by their teachers. The findings carry deep significance for laypeople and others especially those concerned with legislating educational policy. Yonas Asfaha of the University of Asmara, Eritrea, juxtaposed the ideal in Eritrea of treating nine languages equally with the near impossibility of doing so. How does one align language variety and the ideals of an “equal language” policy with actual diverse occasions of use? Emma Nortio of the University of Helsinki, Finland, examined in an online Finnish chatroom how the term, “multiculturalism” is itself a carrier of deep differences in its meanings. Studies such as Nortio’s reminded conferees of how deeply meanings are specific to different discourses, languages, social occasions of use, and the accompanying views of participants in situated cultural scenes. The variety of cultural and discursive forms examined at this conference was remarkable. These included, only in part, the cultural bases of diplomacy, the narrative form, dialogue, metaphor, religious/legal/medical/racialized practice, politics, as well as many language policy issues and educational settings – among many others. The studies carried ample food for thought.

The conference embraced and has been developing an impressive international network of scholars. This year’s gathering included scholars and studies from Brazil, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Eritrea, Finland, Germany, Italy, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The next conference in two years will no doubt continue this impressive legacy by moving forward not only empirically, but also with robust theories and methodologies for the study of cultural discourses.

Donal Carbaugh
University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

 

For more information about 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses, just click the link. 

Frankfurt Book Fair 2018 Top 10

Earlier this month Laura and Tommi headed to Germany for the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. As a company we’ve been going to the fair for nearly 40 years and those who attend are well-versed in the Frankfurt experience. With that in mind, Laura has put together a Top 10 “best of” from this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

Best Part of the Drive

Laura enjoying some goulash soup on the way to the book fair

In recent years we have opted to drive down to Frankfurt, which doesn’t take as long as it seems like it might! The highlight of the trip is always the final section where we drive through the beautiful Rhine valley between Koblenz and Rüdesheim. The river is beautiful, the leaves are often just starting to turn into bright autumn colours and we always stop for some tasty goulash soup. We arrive in Frankfurt fresh and ready for the busy week ahead.

Most Interesting New Contact

We’ve long done business with the library supplier Starkmann who supply academic books to libraries mainly in Europe. However, we’d not met them in person until this year. We were delighted to meet with their Managing Director, Bernard Starkmann, and discover the uncanny similarities between our two companies: both were founded in the 1970s, passed from father to son management at around the same time and have bilingual managing directors. We were also very impressed that Bernard immediately recognised the artwork on the front of our new Multilingual Matters 2018/19 catalogue.

Most Established Contact

The Frankfurt Book Fair is a time for catching up with business contacts both long-standing, new and somewhere inbetween! There are many contenders for this section but a shout-out is definitely needed for John Benjamins, a fellow publisher of academic books on applied linguistics. Every year we stop by their stand and share a drink and a catch up with Seline Benjamins and her colleagues. Like us, their staff turnover is very low (once you find a good job in publishing you know not to leave it!) so it is nice to know that there will always be familiar friendly faces at their stand.

Noisiest Drinks Reception

Most evenings there are drinks receptions in the halls of the Frankfurt Book Fair which might take place when presses are launching new books, celebrating an anniversary or just having a sociable get together. As members of the Independent Publishers’ Guild, we tend to go to their reception which this year was in collaboration with the Australian Publishers’ Association. As we approached there seemed to be a noisier than usual hubbub and we were intrigued. On arrival we discovered that rather than ordering 24 crates of beer, the Australians had actually ordered just 24 bottles! You can imagine the outrage among tired and thirsty publishers. Luckily the order was rectified later in the evening and crates arrived to much cheer!

Most Exciting New Project

Tommi and Laura at the stand

The Frankfurt Book Fair is an excellent opportunity to meet with like-minded publishers and to discuss the latest happenings and challenges surrounding academic publishing. This year we have been working hard to draw attention to the importance of rigorous peer review and are now working together with fellow university and academic publishers to create a way of recognising the high standards to which presses like ours adhere. The intention is to announce further details in January so watch this space!

 

Favourite Dinner

Hotel prices in Frankfurt are astronomical during the book fair, so we stay in the village of Eschborn just a stone’s throw from the city. Over the years we have eaten our way round most of the eateries in Eschborn and one has emerged as our real favourite – a Croatian/German restaurant called Dalmatia. They have delicious classic German dishes such as Schnitzel and Apfelstrudel (sometimes with a Croatian twist) and always have seasonal Pfifferlinge (mushrooms) on the menu. However, this year Laura was mortified to see that the small portion of Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) that she ordered was marked on the bill as “Seniorenteller” (old person’s plate)!

Most Memorable Quote

The Frankfurt Book Fair is sometimes a time for hearing about changes in the trade (such as acquisitions, mergers and movements of staff). Speaking to one exhibitor who has recently returned to independent publishing following a spell at a corporate company was quite telling. They said that corporate companies over-train you, overpay you and underwhelm you. That may only be a small snippet from one experience but it certainly made us even more proud of our independence.

Most Popular Book

This year we published Speaking Up by Allyson Jule which is an accessible book on understanding language and gender. The book has been written with a broader audience in mind than that of our academic books which tend to have a market specific to those working in the education or tourism spheres. The academic books were certainly as popular as ever with our traditional bookselling contacts but Allyson Jule’s new book really caught the eye of the general public when the doors were opened to them at the weekend.

Most Entertaining Story

Alongside the business side of the book fair, there is plenty of catching up between publishers and contacts and sharing of stories and gossip. Mari Bergamon from EBSCO, one of our library ebook providers, said that she believes that tragedy + time = comedy. The next day we heard the story that a children’s book publisher recently had to retract a publication in which they’d listed their website with xxx in place of the real web address, meaning to fill in the correct details before press. Unfortunately, the publication went to print before they updated the link and they very quickly had to withdraw the material when they realised readers were being directed to an x-rated website! I wonder how long it will be until that is looked back on as comedy!

Most Meetings of the Fair

Crowds outside the book fair

By the end of the fair we had attended 31 meetings, plus had numerous impromptu conversations with customers, contacts and publishers both at our stands and at various receptions. We were very happy to spend our Saturday evening with our author Greg Poarch and his family who cooked us an absolutely delicious dinner, certainly a rival to any restaurant food we’ve had this week. As much as we enjoy the fair, it is really nice to have a local contact and to spend some time talking about topics other than publishing. We hope that we were not too jaded company! Greg’s son Loic is hoping to come to Bristol in January to do some work experience with us and we are really looking forward to taking our turn at hosting.

Laura

 

For those that have never been to Frankfurt Book Fair and wonder what it’s like, last year Laura and Tommi filmed every aisle of every hall! Here’s the resultant video:

Communication, Culture and Discourse: A Road Map for Cultural Discourse Studies

This autumn, the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses is due to take place. Multilingual Matters is sponsoring the conference, specifically in order to enable two early career researchers from developing countries to attend it. This post is written by one of the organisers, Shi-xu of Hangzhou Normal University, China.

With the rapid advancement in communication, commerce and travel, our world has become smaller and people more interconnected. However, this has not meant that the global village is safer, more stable, or more harmonious, but more alienated, more volatile and more unpredictable. Even after three West-East wars of the past century, hot and cold, the old wisdom of dividing up mankind into good and evil and then retaining absolute hegemony remains as alive as ever and coercion continues to hold the day. At the same time, however, that familiar, traditional order is being tipped as non-Western powers and alliances emerge and spread. In the new century we find ourselves yet again at the crossroads of war and peace, repression and development, or more.

For scholars and students of Cultural Discourse Studies (CDS), to which this conference and the affiliated journal are devoted, the current human-cultural predicament is a big challenge, but it is also an opportunity. It is a big challenge because mainstream Communication Studies (CS, including studies of language, literature, rhetoric, media and discourse) insists on a Westcentric stance and ignores cultural diversity and obscure cultural division. It is also an opportunity because CDS is equipped with not only the determination but also the tools to help change the changing world.

The chosen and enduring objectives of CDS are: (1) to undermine and subvert ethnocentrism in CS, (2) to construct culturally conscious, critical and creative paradigms of human communication that are capable of facilitating the advancement of relevant cultural discourses, and (3) to firm up a truly culturally inclusive CS scholarship that is conducive to building a harmonious, pluralist and free world.

CDS’ strategic goals, under the turbulent circumstances just alluded to, call for urgent and specific tasks to be taken up. One is to expand and consolidate the existing international community of scholars and students of diverse disciplinary and cultural backgrounds who are culturally conscious, critical and creative and committed to helping reform CS towards a more diversified and egalitarian scholarship. Another is for this breed of researchers to utilize effective platforms and channels to discuss, formulate and promulgate a common vision for human communication and to invent practical ways to reach that consensus. Still another is to continue efforts to establish and improve relevant frameworks of cultural discourses in order to critically study and to guide particular practices. Yet another is to expose and subvert culturally divisive, discriminatory and domineering discourses on the one hand and to discover and promote culturally inclusive, dialogical and harmonious ones on the other hand.

For more information about the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses, just click the link.

EuroSLA 2018 in Münster

This year’s annual EuroSLA conference took place earlier this month in the historical cathedral city of Münster in Germany. As usual, it was a very lively conference with a packed academic and social programme, providing plenty of opportunities for discussion, conversation, sharing ideas and meeting with delegates, both familiar and new.

Laura at the MM Stand
Laura at the MM Stand

Books in our SLA series are always popular with the delegates and this year I was really pleased to have the brand-new book Mind Matters in SLA (edited by Clare Wright, Thorsten Piske and Martha Young-Scholten) on the stand.  Many thanks to Sarah, our Head of Production, and Short Run Press, the printer, for getting copies to the office in time for me to bring to EuroSLA in my suitcase! As the book has not yet arrived at our warehouse it is not yet officially published, so delegates (and contributors to the book) were excited to be holding the book ahead of the official publication date!

Other popular books at the conference were Rod Ellis’ new volume Reflections on Task-Based Language Teaching, Edward Zhisheng Wen’s book Working Memory and Second Language Learning and titles on early language learning, such as those edited by Maria Pilar Garcia Mayo (Learning Foreign Languages in Primary School) and Janet Enever & Eva Lindgren (Early Language Learning).

Münster town centre
Münster town centre

During the quiet moments between breaks I was able to attend a number of sessions and some of the keynotes. A notable highlight for me was Raphaele Berthele’s keynote speech, titled ‘Policy recommendations for language learning: Linguists’ contributions between scholarly debates and pseudoscience’. It was an extremely engaging talk during which he skilfully used humour and personal examples to discuss the important questions surrounding the role of researchers in policy recommendations; the kind of research that can potentially inform policy and what researchers should know before they give recommendations.

That keynote was followed by the opening conference drinks reception which took place in the festival hall within the city’s town hall. As well as enjoying refreshments in the historic building, we were also able to visit the Friedenssaal (Peace hall), where treaties were signed to end the Thirty Years’ War and Eighty Years’ War in 1648. I enjoyed hearing the stories surrounding some of the engravings in the hall including one about a captured village where the captors permitted the women of the village to flee, carrying their one most important belonging. What they didn’t realise was what the women would choose…the engraving showed women carrying their husband prisoners from the village!

There was also a lively conference dinner beside Münster’s city lake and I enjoyed spending my afternoon off before travelling home pottering around the large biweekly farmers’ market on the city square, visiting the city museum and wandering round the cobbled streets, as well as sampling local food and drink of course!

Laura

TEFI conference, Lapland, 3-6 June 2018

I have been hoping to go to a TEFI (Tourism Education Futures Initiative) conference for a few years but hadn’t managed it until this year when I made it to #TEFI10, hosted by the University of Lapland in Pyhätunturi, Finland.

This conference experience was definitely worth the wait. TEFI has a real family feel to it and it was lovely to see how supportive and encouraging everyone is of each other and how welcome new delegates (and publishers!) were made to feel. The conference theme was ‘Knowing with Nature – The Future of Tourism Education in the Anthropocene’ so a lot of the conference was spent outdoors and only vegan food was served.

DSC_1512
Post-keynote discussion

The opening keynote was delivered outdoors by Gunnar Thor Jóhannesson, which was quite the feat as it was pretty chilly and a bit damp – a good getting-to-know-you session for delegates as we were all huddled together for warmth! 🙂

Over the next two days followed five sessions of absorbing papers and another really good keynote, this time from Tijana Rakić, and both days offered the chance to get out in the forest. The first day there was a yoga in nature session and the second day there was an afternoon hike. The walk was interspersed with panel discussions, including a great talk from Seija Tuulentie about PoLut, a project aimed at actively encouraging immigrants to come and settle in Lapland – which was great to hear. The hikes were an amazing opportunity to experience the Finnish landscape (while learning!). It was beautiful and a really nice memory for us all to take away with us. The conference closed with breakout sessions to reflect on what we had learned during the conference and how best we can all enact TEFI values in our own work.

While I was in Finland I managed to visit a few places, and from Helsinki I got the ferry to Tallinn and enjoyed wandering round the Old Town (the return ferry karaoke was also something to behold). Post-TEFI some of the conference delegates stayed the night in Rovaniemi and the next day we felt that as Santa Claus Village was on the way to the airport it would be rude not to go and meet the man himself. So exciting!! 🙂

I’m really glad that I finally got to a TEFI conference and am grateful to all of the organisers and Dianne Dredge and Johan Edelheim for a great conference experience. I am looking forward to TEFI11!

Sarah

Laura’s Trip to Japan

This June, the third Psychology of Language Learning (PLL3) conference took place at Waseda University, Japan.  Japan is one of our biggest markets and a country that we try and visit every few years in order to stay in touch with what’s happening in the Japanese academic book sector. PLL3 therefore gave me the perfect excuse to make my first trip over. As I have recently moved into my new job as Head of Sales, I am keen to learn all about the different markets in which we sell our books, how they differ and the challenges and prospects for each one. I structured my trip with the first part comprising sales meetings, and the conference making up the final (but by no means lesser!) few days.

Koro on the way to a meeting at the National Ethnology Library in Osaka

The first part of the trip provided an ideal opportunity for me to meet our key contacts, ask zillions of questions and to get the kind of understanding of the market that it is impossible to do by email from our office in Bristol. As with several territories, we have a local Japanese rep, Koro, who looks after our key accounts on a day-to-day basis. Having been emailing Koro for the past 8 years, it was great to finally put a face and a personality to an email address.  Koro arranged numerous visits for me during my stay, in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and was a fantastic source of knowledge of the market. We also bonded over a love of music and fresh air and not panicking when we couldn’t find the right building for a meeting (Japanese maps are a complete mystery to me)!

Spot some of our books in Kinokuniya’s central Tokyo academic bookshop!

We met with booksellers (including our biggest customers Kinokuniya, Maruzen and MHM), librarians, academics and subject specialists, in both linguistics and tourism studies. We have a number of exciting titles which were of specific interest to the contacts, most notably the forthcoming book on akogare (desire) by Japanese author Chisato Nonaka and the recently published 3rd edition of Sport Tourism Development which sparked interested because of the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and Tokyo 2020 Olympics. As well as meetings by day, we went out for drinks and dinner with a number of our contacts, at which I learnt a lot about Japanese culture, food and alcohol!

After the sales part of my trip, I took a day off to reset my brain from sales to editorial work and to enjoy the sights of Tokyo. Sadly, it was a wet break (the rainy season had just begun), but as I had been fortunate enough to enjoy some sunshine the previous weekend, I was not too disheartened to have to spend the day browsing cookware shops on the famous Kappabashi Street and enjoying tea and cake in various tea shops when I needed a break from the torrential downpours!

Laura at the PLL3 conference

The PLL conference is now in its third meeting and I am fortunate to have been able to attend all three (you can also read about previous conferences in Graz and Jyväskylä on our blog) and to see the event evolve and thrive over time. This year, Waseda University welcomed 375 delegates from both across Japan and around the world. Stephen Ryan and his colleagues and students meticulously organised and hosted a conference that both lived up to and went beyond previous editions.

Richard Ryan giving his opening plenary

Among the highlights of the gathering were the plenaries which were always packed and stimulating. Richard Ryan opened the conference with a talk on self-determination theory and Ema Ushioda ended the first day with a thought-provoking talk questioning the social purpose of academic research. The plenaries of the second day saw Mimi Bong introduce her work on achievement goals and Lourdes Ortega asked how the field of PLL can address issues of social justice. On the final morning, Jean-Marc Dewaele gave a rousing introduction to the closing speaker, Zoltan Dornyei, who focused on the topic of perseverance within the domain of motivation. The final slot is always a tough one (especially the morning after the conference dinner!) but it certainly enthused and engaged delegates who hung around in the entrance foyer long after the conference was officially over.

Multilingual Matters book display

Alongside the plenaries, the programme was packed full of sessions and social events. And of course, I was kept busy in the book exhibit. Popular titles included Language Teacher Psychology (edited by Mercer & Kostoulas), Language Learner Autonomy (Little et al), Emerging Self-Identities and Emotion in Foreign Language Learning (Miyahara) and Portraits of Second Language Learners (Muramatsu), which was so hot off the press that I had had to bring copies straight from the office in my suitcase!

The conference was also a good platform for the new IAPLL association to be launched and for delegates to hear more about the benefits of membership. With the new association and another successful conference gone by, the stage is now set for the continued development of this subsection of the field and I am already looking forward to PLL4, which is due to take place in June 2020 in Canada.

Laura

Flo’s Trip to ICFSLA 2018 in Szczyrk, Poland

Last week I attended the 30th annual International Conference on Foreign and Second Language Acquisition (ICFSLA) conference in Szczyrk, Poland. This conference is well-loved by those who’ve attended regularly over the years, and upon arrival I was struck by how welcoming everyone was and what a warm and friendly atmosphere the organisers had created, despite the unseasonably chilly, rainy May weather!

As Multilingual Matters hadn’t been to this conference since 2015, the delegates seemed pleased to see us and find that they could actually buy the books we were displaying. Our SLA series was so popular among the conference-goers that a few of them assumed that was the name of the publisher, not realising it was just one of a number of our series! Alongside the SLA books, the first book in our new PLLT series, Language Teacher Psychology (coedited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas), was a particular favourite, selling out on the first day.

David Singleton giving his plenary

The theme of this year’s conference was “Identity in Second Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Learning” and I was able to take some time out from manning my stand to go to the plenaries by our authors and series editors Rod Ellis, David Singleton, Sarah Mercer and Simone Pfenninger. Topics discussed included social identity and language development in study abroad, bi-/multilingual communication and identity, language teacher identity and third age identity, and it was nice to have the opportunity to see our authors in action!

Apart from a packed programme of plenaries and sessions, the conference organisers also put on some great entertainment in the evenings. First up was an “Evening of Memories” in which ICFSLA enthusiasts past, present and regretfully absent reminisced (some by audio/video!) about the past 30 years, accompanied by a slideshow of ICFSLA conferences gone by, and with many fond memories of the late Janusz Arabski, the conference’s founder.  A special surprise was saved for the last night, when, following the conference dinner, we all trooped up to the bar, where the conference organisers had arranged a concert by Polish a cappella sea shanty band, Banana Boat. The band was brilliant, and somehow I found myself singing along, despite most of the songs being in Polish! The disco at the end of the night rounded off the conference nicely, with some serious dance moves being exhibited well into the early hours.

Flo

‘The Pleasures of an Alias on Social Media’ by Jan Blommaert

Ahead of the 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses later this year (which we are sponsoring), plenary speaker, Jan Blommaert, has written an inspiring piece initiating conversation around some of the themes of the conference. 

Jan Blommaert

One of the intriguing things I keep hearing from people who are active on social media is that they use an alias there, because the use of their real name would prevent them from ‘being myself’. This always triggers a critical question from me: isn’t your real name part of your core identity? And how can you really be yourself when you avoid using that absolute and primary identity label of yours – your real name?

While the point might seem trivial to some, it is quite a challenge to widespread perceptions of what it is to be ‘real’. In his classic Seeing Like a State, James Scott explained at great length how important the use of fixed and structured personal names was for the emerging nation-states of Modernity. The names we got (often somewhere in the 18th-19th century) became the alpha and omega of the bureaucratic system of governance: when a name could be conclusively stuck on an individual, that individual was ‘known’ and could be treated as a subject with rights, entitlements, duties and obligations derived from bureaucratically administered laws and rules. We carry our names, consequently, on a range of identity documents: passport, social security or health insurance card, driver’s licence, staff card, library card, and so forth; we write and read our names on the top of thousands of official documents that regulate our everyday lives. Why? Because our names identify us as real, as really existing persons that can be identified, held responsible, involved or excluded from social and political processes. In view of that, avoiding using your real name, hiding it from others or giving a false name when asked for it, is strongly associated with deviance, abnormality, transgression and crime.

On social media, however, the practice is widespread. Very large numbers of otherwise decent and upstanding citizens operate ‘undercover’, if you wish, hiding behind the mask of a bogus name and arguing that it is this mask that enables them to be ‘real’ in interactions with others on social media. It shows us how different the rules and codes of social media interaction are, and how these technologies have shaped a different area of social action operating alongside those of the ‘real’ world of nation-state bureaucratic and social life.

The people I know and had the occasion to talk to about this practice argued that an alias grants them a modicum of freedom of speech on social media. In that sense, it offered them some degree of freedom to speak freely, without the obstacles and restrictions generated by offline life. Their real names, as said above, connect them to the rights and entitlements, but also the restrictions of offline existence, and such restrictions might be compelling. Their employers, for instance, might not be amused by some of the Tweets posted by known employees; such expressions of individual opinion and subjectivity could get them into trouble with political patrons, relatives or other members of the offline communities in which they function. The structures of their ‘real’ offline social existence, in short, prevent them from speaking freely in the public sphere generated by social media.

The use of an alias, thus, is usually an effect of conscious and calibrated decisions in which the opportunities of the online public culture are weighed against the conventional restrictions of offline public culture. Different sets of norms and codes of conduct are measured against each other, and the conclusion for these people is that you can only be uniquely and really yourself on social media when you delete or mask your real name – when you become someone else or remain an anonymous voice, in other words.

I see this as part of ‘the care of the selfie’. We are familiar with the argument developed by a range of scholars, from Foucault to Goffman, that our social existence in Modernity is dependent on large and infinitely detailed sets of norms and regulations for impression management, aimed at appearing as a ‘normal’ subject in the eyes of others. These norms and regulations are socially sanctioned, and all of us are invited to internalize and incorporate them through self-regulation and self-censorship – the things Foucault called ‘the care of the self’. What the use of aliases on social media demonstrates, I think, is how this offline care of the self is now complemented by similar sets of norms and regulations governing our online social lives. The use of aliases, along with a range of other practices, is part of a constructed ‘selfie’, an identity designed solely for online presence.

When meticulously constructed, maintained and applied, this selfie offers us the pleasures of aspects of social life not attainable elsewhere. Or, if you wish, it offers us membership into a community culture that runs in conjunction with the cultures of offline communities but can no longer be detached from it. Which is why we can be truly ourselves there in very different ways from those we practice elsewhere.

You can read more about the themes of the conference in this post on our blog.

AAAL and TESOL in the Windy City

Last month I headed off to Chicago with Anna and Tommi for my first international trip with MM – a week of back to back conferences, starting with AAAL and ending with TESOL. After a nice, relaxing flight over, I arrived in Chicago ready to dive straight into the first day of AAAL the following morning.

On the walk to the conference hotel on the first morning, I truly understood how Chicago got its “Windy City” nickname. It was absolutely freezing! No matter which way you turned, hoping the next block would offer some shelter, the gusts coming off the lake seemed to find you. It was a relief to arrive and hunker down in basement where the exhibit hall was located.

Tommi, Anna and Flo at AAAL

After a fairly relaxed start, it was quite the baptism of fire when the first coffee break brought a flurry of people downstairs to the exhibit hall, and every subsequent break continued in the same vein, with all three of us scrabbling for pens, order forms and books at once. Still, it was great to see so much enthusiasm for our books and it was a really successful conference in terms of sales, with Jan Blommaert’s new book, Dialogues with Ethnography, and Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll proving particularly popular.

Dinner with Wayne Wright

It was also a really good opportunity for me to finally meet so many of the people I’ve been emailing back and forth with over the past three and a half years, and put faces to names. We were even able to spend time with a couple of our authors after the conference over dinner and had lovely meals out with Wayne Wright, and Maggie Hawkins and her son, Sam. I particularly enjoyed sampling the culinary delights Chicago has to offer, including deep dish pizza, steak and the best Brussels sprouts I have ever encountered in my life!

With AAAL over and Anna on a flight back to the UK, Tommi and I headed straight off to the convention centre where this year’s TESOL was being held. It was a totally different experience for me, having never exhibited in a convention centre before, and I couldn’t believe the sheer scale of the place. After a quiet start, our stand got busier and busier, and by the time Tommi left for home on the penultimate day, I was rushed off my feet! Again, sales were good and it was particularly pleasing to take so many preorders of Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry’s forthcoming book, Educating Refugee-background Students, due out in May.

It being my first time in Chicago, I took the opportunity wherever possible to see some of the sights at the end of each day at the conference. I ventured off to Millennium Park to see the famous Bean sculpture there, visited the Art Institute (where the highlight, aside from the collections of famous paintings, were the incredible Thorne Miniature Rooms) and waited in what felt like the world’s longest queue to go up the Willis Tower and try out “The Ledge”, a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the 103rd floor!

Flo

 

IATEFL 2018 – Laura’s trip to the conference in Brighton

Last week I attended the annual International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) conference in Brighton. It’s 7 years since we last attended the conference, and the first time I had been myself, so I was interested to see what it would be like.

Laura on the MM stand at IATEFL

It was clear from the opening evening exhibit hall preview that it was going to be a busy conference and that three of our titles would be vying for the spot of our conference bestseller.  They were:

Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development, edited by Dat Bao. Fresh off the press (published just last month), this title was really popular with educators and academics, looking for the latest research on ELT materials design.

Language Learner Autonomy, by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen. The latter two authors were at the conference and as active members of the IATEFL LASIG they were busy letting delegates know about their new publication.

Language Teacher Psychology, edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas. Sarah Mercer had been the plenary speaker at last year’s conference and many delegates were already aware of this exciting new book. I especially enjoyed meeting friends and colleagues of the editors, who were happy to let them know the good news of the book’s popularity, sometimes by taking a photo of the book at the stand to send to them!

Laura beside the Brighton Pier

Having not been to this conference before, many of the delegates were unknown to me and it was great for us to be able to reach a new audience, especially one that is so teacher focused. I was, however, also pleased to see a few familiar faces in the IATEFL crowd, including Janet Enever, the series editor of our new Early Language Learning in School Contexts series and author Carol Griffiths, whose new book is so new that I had to bring copies straight from the office.

As well as being my first visit to IATEFL, it was also my first trip to Brighton. As someone who loves the sea, I thoroughly enjoyed getting a good dose of sea air on my way to the conference every morning and treating myself to fish and chips on the beach at the end of the busy week. I managed to explore a bit of Brighton on the one dry and sunny evening of the week and loved what I saw…Brighton is definitely a UK city I’d love to return to for a holiday (ideally when the weather is a bit better!)

Laura