‘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.

The Sport Tourist Experience

This month we are publishing the third edition of Sport Tourism Development by James Higham and Tom Hinch. In this post, James reflects on one point of inspiration for the book, and his own experiences of sport tourism.

Sarah’s recent blog post, Tales from a Sport Tourist, provides some interesting insights into tourist experiences of sport. It has long been recognised that sports and particularly mega-sports events offer much potential to generate recurrent flows of tourists, and to unlock the considerable social and economic development potential of sport and tourism. When Tom and I first starting thinking about the links between sport and tourism, it initially occurred to us that beyond event tourism, little dedicated attention had been paid to aspects of sport-related tourism that lie beyond sports fans like Sarah, and the spectator flows generated by big sports events. Indeed, as we were researching and writing the third edition over the course of the last year or so, it occurred to us that one important aspect of sport-related tourism that has grown and diversified incredibly in recent years, is engagement in non-elite competitive sports and, indeed, the development of sports events that cater not only for elite/professional athletes, but for all levels of competitive, social and recreational engagements in sports. Big city marathons (London, New York and Boston among others) are great examples, where world record holders and Olympic champions compete alongside recreational runners, who may be running in fancy dress costumes, while engaged in deeply personal charity awareness and fund-raising campaigns.

The image on the cover of our third edition is taken from the Hawea Epic, an event held in April each year that is branded ‘New Zealand’s ultimate mountain bike challenge’. The ‘Epic’ starts and finishes at the Hawea Pub, with the not insignificant challenge or riding the 125km around the lake in between. The 2018 Epic was on 14th April. For the last two years the ‘Epic’ took place on glorious days of still, mild autumn weather, but the weather in the New Zealand at the same time this year was freezing cold with snow falling to 300m. This made it tougher than usual in the wet and cold conditions. However, participants came to the event from far and wide.

Some of those participants came to Hawea with competitive goals and ambitions, but many others had deeply personal and emotional reasons to participate. I competed in the Epic for the seventh time this year but the physical and mental challenge was only one reason for my participation. In 2013 I competed in the Epic in wintery conditions similar to the weather in Otago this year. I completed the race in 7 hours and 48 minutes and at the end of the race, utterly exhausted, I found out via a text message that a close family member had passed away while I was racing. In the weeks and months following, I vowed to go back to Hawea each year in April to race in their memory, and that is what I did earlier this month.

Bridgit from New Canaan Village in Kenya

This year, I have added another layer of personal meaning to my sport tourism experience. Following a chance meeting with a complete stranger on a mountain bike trail in Wanaka in January I have signed up to a charity NGO called So They Can that supports educational opportunities for children in Africa. So this year I travelled to Hawea to raise funds for Bridgit, a five year old girl who lives in New Canaan Village in Kenya. All funds raised will go to ensure Bridgit can start school this year. She will get two meals a day, access to clean water and medical care and school stationery and books. I am aiming to raise $NZ800 to meet these costs for the first year of her schooling. You can make a small donation at this website if you are inclined: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/bridgit-is-epic. Like Sarah’s accounts of her sport spectator experiences, these personal accounts offer unique insights into important aspects of the sport tourist experience.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism and Cricket edited by Tom Baum and Richard Butler. 

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

Publishing FAQs: The Marketing Process

The marketing process is managed by me as Head of Marketing and I am assisted by Flo who is Marketing and Publishing Coordinator. Together, we make sure that we publicise each book to booksellers, retailers and individuals as well as across our social media channels. We also produce print catalogues and regular email newsletters to promote our books and ensure we inform relevant organisations and groups. We receive all kinds of queries throughout the marketing process so I’ve attempted to answer some of the most common questions here.

When will you start marketing my book?

Elinor and Flo about to have their monthly marketing meeting

As soon as a book goes into production we begin the marketing process. This will be approximately 6 months before publication. We create an individual marketing plan for each title and incorporate both the commissioning editor and the author’s suggestions. You can read more about this process in Flo’s blog post.

Can I buy copies of my book at a discount?

Yes, as an author you are entitled to a 50% discount on all our titles, including your own book. We will also provide you with a discount flyer for you to send to all your friends and colleagues and take to any talks you are giving or conferences you’re attending.

The price of my book is incorrect on Amazon / My book isn’t available on Amazon. Can you fix this?

We can’t make changes directly to Amazon’s site but if there are any errors such as prices, publication date, title etc we can request for these to be updated as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we’re unable to prompt Amazon to place an order so sometimes your book may be marked as unavailable due to a delay in them ordering stock.

Will my book be on sale in my local Waterstones?

It’s possible that Waterstones will stock your book if it’s a university branch and the book is a course book at your institution. Otherwise it’s unlikely that your book will be available as they stock very few high level academic titles in their high street stores. However, the main sales of our titles come from other sources so please don’t be concerned if your local bookshop isn’t stocking your book.

Will you be marketing my book on social media?

Yes, definitely! We market all our books through our various social media channels. Campaigns are always more successful when the author is involved so we send our authors a detailed guide to marketing on social media at the start of the marketing process.

Can I post about my book on Facebook?

Yes please do! Although we market all our books through our own channels, it’s always far more effective for authors to utilise their own personal contacts to sell their book.

Can you send a review copy of my book to X journal?

We are happy to send review copies of your book to relevant journals and will be asking for suggestions at the start of the marketing process. Please be aware that some journals don’t have a book review section and therefore will be unable to review the book.

Do I have to fill in an author questionnaire?

Yes you do, and your commissioning editor will send it to you at the appropriate time. The information you provide on your author questionnaire is vital for helping us to understand how best to market your book and to reach the appropriate audience. It is also the best way of sharing any of your own existing contacts and any other ideas you have for marketing your book.

Will you be organising a book launch for my book?

We’re not able to organise book launches for every book but if you are organising an event, please let us know so that we can arrange for copies to be sent in good time, and if it’s local or we happen to be in the area, we may even be able to attend. Equally, if there is a conference where a book event is appropriate we would be happy to support you with marketing materials.

Will my book be featured in mainstream media?

Our books do occasionally get picked up in mainstream media but these are exceptions, not the norm. However, if your book relates to a topical or controversial issue that is currently being covered in the media then it’s possible that it can be featured. Any media contacts you have or ideas for publications for us to approach are very helpful.

Can I have a free copy of my book for my mum?

Yes of course! On the author questionnaire you can list people who you would like to receive a copy of your book. We usually suggest that you list influential people in your field who will be interested in your work and may help promote it, but of course you can list your mum as one of your recipients.

Will all the contributors to my book receive a free copy?

What the contributors will receive is stated in the contributor agreements which are signed early in the editorial process. If you have any queries about this, please contact your commissioning editor.

My conference displayWill my book be on display at X conference?

If you have listed the conference on your author questionnaire we will do our best to get some publicity there. Unfortunately we don’t have an unlimited budget and the costs of some conferences are so prohibitive that we’re unable to attend all those that we would like to.

Why isn’t my book going to be published in paperback?

The decision of whether to publish your book in paperback and hardback or hardback only is made by the commissioning editor and the rest of the team. Your commissioning editor is your best contact for this question.

Will my book be listed in your catalogue?

Yes all our recent books will be included in our main catalogue which is printed each year in September. Go to our website to join our mailing list to ensure you receive a copy.

If you have any queries about social media or review copies, please contact Flo at flo@multilingual-matters.com. For all other marketing queries please contact me at elinor@multilingual-matters.com.

Elinor

Linguistic Stereotypes in Academic Discourse

This month we published a new edition of Understanding Language Use in the Classroom by Susan J. Behrens, which now includes teaching materials for college educators. In this post Susan reveals what we can expect from the new edition.

My latest project with the wonderful team at Multilingual Matters is an updated and expanded edition of my 2014 book Understanding Language Use in the Classroom: A Linguistic Guide for College Educators. The original text was my way of offering teachers in higher education accessible lessons in the ways language works, a kind of Linguistics 101 in question and answer format about all aspects of language, especially academic discourse. I think a lot about the intersection of linguistics and pedagogy because I am a linguist, and I direct the teaching and learning center at Marymount Manhattan College. Long ago I saw how linguistics and pedagogy fit together, and most of my work involves making connections between the two.

Feedback I received from many readers of the original text asked me how they could use the material directly with their students, as lessons and assignments. With this new edition, Understanding Language Use in the Classroom: Including Teaching Materials for College Educators, I take on linguistic stereotypes often found in the media. We are all rather susceptible to the many ubiquitous but unchallenged images about language and language users in the media and popular culture (for a taste of language snarkiness and snobbery, check out “Word Crimes” by Weird Al Yankovic). In 2016, I worked with students to examine how Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites depict accents and dialects. We also found in popular culture plenty of statements that men and women “speak different languages.” My students found numerous examples of young women being criticized for using vocal fry and up talk. We considered what goes into the perception of a “gay voice.” And we tackled the assumptions that our very hometown, New York City, is the center of linguistic rudeness.

Why study stereotypes? Public perception and popular impressions of language – whether or not accurate, and often magnified by media – can set into motion, as well as reinforce, bias against groups of people. Nuances and complexities, not a stereotype’s strengths, are lost when we make grand claims about language use and language users, their grammar, accents, and dialects.

The additional material in this book – which takes it into the digital realm with PowerPoint slides, images, and URL links – offers lesson plans and instructor guidance material. Each lesson is connected to a chapter in the original book and extends that chapter, encouraging more exploration, more hands-on linguistic investigation. The pedagogical material is not just for linguistics classes. I wanted to make it adaptable to various audiences and class schedules, and I have included suggestions for customizing the lessons, including assignments that can be both in-class activities and research projects.

The original material is still there: a discussion of academic discourse and its role in higher education, the “conversations” about all levels of language, as well as sample worksheets, references and other resources. Since my work on linguistics for educators is ongoing, I have also updated the book with discussions about research conducted since 2014.

Every step of the process (for both editions) has been made exciting and smooth thanks to the Multilingual Matters team: Tommi, Anna, Sarah, Laura, Elinor, and Flo. Since the first book came out, I also got to meet some of these folks when they traveled to the US for conferences. Thanks for all the good chats, especially about Moomins.

Susan J. Behrens, Marymount Manhattan College

sbehrens@mmm.edu

http://susanjbehrens.wordpress.com

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Developing Intercultural Perspectives on Language Use by Troy McConachy.

What is “The Tornado Effect”? Successful Language Learning and Strategy Use and Development

We recently published the second edition of The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning by Carol Griffiths. In this post Carol explains how the new edition builds on the first and introduces us to the new concept of “The Tornado Effect”.

The book begins with the author explaining why, from personal experience, she believes learning strategies to be important, and a number of other personal narratives from well-known people in the learning strategy field are also quoted. This second edition builds on the material in the first edition, but with a number of important additions. In particular:

  • The existing literature has been updated, since quite a lot has been written in the five years since the first edition was published.
  • The conceptual perspectives have been refined and extended. The issue of strategy definition has been tackled again, and some adjustment made in light of the ongoing debate. The underlying theory has also been re-examined and extended, along with issues of strategy classification. Issues of strategy effectiveness have been considered, especially in light of contextual, target and individual differences. And research methodology, which has attracted criticism in the past, has also been addressed, with suggestions added for data collection and analysis.
  • In the section dealing with quantitative perspectives, new studies have been added and the old studies have been re-analysed.
  • The qualitative section, which examines interview data obtained from students of different levels of proficiency, ages and genders, and varying learning strategy use has been updated and extended
  • The section on pedagogical perspectives has also been considerably extended, with further consideration of issues of strategy instruction. Most notably, strategies appropriate to different knowledge areas (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and function/pragmatics) and skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) have been added and/or extended
  • In addition, the glossary, which received much positive appraisal in the first edition for its helpful definitions of key concepts, has been updated and extended.

So, why the Tornado Effect? The Tornado Effect hypothesises that learning is not a linear process: it is spiral, with one piece of knowledge or skill helping to support the next, and so on, in an ever-increasing spiral, much the way a tornado expands into a powerful force. As the section on pedagogical perspectives concludes: “If we could only discover how to harness the power of this Tornado Effect, what a wonderful teaching/learning tool we would have!”

For more information about this book please see our website.  

Communication in the Multilingual City – the TLANG conference

While my colleagues were gallivanting off to AAAL and TESOL in Chicago, or holding the fort in the office, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the TLANG conference at the University of Birmingham at the end of March. TLANG is a big AHRC funded project that aims to understand how people communicate multilingually across diverse languages and cultures and the conference was the final event, bringing together work focused on the theme of communication in the city.

Betsy Rymes' keynote speech
Betsy Rymes’ keynote speech

The conference offered a wealth of papers, colloquia and some excellent keynotes, by Betsy Rymes, Annalies Kusters, Tong-King Lee, Ana Deumert and Jan Blommaert (whose work was presented by Massimiliano Spotti). Betsy Rymes opened the conference and spoke on the topic of citizen linguistics, the work language users do to make sense of their surroundings, and illustrated her keynote with local examples, asking for example what a Brummie is and how they speak, as well as a discussion of the ghost emoji, which has always been a mystery to me!

Annalies Kusters introduced the audience to her work on multimodal interactions and the use of gestures by signing and non-signing interlocutors in India. She showed us wonderful examples from her film ‘Ishaare: Gestures and signs in Mumbai’, in which we saw fluent deaf and deafblind signers negotiating the marketplace and interacting with non-signing stallholders. Her keynote was an especially engaging end to the day as it was impressively and seamlessly presented in both sign language and spoken English.

Ana Deumert's keynote speech
Ana Deumert’s keynote speech

The second day was opened by Tong-King Lee, who spoke of his own experiences with translanguaging and advanced the idea of translanguaging as an experiential phenomenon. I was interested in his example of how one might successfully communicate one’s order for Chinese tea in a Singapore coffee shop, by using the action of fishing to demonstrate the dunking of the teabag! In the following plenary, Ana Deumert took the audience away from her hopeful 2016 work and asked whether life is not always friendly and accepting, and questioned what the limits of conviviality are. She spoke about confrontation, violence, anger and the persistence and importance of identities, and accompanied her arguments with archival videos and photos, as well as a discussion of posts and comments on colonial nostalgia from social media and online communities.

My conference display
My conference display

When not in sessions, the coffee and lunch breaks were busy affairs, and I was kept on my toes at the stand as delegates snapped up our latest publications The Multilingual Citizen edited by Lisa Lim, Christopher Stroud and Lionel Wee and Dialogues of Ethnography by Jan Blommaert, as well as the books in our new Translation and Interpreting for Social Justice in a Globalised World series.

Laura

Our office is closed for the Easter break from Friday 30 March and will reopen on Wednesday 4 April. Happy Easter!

Tales from a Sport Tourist

Next month we will be publishing the third edition of Sport Tourism Development by James Higham and Tom Hinch. Sarah is our resident sports enthusiast and often manages to catch a game of something when travelling (whether that be for work or leisure!) In this post we chat to Sarah about her own experiences of sport tourism.

Which different sports have you seen when travelling?

Sarah at the cricket in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Cricket, football, baseball, basketball, American football, ice hockey, lacrosse

What was your favourite/least favourite experience of sports tourism?

Any game with an exciting finish stands out – I managed to get to the Big Bash semi-final this year in Adelaide pre-CAUTHE conference where the Strikers won in the last over. Other memorable occasions are England holding on to draw with South Africa in a Test in Cape Town and the Red Sox winning at Fenway with a grand slam in the 8th innings!

I think I need to stop watching England in Australia as they’ve lost every time (apologies to England fans!) – never an enjoyable experience to lose to the Aussies.

Do you notice a difference in the experience of watching sports depending on the country or is there a universal atmosphere?

I think sport fans worldwide are pretty similar, though there are always traditions or superstitions specific to an area/team/sport.
An NFL game was the only live experience that took me by surprise – and seemed quite different from other sport I have watched. Every single thing that happened in the game seemed like a fanfare event. Though I have been reliably informed that if I want to experience real American football then I need to go and watch a college game.

What would be your dream destination/sports experience combination?

Melbourne is pretty much a sport fan’s dream city so I’d have to say being there for the whole duration of the Big Bash, in an Ashes year, and a ticket to the Australian Open. If it could somehow be arranged for some Premier League games to be played there as well that would be perfect! 🙂

For more information about Sport Tourism Development please see our website.