WP229 Cyber-metapragmatics and alterity on reddit.com

Collection: Key word


Building on recent work in linguistic anthropology, this paper addresses textually mediated participatory practices on the online platform reddit.com. The primary focus is on forms of discourse participation that are unique to online environments?voting, creating subreddits, commenting on threads?and their relationship to the ” ideological intervention ” that maps sociocultural meaning onto contextual language use whenever and wherever it occurs. First I examine how users of reddit appropriate, represent , and (usually, derisively) caption sample utterances posted to another online platform, tumblr.com. I am able to show how the online environment facilitates the display and re-entextualization of ” others’ ” speech, and here I draw parallels with Miyako Inoue’s discussion of the print-mediated metapragmatics of citation that played a central role in the creation of the Japanese schoolgirl stereotype: both are based on overheard utterances. What is it that enables reddit’s users to interpret and participate in the ritualistic displacement and re-entextualization of others’ speech (e.g. Tumblr posts on reddit forums such as /r/TumblrInAction)? In order to illustrate the participatory semiotic processes that constitute and reproduce these everyday online practices, I introduce the concept of cyber-metapragmatic knowledge. Commentators have extolled the ” disruptive ” and creative potential of online communication; I show how the voting system on reddit, which provides linear order to reddit submissions, functions as a force for social control, whose conceptual foundation in an ostensibly democratic ideology masks the work it does to rationalize the hegemony of pre-established narratives. Lastly, I discuss other reddit forums that (meta-) textually engage with reddit itself, to emphasize the generativity of the cyber-metapragmatic function in enabling users to engage creatively (and playfully) with the semiotic mechanisms that enable the signification of community, as well as alterity.