Loading...

Communicating Professions via Blog. An Applied Linguistics Approach

Textbook 2019 105 Pages

Speech Science / Linguistics

Excerpt

Table of Contents

Inhaltsverzeichnis

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1: OFFICE WORKERS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: FROM TRADITIONAL TO INNOVATIVE AND EMPOWERED
1.1. Introduction: Renewing the image of the office worker
1.2. Work Culture and Work Discourse
1.3. Dataset and methodology
1.4. Images, media and social networking
1.5. Blog bios and introductions
1.5.1. Workplace Safety Blog (WSB):
1.5.2. Scared Sitless: The Office Fitness Site (SS):
1.5.3. The Office Space (TOS):
1.5.4. See Jane Work (SJW)
1.6. Blog posts and comments
1.6.1. Blog posts
1.6.2. Comments
1.7. Concluding remarks

CHAPTER 2: MEDIA PSYCHOLOGISTS: THE NEW FRONTIER OF A PROFESSION AND A METADISCOURSE
2.1. Introduction: The definition and evolution of media psychology
2.2. Background: defining media psychology
2.3. Media psychology, language and blogs
2.4. Dataset and methodology
2.4.1. Millennial Media: The media saturated generation Y
2.4.2. Digital Altruism: Cultivating compassion in the 21st century and Dana Klisanin
2.4.3. Media in Mind: Exploring the messy places where human behavior meets the media
2.5. Final considerations

CHAPTER 3: MILBLOGS AS HERALDS OF A SPECIALISED PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Defining characteristics of the military community and conception of reputation
3.3. Role of online communities in the military
3.4. Dataset and methodology
3.5. Textual, discursive, linguistic and rhetorical analysis
3.6. Preliminary findings and directions for future research

CONCLUSIONS

PREFACE

The starting point for the present study is its core, consisting in a collection of applied linguistics studies on blogs and their varying contribution to professional identity and discourse: they range from the innovation of traditional professions, to the emergence of professional branches in search of an identity and validation among non-experts, to the selective dissemination of values within an international yet elitist professional and discourse community. These studies led to three productive presentations at three international conferences: the 2014 ESSE (European Society for the Study of English) conference (29th August – 2nd September 2014 at Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Košice, Slovakia in a panel on “Changing Discourses, Changing Workplaces: Postmodern Trends in Institutional Communication”); the 2016 ALAPP (Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice) conference (3rd-5th November 2016 at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark in a panel on “Professional Practice in transient settings”); and the 2017 DICOEN (Discourse, Communication and the Enterprise) conference (22nd-24th June 2017 at Aston University, Birmingham in a panel on “Professional knowledge and ethos building in contested fields: the construction of reputation in emerging/controversial industries and professions”), all of which yielded significant input during the panel discussions.

The observations of the time were integrated into the papers, which in turn have resulted in the first, second and third chapters of the present volume. The datasets are those of the time of the studies and the papers are in chronological order in order to better convey the sense of progression of the analyses as well as the trends they are centred on. These snapshot case studies, when compared, give an overview of the blogosphere’s increasing sophistication in their use of discourse in portraying empowered professions with individual needs and different audiences.

The three applicative studies are enclosed in the introductory chapter that follows, which has the intent of framing the role of blogs as vehicular promoters of professional discourse communities within the literature of multimodal and professional discourse studies. By doing so, it provides a state of the art in online discourse studies and a set of guidelines with which to read the three applicative chapters. These are followed by a conclusive chapter that gives an overview of the current state of these online discourse communities and observes changes in the blogs, both in terms of macrostructure and of linguistic and discursive strategies. This enables further reflection on how things have progressed in the past years and sparks the final considerations on current trends, and consequently on the directions that professions and their discursive framing - and therefore also blogs and relative studies - could take in the years and studies to come.

INTRODUCTION

In today’s highly digitalised and communicative world, information is no longer produced and presented as a product to be merely consumed: rather, it has become a negotiated flow that is adapted based on the needs of a determined professional “community of practice”. As Bruns and Jacobs point out, the current age is one in which individuation, personalisation and customisation are leading to interaction, interactivity and intercreativity (Bruns and Jacob, 2007: 6; Lave and Wenger: 1991). The role of communication - and in particular that of computer mediated communication and its texts - in the workplace has been greatly emphasised in the light of globalisation, the dematerialisation and mobilisation of the workplace, and the development of new sectors, services and media around the world. As far as workplace communication genres are concerned (Bazerman and Paradis 1991; Zanola 2010), they may consist in the online remediation of traditional ‘paper’ genres, as in the case of PDF documents or powerpoint presentations, which have substituted trasparents and posters, or in the use of 2.0 genres, such as blogs and podcasts, in and for the workplace. In the latter case, this has also raised new issues in terms of communication such as relative anonymity, reduced importance of physical appearance, attenuation of physical distance and greater control over the time and pace of interaction (McKenna and Bargh 2000 in Guadagno, Okdie and Eno 2008: 1994).

This expansion has contributed to an ongoing democratising change in power of and over discourse concerning both traditional and emerging professions, as testified by the increasing use of new and social media, which have become an important tool for companies, employers and employees alike (Baker et al. 2011; Koester 2006, 2010, Guadagno et al. 2008; Polito 2011; Derk and Baaker 2013). On the one hand, online communication may be used to boost company value and legitimacy (Coovert and Thompson 2014) by promoting its activity through advertisements, strategic self-presentations and a variety of social media accounts and their multimodal content. On the other hand, it could be perceived as a promising and empowering tool for employees and hitherto marginalised professional figures who can now voice their own needs and stories (Garzone and Catenaccio 2009). This voicing, and the possible resulting dialogue, connects the work environment to socio-semiotic theories of communication, in which members of a cohesive community “are able to contribute to common purposes by dealing productively with constantly new cultural, semiotic and social problems by designing, representing and communicating their suggested solutions to them” (Kress 2010: 18). Moreover, they enable the negotiation and mediation between professionals with different roles and individual identities from the same or different fields and companies, which in turn promotes relationship-building (Koester 2010). This opening and sharing of discourse within a perpetually connected worldwide community has raised questions about where a workplace and worktime’s boundaries lie and where a worker goes from being a professional to being an individual, as well as how this impacts online communication among professionals and peers (Baker et al. 2011).

Another important development that has affected the introduction of ubiquitousness (Mautner 2005) in online professional communication consists in the phenomenon of the “domestication of technology” (Barton and Lee 2012), which consists in the adoption of media technology in everyday life and domestic contexts, and has led to the use of online communication and its tools at home as well as at work (Bucy 2004; Barton and Lee 2012). This is in line with the dematerialisation of the workplace, as a location from where a professional provides services, and explains the ongoing discussions on work, its regulation, and its related lifestyle within more personal genres of social media communication like blogs. Myers in fact observed that “If we want to find what is specific to these genres, we are going to have to look not only at the style but also at the technology and what people do with it” (2010: 19). This is in line with the definition of genre as “a class of communicative events, the members of which are recognised by the expert members of the parent discourse communities” (Swales 1990: 58). The linguistic and discourse strategies that are employed by a growing online discourse community depend on its attitude and target audience (Barton and Lee 2013).

Blogs have gradually become essential and widely accessible points of reference and knowledge dissemination for developing fields and issues “by highlighting articles that may easily be passed over by the typical web user […], by searching out articles from lesser-known sources, and by providing additional facts, alternative views, and thoughtful commentary” (Blood 2000). Blogs (Bruns and Jacobs 2007) stand out as a hybrid (Giltrow and Stein 2009) and idiosyncratic solution within a “self-directed discourse environment” (Puschmann 2010: 35). Accordingly, the processes of writing, sharing and informing in the blogging world are increasingly dynamic and tailored both to the blogger (who have now become “produsers”) and the “blogee.” They also provide potentially unlimited space for information, discussion and details that require personal time and space to be regularly updated (for more on the attributes of blogs, see Blood 2000; Bruns and Jacobs 2007; Puschmann 2010). As a result, those interacting online about work often tread the fine and blurred line that recalls Goffman’s (1959) division between “the frontstage”, or a person’s “front region”, “where a particular performance is or may be in progress” and backstage (or back regions) “where action occurs that is related to the performance but inconsistent with the appearance fostered by the performance” division (1959, in Koester 2010: 128) which is focused on his/her role and impression in society, and his or her “back region” which is perceived as hidden or private and where one can be his/her self, like in one’s own home. A suitable hybrid context for this hybrid and changing audience is provided by blogs, for “[B]logging concurrently makes it possible to be more social than ever […] and as intimate and personal as a diary hidden beneath one’s bed” (Tan 2008, 147). They blend the two ‘regions’ and foster the use of an equally hybrid register by experts and professionals when writing in their blogs. Blogs’ format may also be seen as a blurred continuum; for instance, Granieri represented the blogosphere like a pyramid, with personal blogs pivoting around autobiographical or interpersonal issues at the bottom and a gradual upward decrease of the number of blogs with their increasing specificity and professionalism of the blog (2005: 72-73).

In fact, while there may be no specific performance at hand because any reaction to a professional blogger’s post (comment, share) must happen outside of the blogger’s control after the post in question has been written and read, there is still an “audience” that is watching and judging the exchange. Seargeant and Tagg thus describe Bell’s “audience design” framework in which the speaker is at the centre and formulates utterances based on the three main types of audience:

1.Participants, who apparently are the main receivers of the utterance and from whom a response may be expected;
2.Auditors, who are not directly addressed but may nevertheless take part in the exchange;
3.Overhearers, who are the least involved or expected but still compel the speaker/writer (and in this case the blogger) to anticipate and worry about their assumptions and hypotheses (Seargeant and Tagg 2014: 163-164).

It is therefore important to keep in mind that the possible presence of overhearers who may or may not be composed of experts - or even people acquainted with the subject – necessarily leads to the adjustment of the posts’ content, language and format for the general public. Blogs are “one of the newest forms of online self-presentation and self-expression” (Guadagno et al. 2008, 1994) and therefore a sort of bulletin board which addresses one type of audience but actually aims at a much larger one composed of ‘overhearers’ and maybe even ‘eavesdroppers’ (Bell 1984). Blog writing, and therefore the “presence” or “absence” of a specific identity or set of identities of the blogger, is influenced by the perceived nature of the online audience (Seargent and Tagg, 2014: 8; Garzone and Catenaccio 2009) and, often, of a variety of potential audiences simultaneously, as well as the nature of the content that the blogger is trying to convey. This is especially true when one considers that the blogosphere may be inserted in a culture of “upward mobility” (Clark 2002 in Miller and Shepherd 2004) where blog activity is greatly based on the blogger’s desire for recognition and approval.

Therefore, this ongoing change in online discourse and discourse communities enacts important community and identity-related changes both on a personal and collective level (Sergeant and Tagg 2014): as regards the former, knowledge that is conveyed through blogs and other forms of online professional social media becomes a means of increased self-awareness, individualism and empowerment, for the user, who may also be a professional or a non-expert in search of professional advice or interpersonal communication (Turnbull 2013), is now aware of problems, solutions, methods and places or people to turn to in cases of need (Kress 2010). Bloggers present themselves as helpful and friendly experts who put their knowledge and experience at other people’s disposal, thus providing necessary immaterial know-how and skills (Nardi et al. 2004). In fact, social media has proven to be especially adept at underlining the professional and personal features that an individual worker would like to be identified by (Garzone and Catenaccio 2009).The resulting discourse is therefore more ‘conversational’ and relaxed, like the web 2.0 language in general, without shedding any doubt on the bloggers’ competence and professionalism. Moreover, studies have proved that interactivity entails presumed benefits including “increased acceptance, satisfaction, learning and mastery; enhanced thoughtfulness, cooperation and responsibility; and heightened performance, motivation, and sociability” (Bucy 2004: 374). If used correctly therefore, connections with blogs such as the ones analysed in the present study could prompt positive values such as self-discipline, motivation, autonomy, optimism and individual elaboration of data and experience based on active information-seeking. The latter level, i.e. the collective one, consists in the potential sense of group identity that could link a user with an alternative online community in addition to, or in substitution of, his/her everyday offline professional community of practice. Blogs are a place where one reads of other situations to reflect on an immaterial but always present reservoir of security, information and empathy (Koester 2010).

Proof of this may be found in the creation of a specific lexicon and a growing repertoire of shared knowledge (e.g. guidelines, how-to, self-help and do’s-and-don’ts articles, recommendations, invitations) and diverse informative multimedia material (references, essays, slides, manuals, videos, PDF exercises) and necessary networking connections aimed at introducing and forming new members and at sharing information and advice among peers. It has been proven, in fact, that the new power of an online audience concerns their enhanced level of information seeking and distributing (Bucher 2005; Chamberlain and Hodgetts 2008).

Because the concept of “community” is “performed by aligning oneself with different groups, opinions and cultural issues” (Seargeant and Tagg 2014: 9), Leppänen et al. claim that the process of “(dis)identification” of a user in an online environment entails many important dimensions:

1.Self-characterization of oneself, which may either be relational or categorical;
2.The psycho-dynamic dimension, where individuals align emotionally with another person, category or collectivity;
3.Identity involves self-understanding;
4.In performing, individuals seek commonality (what is shared) and connectedness (what binds members together);
5.Commonality is a prerequisite for groupness, a sense of belonging to a group. (Leppänen et al. 2014: 114)

As a result, a blogger’s identification of his or her-self or “selves” (only certain roles or parts of his or her personality) may encourage or discourage his or her connectedness with a certain collectivity. The online community’s and professional’s self-presentation is especially important in a context where identity is negotiated and constructed in discourse and in time (Garzone and Catenaccio 2009: 10; Barton and Lee 2013).

The influence of these professional bloggers on the subject is also affected by the speaker/writer’s utterance formulation in accordance with “affordances” (Gibson 1986 in Giltrow and Stein 2009: 127), based on the audience’s perceived technical competence and communicative intent, which take on the form of “properties of information and interaction that can be put to particular cognitive and communicative uses” (Miller and Shepherd 2009: 281). These represent further instances of power relations and negotiation in online professional discourse.

Audience design, also known as “audience targeting” and “customization” (Jucker 2003: 137), is crucial in efficiently communicating professional content and implicates adapting one’s discourse and may be enacted through different strategies in an online context:

1.Direct address strategies (@ sign, tagging in photos or posts, groups or lists);
2.Other structural affordances (e.g. dividing messages into separate posts);
3.Style (level of formality; degree of vagueness and explicitation) and language choice (language, script, dialect, style-shifting or codeswitching);
4.Content of post (topic and degree of being public or private). (Saergeant and Tagg 2014: 167)

Audience targeting reinforces group solidarity and activeness by implicitly or explicitly letting the participants know that the blog is for them and that the professional blogger is working with their best interests at heart, be it to simply inform or advise (like in blogs aimed at non-experts) or to enhance the user’s awareness of professional practices and critical issues (like in blogs among professionals and peers). This is often explained in the blog’s introduction page and occasionally reiterated throughout the posts.

Among the various classifications of blogs, Rebecca Blood’s well-known division into two main categories, i.e. “filter-style” blogs, where the blogger acts as an editor and link annotator, and “blog-style” where bloggers express themselves, emerges. Between these two extreme categories there is a range of hybrid forms where the content of the blog is more or less “official” or “personal” based on the blogger’s established role (as a professional or an expert in a certain field or association, or simply a member of the category like in the personal blogs), intent of writing (to inform, to share, to express, to provide alternative information or content) and content (official documents, videos, other groups and blogs that are more or less official) (Blood 2000; Granieri 2005). Content, in turn, “represents their freedom of selection and presentation” and may allow them to “combine the immediately real and the genuinely personal” (Miller and Shepherd 2004; Di Fraia 2007: 116-122).

From a macrostructural perspective, the blog genre is characterised by easily recognisable features such as reverse chronology, frequent updating and the combination of links with personal commentary to convey the sense of it being in line with the times and current trends (Miller and Shepherd 2004; Crystal 2002; Puschmann 2010). The previously mentioned empowerment of this form of professional discourse is mirrored in blogs’ “simultaneity of action and reaction, widespread access, an emphasis on feeling over analysis, and a weakening of centralized authority” (Meyrowitz in Miller and Shepherd 2009: 282). Interestingly, the last feature underlines that blogs are a “democratic” genre (Granieri 2005) and a space for alternative perspectives that enable marginalised, isolated or dislocated professionals to accept and celebrate the undeniable weight of their roles by fostering a sense of belonging within a community of dynamic professionals who operate in different sectors and countries and enable experts in emerging professions or focused on knowledge dissemination to inform non-experts in need of advice and give them the contact information and resources for further help if necessary.

Like workplace discourse in general, professional blogs and other socially networked discourse are becoming increasingly conversational and hybridised between written and spoken language. Professional social networks and blogs are characterised by interactivity, informality, playfulness and close community (Seargeant and Tagg 2014: 166). The diversity of the blog genre mirrors bloggers’ idiosyncratic linguistic and discursive style by focusing on specific issue or set of issues through different kinds of texts (descriptive, narrative, argumentative), linguistic strategies and rhetorical devices.

This has led the language of blogs to gradually take on a popularising and personable tone when connecting and interacting with their online audience, even when they are writing as professionals. The members of online discourse communities usually do not know each other and may not interact directly but only with the blogger(s) when and where possible. This occurs because the cultivation of one’s online voice through consistent and frequent posting on a blog “enables a reader to identify the characteristic x across a blogger’s multiple posts over time” (Tan 2008: 151). It is even more obvious when considering that the level of informality of the blog’s register does not match the one that is usually expected from a professional who is informing his/her selected audience on ongoing research trends in his/her field. Such a trend is becoming common in professional online blogging and online therapy and advice (Tan 2008; Chamberlain and Hodgetts 2008). The resulting popularising language and discourses have become an effective way to instruct an increasingly demanding public that wants to access and understand very specific content and procedures in a clear and approachable manner.

In such a context, Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough is a tool of paramount importance because “from a sociolinguistic and pragmatic perspective becoming a member of a community of practice actively interacts with the process of gaining control of the discourse of that community of practice.” (Homes and Marra 2002: 1685). Becoming a member in turn gives more power to the user in his or her professional relation and negotiation with other subjects and initiated him or her into an empowering discourse and arsenal of communicative tools of various kinds. Critical Discourse Analysis’ heterogeneous approaches (Lukač 2011: 190) befits the heterogeneity of the blog genre, for it is well suited for textual and intertexual analysis:

it is believed to be an approach or an attitude toward textual analysis which makes it unique from all other textual analysis in six major respects as presented by Thomas N. Huckin (1997). First, it analyzes texts in a real-world context and it tries to take into account the most relevant textual and contextual factors including history. Second, it studies text in three levels (production, interpretation, and context). Third, it concerns with the societal issues overtly or covertly manifested in texts. Fourth, it draws attention to the imbalances, injustices, and inequality in a society. Fifth, by revealing negative practices in a society, it aims to support the victims of oppression to reconstruct the society for a change. Finally, it uses clear and simple words to reach nonspecialists in society. In a capsule, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) attempts to study the structures of ideology, especially on power and authority, which underlies the acts of both speech and writing (Polito, 2011: 282).

The present study will therefore focus on how professional discourse and blogs have adapted to express and suit the evolving needs of specific professions and categories (Drew and Heritage 1992; Nardi et al. 2004; Giltrow and Stein 2009). The previously mentioned expanded mobility of employees and professionals in time and space goes hand in hand with innovation in communication technology and its consequent ability to allow people to communicate quickly and on demand at any time and place. To compensate for this “placelessness”, these means of communication tend feature language establishing “placeness” (Myers 2010: 9, 48). Therefore, the location in which the text is written or to which it refers is specified, due to legal or contextual requirements, by the writer either explicitly (by indicating it in his or her profile/post or openly mentioning where he or she is at the moment of writing) or implicitly by means of deictic expressions or references to contingent elements or situations that were, are or will be present at that place. This is found in all blogs to some extent and signals the writer’s position to other members of the professional discourse community.

As previously mentioned, the subject(s) and the professional discourse communities behind the analysed blogs are different and therefore present themselves and their professional blog differently. Each profession was chosen due to its peculiar use of and potential for growth thanks to the development of professional blogs that have taken on a certain form based on its individual pre-existing communicative patterns and genres which emerge in a new and more comprehensive digital form that still retains the values, work ethics and points of discussion that are typical of the profession. By comparing three professions and the idiosyncratic features of their online discourse, it is possible to detect trends and changes in the profession and elaborate multimodal and discursive frameworks thanks to which online professional discourse may be conveyed and interpreted.

The first profession, i.e. that of office workers, which is dealt with in Chapter 1, is closely connected with computers yet seems far away from the dynamic work patterns that one often associates with blogs. For this reason, the office worker and his or her office space are often associated with negative images and connotations, like that of a sterile, unsatisfactory and boring profession and lifestyle that make the profession – and indeed the word “office” – quite unappealing. Therefore, the online discourse community of innovative office workers uses blogs to address this issue by underlining the need to renew and empower the image and the lifestyle of the category. As an analysis, by means of combining multimodal and Critical Discourse Analysis approaches, of four of the very few blogs that use the term “office worker” reveals, these online communities’ main priority is to promote awareness among workers in all countries and sectors by providing a variety of forms of know-how that ranges from information on laws and emerging practices in the workplace, to useful software and online resources, to coping strategies and healthcare advice, to personal experiences, stories and ideas. This, in turn, allows the category to find itself in a better position of power to negotiate, as Critical Discourse Analysis points out, while conveying a dynamic and fresh image through multimodal means. Moreover, like other forms of social media, blogs are often characterised by their use of verbal and non-verbal language and high degree of intertextuality, as may also often be found in workplace discourse: “Intertextuality is of central importance in workplace discourse. It ties all the separate written and spoken communications into a single multi-stranded web of discourse (a text is a textile, something woven) and in the process knits the diverse participants together into a discourse community” (Medway 2007 in Koester 2010: 43). Fairclough moreover pointed out that intertextuality is a “corridor of change: genres migrate through intertextual routes, colonising situations and producing ‘hybrids’” (Giltrow and Stein 2009: 8).

The second profession that is considered pertains to a field that involves people and new/social media by its very nature but is often unknown or deemed unimportant or frivolous by the general public, which leads to misunderstanding, misinformation and distinctive challenges. The field is that of media psychology, and its professionals rely on blogs as a means of not only helping people by informing them and warning them about potential mental and communicative problems and disorders connected with the use (or rather misuse) of media, but also as a means of presenting and justifying their work and research, thus proving that their specialty involves a fundamental aspect of our social and professional lives and should therefore be seen as relevant and reliable. Their blogs, as demonstrated in Chapter 2, thus represent a form of metadiscourse on media and media communication, as well as a virtual place to carry out mutually beneficial online exchanges between experts and non-experts. Significantly, this professional category seeks to engage with the audience by taking on different online identities, such as those as individuals, single professionals and members of a scientific community whose work is validated who is fundamentally committed to empowering overhearers as well as patients. The subsequent application of both Critical Discourse Analysis and popularising discursive strategies of media psychology blog posts highlights how this emerging specialised category of professionals often draws upon an array of familiar interpersonal linguistic and discourse strategies that are typical of online communication in order to better understand and analyse today’s evolving media environment and resulting lifestyle.

The final, highly specialised and – for some aspects – closed and exclusive profession to be considered in Chapter 3 is the American military, whose blogs have become consolidated enough to form a subgenre of its own, i.e. milblogs. These blogs have the purpose of uniting and increasing the morale of a professional community that is mobile b nature and must adapt to changing and/or potentially dangerous situations that also encompass family members. Accordingly, service members are part of a professional community and cultural framework that goes beyond generations and nationalities and is based on ethical values and practices that are solidly at the heart of the content of the milblogs and its highly evocative and rhetorical language in the attempt to uphold the community and improve the military’s status and reputation in the eyes of civilians. Social media and milblogs are a way to remain connected and provide not only information, but also solidarity to all those who are connected with the services by providing advice, support and insight based on personal individual and professional experience. At the same time, milblogs implicitly exclude eavesdroppers with their specialised language and very specific references to practices, jargon (lexis and slang) and figures of the armed forces. The chapter therefore adopts the Critical Discourse Analysis methodology but specifically focuses on rhetorical strategies and the communication of the military’s fundamental ethical values for reputation and image purposes. By doing so it fosters a clearer understanding of the military as a culture with a long tradition that however diverges from civilian American culture, thus representing a true professional culture of its own featuring its own forms and patterns of communication that also emerges in online discourse. Although the profession is not a new one, the way of conducting military affairs is changing in the current world so milblogs also represent a way for community members to remain abreast in the midst of contrasting and confused voices and news (for a study on military service members in the press see Doerr 2019).

As mentioned in the preface, these three chapters stem from studies that have been conducted throughout the years (2014-2017) but highlight different possible applications of blogs and its discourse at the service of professional practices. The studies are ordered chronologically to denote the increasing specificity and relevance of their use. They are presented and contextualised in the present introduction and viewed in relation to the present day (2019) in the concluding chapter, where the current standing of blogs in these fields is assessed and measured against the findings of the chapter. This enables the author to draw the necessary information to verify any changes or possible future routes that may be insightful for future studies on blogs and their relation to online professional discourse.

References

Baker, Douglas, Buoni, Nicole, Fee, Michael and Vitale, Caroline (2011). “Social Networking and its Effects on Companies and Their Employees”. Retrived. November 15th: 1-13.

Barton, David and Lee, Carmen (2013). Language Online: Investigating Digital Texts and Practices. London and New York: Routledge.

Bazerman, Charles and Paradis, James G. [eds.] (1991). Textual Dynamics of the Professions. Historical and Contemporary Studies of Writing in Professional Communities. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Blood, Rebecca “Weblogs: A History and Perspective”. Rebecca’s Pocket. 07 September 2000. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html".

Bruns, Axel and Jacobs, Johanne [eds.] (2007). Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang.

Bucher, Han-Juergen (2005). “The Power of the Audience. Interculturality, Interactivity and Trust in Internet Communication: Theory, Research Design and Empirical Results” The Electronic Journal of Communication 15(12), www.cios.org/EJCPUBLIC/015/1/01511.HTML.

Bucy, Erik P. (2004). “Interactivity in Society: Locating an Elusive Concept”. The Information Society. 20: 373-383.

Chamberlain and Hodgetts (2008). “Social Psychology and Media: Critical Considerations”. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2(3): 1109 – 1125.

Coovert, Michael D., Thompson, Lori F. (2014). The Psychology of Workplace Technology. London and New York: Routledge.

Crystal, David (2002). The English Language, second edition. London: Penguin Books.

Derk, Daantje and Bakker, Arnold B. [eds.] (2013). The Psychology of Digital Media at Work. London and New York: Routledge.

Doerr, Roxanne B. (2019). “An Inquiry into Discursive News Coverage, Popularization and Presuppositions Concerning Military PTSD Treatment Options” Lingue Culture Mediazioni / Languages Cultures Mediation 6(1): doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2019-001-doer

Di Fraia, Guido [ed.] (2007). Blog-grafie. Identità narrative in rete. Milan: Edizioni Angelo Guerrini e Associati SpA.

Drew Paul and Heritage John [eds.] (1992). Talk at Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Garzone, Giuliana and Catenaccio, Paola (2009). Identities across Media and Modes: Discursive Perspectives. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang.

Giltrow, Janet and Stein, Dieter (2009). Genres in the Internet: Issues in the theory of genre. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Granieri, Giuseppe (2005). Blog Generation. Rome and Bari: Laterza Editori.

Guadagno, Rosanna E., Okdie, Bradley M., Eno, Cassie A. (2008). “Who blogs? Personality predictors of blogging”. Computers in Human Behavior 24(5): 1993-2004.

Holmes, Janet and Marra, Meredith (2002). “Having a laugh at work: how humour contributes to workplace culture”. Journal of Pragmatics 34: 1683-1710.

Jucker, Andreas (2003). “Mass Media Communication at the Beginning of the Twenty-first Century: Dimensions of change”, Journal of Historical Pragmatics 4(1): 129-148.

Koester, Almut (2006). Investigating Workplace Discourse. New York: Routledge.

Koester, Almut (2010). Workplace Discourse. London and New York: Continuum Discourse Series.

Kress, Gunther (2010). Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. New York and London: Routledge.

Lave, Jean and Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leppänen, Sirpa, Kytölä, Samu, Jousmäki, Henna, Peuronen, Saija and Westinen, Elina (2014). “Entextualization and resemiotization as resources for identification in social media”. In Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. [eds.] (2014), Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 112-136.

Lukač, Morana (2011). “Down to the bone: A corpus-based critical discourse analysis of pro-eating disorder blogs”. Jezikoslovlje. 12.2: 187-209.

Mautner, Gerlinde (2005). “Time to get wired: Using web-based corpora in critical discourse analysis”. Discourse Society 16(6): 809-828.

Miller, Carolyn and Shepherd, Dawn (2004). “Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog” Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. available at http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogging_as_social_action_a_genre_analysis_of_the_weblog.html

Miller, Carolyn and Shepherd, Dawn (2009). “Questions for genre theory from the blogosphere”. In Giltrow, J. and Stein, D. (2009), Genres in the Internet: Issues in the theory of genre. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 263-290.

Myers, Greg (2010). Discourse of Blogs and Wikis. New York: Continuum Discourse.

Nardi, Bonnie A., Schiano, Diane, Gumbrecht, Michelle and Swartz, Luke H. (2004). "I'm Blogging This" A Closer Look at Why People Blog”. submitted to Communications of the ACM, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6409/64f04858646685c3eebca2282d4c599fd89c.pdf

Polito, Rabindranath (2011). “Language and Power in Blogging: A Critical Discourse Analysis”. 2011 International Conference on Humanities, Society and Culture. IPDER. 20: 282-286.

Puschmann, Cornelius (2010). The corporate blog as an emerging genre of computer-mediated communication: features, constraints, discourse situation. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen.

Seargeant, Philip and Tagg, Caroline [eds.] (2014). Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Seargeant, Philip and Tagg, Caroline (2014). “Audience design and language choice in the construction and maintenance of translocal communities on social network sites”. In Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. [eds.] (2014). Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan: 161-185.

Swales, John (1990). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Tan, Leon (2008). “Psychotherapy 2.0: MySpace Blogging as Self-Therapy”, American Journal of Psychotherapy 62(2): 143–163.

Turnbull, Judith (2013). A linguistic analysis of English online: Knowledge dissemination and the empowerment of citizens. Rome: UniversItalia.

Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning And Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zanola, Annalisa (2010). “The Annual Report: An interdisciplinary approach to a ‘contaminated’ new genre” Brescia: Brescia: Università degli Studi di Brescia: 1-24.

CHAPTER 1: OFFICE WORKERS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: FROM TRADITIONAL TO INNOVATIVE AND EMPOWERED

1.1. Introduction: Renewing the image of the office worker

Work is a fundamental part of an individual’s life and identity (Holmes and Marra: 2002), as is work culture and its spaces: “Workplace cultures revolve around the shared values and attitudes and the shared experiences that validate them. A culture includes everything that is learned and shared by its members: its social heritage and rules of behavior, its own customs and traditions, jargon and stories” (Smircich 1983: 339). In particular, the increase in the insecurity of today’s job market has led to an office culture characterized by long hours and missed breaks in which work may be “visible”, requiring noticeable effort and activity (meetings, reports, e-mail replies) or “invisible” because it is not immediately quantifiable or reportable (research, discussion and reflection) (Charman 2007: 6). Furthermore, the idea of what a workplace is has also changed in time from a physical office or cubicle to the more abstract idea of a space that can be transferred, changed or personalized to convey a certain idea or image of the company and/or the person occupying that particular space.

Recent changes in technology and business ideology have led to workers’ ongoing negotiation in their identity, knowledge and interaction with others as far as work is concerned. In the current globalised world, new media and social networking have prompted various forms of “blurring” between private and public (Miller and Shepherd: 2004) and between time in and out of the office. As a result, many office workers have begun to bring workplace discourse online in order to network about various aspects of their professional standing and workspace, leading to the creation and expansion of websites and blogs dedicated to and written by office workers. Such digital spaces vary greatly in language and content and make use of available multimedia material to create an online source of information, assistance and solidarity for today’s “office worker 2.0”. From a sociolinguistic perspective in fact, social networking brought two fundamental social dynamics to the fore: identity, or the presentation of the self that is constructed and negotiated through a set of resources, and community, consisting of the building and maintenance of networked relationships (Seargent and Tagg 2014: 5; Garzone and Catenaccio 2009).

In the face of the arrival and development of social networking within the corporate world, companies’ managements have adopted one of three different attitudes:

1. Involuntary or deliberate indifference/neutrality;
2. Contrastive, due to the five reasons that Wilson outlines in his study on social networks in the workplace, i.e. perceived loss in staff productivity, data leakage from staff gossip in an open environment, damage of company reputation, cyber crook’s scams and open access to company information due to outdated passwords (Wilson in Baker et al. 2011: 3);
3. Embracing both the concept and the new technology while trying to understand and employ it to its full extent.

The reason management has begun to pay attention to blogs is because they often allow members and outsiders to interact and exchange ideas through comments and media content, and because they mobilise employees be more informed and oppose unfavourable or unfair conditions when necessary. Moreover, they enable both workers and supervisors (if the blog is monitored by company administrators) to obtain, share and explain the posted information and suggestions, turning the online interaction into a useful exchange that fosters collaboration between personnel on different levels of the organigram. Social media may also be employed to maintain closer and faster contact with employees by informing office workers on new policies, changes in the office or company, or upcoming events. Such digital spaces are often integrated with “recreational” information on common problems or solutions pertaining to the job (relevant statistics, new studies and trends, self-help tips) to endow the company with a more complete and “caring” image. In this manner, the company attempts to keep its workers focused on its own blogs or networks where they can express their own opinion with moderation since they know that their messages can easily be traced back to them. Many studies (Cook 2007: 52; Baker et al. 2011; Granieri, 2005) emphasise the importance of companies in their regulation of blogs and of bloggers who are openly constricted but still exhorted to be as fair, partial and accurate as possible (Fitzgerald and O’Brien 2007: 223-237).

From the employees’ perspective, social networking about work may have a twofold effect: on the one hand, it may eventually lead to a “burnout” or conflict about the excessive lack of separation between a worker’s private and professional life, roles, or spheres of identity (Baker et al. 2011). On the other hand, blogging for and with people from the same field may promote group solidarity, transforming the blogosphere into a gigantic word-of-mouth network (Granieri 2005: 50-52).

1.2. Work Culture and Work Discourse

In the present study, the terms “workplace” and “workplace discourse” will be adopted instead of more specific terms such as “institutional discourse”, “business discourse” and “professional discourse” (Koester 2010: 5) because “workplace discourse is extremely diverse, as it encompasses interactions between co-workers, customers and clients, lay people and professionals and occurs in offices, factories, hospitals, courtrooms and so forth” (Koester 2010: 12). Accordingly, these blogs are written both in and out of the “workplace” and often not only refer to the office worker’s job or a specific task on the job but also concern aspects such as a worker’s relationship with colleagues, supervisors and customers, time and work management, social networking and ways to improve and personalise one’s approach to work, the workplace environment and its tools.

The focus here will be on office workers, a numerous and greatly present professional community that is in the midst of organisational and communication development due to the changing economy and to new flexible and mobile forms of employment and administration. They may therefore be referred to as a “community of practice” of their own and are characterised by the following dimensions:

1.mutual engagement
2.joint enterprise
3.a shared repertoire (Wenger 1998: 72-73).

The first dimension is particularly important because it unites the other two and often motivates the creation and updating of blogs written by and for office workers. Mutual engagement involves not only intercommunication but also the creation of mutual relationships (Koester 2010: 8) which, thanks to the worldwide reach of blogs and social networking in general, could translate both into a sense of solidarity among office workers from different sectors and countries and into a more solid collaboration and sharing of advice, expertise and stories. These form a “joint enterprise” while the “routines, words, tools, ways of doing things, stories, gestures, symbols, genres, actions or concepts” (Wenger 1998: 83) as well as documents, material and links that are posted and commented represent the community’s “shared repertoire”. Significantly, as Koester points out, the emphasis is on practice (2010: 9) which means that the repertoire is not simply a means to itself or a place to vent or inform, but it attempts to take the joint enterprise a step forward by encouraging members of the community to put the available material and ideas to good use.

As Sarangi and Roberts point out in their inquiry into different approaches to workplace discourse, these studies may be placed upon a continuum ranging from interaction order to institutional order based (1999: 1-10). This classification however is characterised by blurring and hybridity, as demonstrated by the selection of different kinds of blogs written by and for office workers, some of which are very “institutionalised” and informative resembling “filter-style blogs”, while other “blog-style” ones concentrate more on personality and individuality as well as the identification and addressing of the blogger’s and audience’s “self” or “selves”.

1.3. Dataset and methodology

The present study will enact a qualitative and empirical analysis of four blogs written for and by office workers from January 1st, 2014 to April 30th, 2014. The blogs’ flexible and personalised nature, in the light of the combination of Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 2001; 2010) and focus on multimodal communicative strategies and recent studies on workplace discourse and new media literature will highlight verbal and non-verbal strategies of audience targeting, along with their category inclusion and empowerment of the office worker community of practice. Critical Discourse Analysis is in fact an analytical framework that analyses both discourse and the social context underlying it. The situations that are described and discussed in these digital spaces reflect some of the unease and desire for change because “workplace interactions are [also] frequently asymmetrical” (Heritage 1997) and there are many differences in the distribution of institutional power or expert knowledge between the participants. […] roles and identities, as they are manifested through discourse, are not fixed and immutable, but subject to negotiation” (Koester 2010: 4).

Blogs have the potential to minimise such an imbalance of power and impose fewer “constraints on allowable contributions” (Drew and Heritage 1992: 22) because their bloggers write with the specific intent of sharing expert knowledge, and therefore power and institutional action, with people from the same work category that might benefit from it. This in turn leads, even to a very small extent, to a slight change in workers’ perception of their power and roles in the workplace as an employee and as an individual. These social practices and interaction are strengthened through online interaction, leading to a certain degree of “awareness” and sometimes even an “appropriation” of workplace lifestyle by the office worker who can emphasize and express his or her individuality and interests. Moreover, by observing the layout and visual choices of the blogs by following the Aspectra – Relatra – Holontra methodological framework that has been applied in relation to the multifaceted translation of websites based on the union of investigation on holistic, hol-atomistic and atomistic levels (Nauert 2007), the analysis may glean further information on the blogger(s)’ implicit messages or meanings that are embedded in these online social interactions and consequent actions. In fact, Ng’ambi claims that “interaction is a product of social action, and the traces of its interactive processes left on the human mind reproduce social practices (interaction)” (2008: 33). At the same time, bloggers may reveal more about their self/selves, thus undergoing a personal and/or professional development that is explicitly or implicitly registered in the course of the blog’s lifestream.

This may be demonstrated by means of the semiotic and linguistic analysis of four blogs concerning the workplace, two focusing on the “health and safety” field and two on “the work space” and its appropriation, along with the identification - and empowerment - of the blog’s targets. All blogs may be found by searching for “blogs for office workers” and “blogs by office workers” on Google to re-enact the most probable research keywords for those looking for information. The timeframe of the posts goes from January 1st, 2014 to April 30th, 2014 to ensure a relevant yet qualitatively researchable amount of up-to-date data, especially towards the beginning of the year when the blogger(s)’ motivation to write is strongest. The blogs are all written in English by native English speakers to avoid any complications due to translational or cultural interferences but may be “traced back” to different English speaking countries, i.e. the United Kingdom (1), the United States (2) and Australia (1).

Table 1. Group 1: “Health and safety”

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 2. Group 2: “Office life and lifestyle”

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Tables 1 and 2: Information on and division of blog posts; author’s elaboration

The present study will be structured as follows: section 1.4. will start from the holistic level “on which decisions involving the entire website are made, i.e. cultural adaptations” (Nauert 2007: 1) by focusing on the blogs’ use of visual images and colours, multimedia content, and social network connections in order to answer the following question:

Research question 1: How do blogs written by and for office workers employ images, colours and multimedia content to portray the currently changing culture and perception of office workers, and how extensively do they connect to other social media in order to disseminate their content and knowledge?

The fifth section of the present chapter will go into further detail by considering Nauert’s hol-atomistic dimension aspect, “involving the coherence and information sequencing decisions are made, e.g. adapting navigation paths in hypertext segments” (Nauert 2007: 1). In the present case study, such a unifying textual function is carried out by blogger(s)’ bios and (self) introductions, which reinforce the blogs’ messages and the identification of the bloggers as professionals and individuals on various levels. This will be addressed by focusing on the second research question:

Research question 2: How do bloggers’ and their audience’s personal attitude towards and identification with their workplace and profession, along with their desire to safeguard their professional and personal well-being, contribute to rebalancing the power play between their category and more powerful ones in their favour?

Section 1.6. will implement a close reading and application of Critical Discourse Analysis on an atomistic level “on which decisions involving individual linguistic units, e.g. ‘Netspeak’ idiosynchracies are made” (Nauert 2007: 1). This more precisely translates to the linguistic and discursive strategies that are found in both the blogger(s)’ posts and related comments in order to answer the third and final question:

Research question 3: How are blogger(s)’ and their audiences’ attitudes towards their place of work and profession conveyed, and how do they communicate their desire to create and empower the online community and/or contribute to the dissemination of its knowledge?

As far as criteria are concerned, from a semiotic perspective – and therefore to address RQ1 - the data will be analysed based on:

1. The use of different kinds of textual and non-textual media;
2. The communicative reasons underlying such use and the choice of social media in order to be connected with the blog and individual blog posts.

The main linguistic factors that will be taken into consideration to answer RQ2 and RQ3 will include deixes, markers of group inclusiveness, transitivity, presuppositions, pre-signals and phatic communication where present and relevant. Finally, section 1.7 will draw conclusions from the observations on all levels and verify whether the blogs’ idiosyncratic approach influences their message, communication style, content and impact on the targeted category, i.e. office workers.

1.4. Images, media and social networking

Multimedia and media-rich contents on websites, like images, videos, colours and banners that accompany the blog posts and content represent a “combination of contents with complex cross-references and functional relationship” (De Bortoli and Minazzi 2007 in Nauert 2007: 3). Their purpose, in this case, is to convey information about the message and impression the blogger(s) are trying to create about their identity/identities and that/those of the participants and auditors they are addressing. Other aspects that are commonly found in the blog genres include archives, calendars, avatars and badges (Miller and Shepherd 2009: 35).

The Workplace Safety Blog (WSB) shows a rooster and the writing “Let’s have a safety record to crow about”: the blogger team therefore wishes to highlight their readiness and leadership skills. In fact, the rooster announces the beginning of the day and creates a semantic association with another bird, the crow, which is connected to the verbal phrase “crow about”, meaning both to brag because one was right and to say something out loud. Although the amount of text clearly prevails, each post is accompanied by a small image on the blog’s home page to give an immediate visual cue about the topic. This picture is reproduced on the post’s full page, sometimes with a couple of other coloured images that recall those found in popular magazines. Out of the blogs this is the most extensively networked, with connections to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and an RSS e-bullettin, probably due to its more official and informative status, far reaching nature and more numerous team.

In the Scared Sitless: The Office Fitness Site (SS) blog on the other hand, the banner is quite simple, with writing in different colours, sizes and fonts on a dark greenish-grey background, recalling the officiousness and standard colours of the office. The blog’s introductory home page contains images of stereotypical office workers sitting and working in clearly uncomfortable positions in what are obviously common office chairs. The images in each blog posts are larger than in WSB and reproduced in the post. However, out of the selected blogs this is the only one where Youtube videos of the blogger Larry Swanson’s book presentation and talks are presented directly on the blog page. The user may also directly contact and interact with the blogger through a “helpout” function.

The Office Space (TOS) blog is a hybrid between an office lifestyle and an office product blog, as may be inferred by the clash between its bold blue background that harks back to office goods stores, and the gentler, sometimes pastel, colours and brighter light of the blog’s pictures. Accordingly, its intent is to help the user appropriate his or her workplace, wherever it may be, by personalising it and understanding which tools are most capable of doing so. As a result, the photographs are a significant part of the blog posts despite the single post’s topic. They go under different categories such as “style”, “small business”, “get organized”, “what’s new” and “technology” with different tab colours and paratextual structure. The colours also communicate different feelings: there are warm colors (dark and light orange) for the more “creative” and “personalising” posts such as the “style” and “get organized” ones, while the more “traditional” topics (“small businesses”, “what’s new”, “technology”) are all cold colours, i.e. green, blue and purple. Many of the “style” posts contain “step-to-step” advice and instructions and on how to attain a certain organisational or psychological effect in the workplace with very little text and many large photographs represents the creational process that recall an arts and crafts manual. On the main blog page their colours, positioning and lighting are the same as those found in home decorating magazines and aim at making the workplace appealing and “homely”. In this manner they seek to turn a difficult condition like that imposed by the current long hour “work culture” into a more comforting one by creating a sort of “home away from home” that will allow office workers to feel more at ease and productive in a less “sterile” environment. The “small business” posts’ photographs are similar to those found in popular and financial magazines show people at work or meetings, while the “what’s new”, “get organized” and “technology” posts recall those of hi-fi and office product magazines.

The See Jane Work (SJW) blog’s graphics underline the feminine empowerment it seeks to inspire in the addressees through the pastel colours and the stylised, fancy writing of the main banner, which depicts a skyline and a “modern Jane” that recalls the protagonists of modern and stylish “chick lit” novels. Moreover, as opposed to the other blogs, a picture of the blogger Holly Bohn-Weiss is also always present on the right hand of the page, representing a model of “Jane” and creating a constant and direct visual connection between the blogger and the targeted user. The picture, as well as the mention of the blogger’s real name and its comparison with “Jane’s name” above, add to the reader’s curiosity and encourage him or her to read the “About Jane” section directly linked underneath.

The holistic observation of the blogs thus leads to the response to RQ1 (“How do blogs written by and for office workers employ images, colours and multimedia content to portray the currently changing culture and perception of office workers, and how extensively do they connect to other social media in order to disseminate their content and knowledge?”). Colours and images have the function of confirming established perceptions of the office and of office work as institutionalized and outdated or proposing a new image that makes use of the entertaining visual cues that are often found in popular and recreational images that leave more space for the user’s personality and individualism within the workplace and therefor the corporate world. This is consistent, as opposed to other multimedia content, whose amount and format is present based on the type of information to be conveyed.

1.5. Blog bios and introductions

The second research question will focus on texts, and more precisely the overall structure of the blog’s linking pages, the blogger(s)’ introductions and the blog’s objective(s) and target(s). In fact, blog home pages enable bloggers to present themselves and their role/roles in life (worker, parent, spouse, blogger, professional) or the group or category (company, association, studio, union) upon which they build the identity they want the audience to engage with (as an individual, an employee or an institution).

From a linguistic point of view, Miller and Shepherd point out the prevalence of present tenses in blogs, to emphasise the semantic immediacy that characterises real-time updates, as well as the spontaneity of the post and therefore of the blogger’s activity. Present tenses also underline the currently updated status of the presented information or thought (Miller and Shepherd 2009: 35) This sense of “presentness” also influences content and language in blogs (use of more or less standard forms, degree of officiality of documents and videos, length and detail of posts, amount and prestige of hyperlinks and references). Moreover, as Grafton observes, the blogger’s writing must be a fitting response to his or her ongoing performance of his or her online identity/identities, which must be maintained and appropriately developed (2009: 91).

1.5.1. Workplace Safety Blog (WSB):

RoSPA divides its posts among four different blogs which concentrate of different contexts (“Safety Gone Sane” for safety in all aspects of life, “RoSPA Workplace Safety” - which will be the object of the current analysis - “National Water Safety Forum” and “RoADAR Bloggers” written by and for drivers). The WSB’s “About RoSPA” introduction page presents the community as follows:

(1) If safety at work matters to you, this blog is your chance to get involved and to have your say. You can share workplace safety tips, comment on opinion-led articles and keep up-to-date with the latest discussions on safety topics for the workplace. An anti-dote to the positioning of workplace safety as an obstacle: this blog is about realising the potential of occupational safety to empower employees and invigorate workplaces.Join in, and together we will lead the way to a safer future.[…]

Backed by our members, and inspired by our mission “to save lives and reduce injuries”, we have led the way in accident prevention for over 90 years. […]

We are heartened that the vast majority of those we work with do not see the management of work safety at work as a tick-box, legalistic exercise. Rather, they see effective management of occupational safety as best for their company, its employees and contractors, and are proud to take safety at work seriously, and to make a difference.

This occupational safety blog reflects that ethos, and furthers our endeavours for improved safety in the workplace. It’s a place for those who care about occupational safety to share safety tips, success stories and ideas. We hope that it will grow over time, so please get involved, subscribe, share – and together we’ll work towards improved safety at work.

The introduction begins with a veiled rhetorical presupposition “If safety at work matters to you” denoting the familiarity and directness with which the addressee (who could be both an employer because of the expression “their company, its employees and contractors” or an employee interested in knowing more about workplace safety by reading from what is presumed to be the company’s perspective) is called into play. The user is encouraged to see the blog not only as extra reading material but rather a “chance” to “get involved” (repeated at the end of the introduction) and “have your say”, thus hinting at inclusiveness and the empowerment that would result from his or her becoming a part of the team, always referred to as “we” and “us”. The expression is also quite interesting because, in the area where users can leave their comments, instead of “comments” or “leave your comment” as is common, the website uses the phrase “have your say”, which gives more weight to the opinion that the user will write as an individual. This is also mirrored in some of the other sections that are more informally entitled as “Get in touch” instead of “Contact us”, and “Write for us!” in place of “Submissions”. However, as concerns the latter, it is specified that only health and safety experts are allowed to submit posts. Although this would seem to limit the blog’s “democracy” and interactivity, RoSPA reassures that this is necessary to ensure “the high quality and consistency you’ve come to expect” of the “opinion-led” and “up-to-date” entries, which implicitly underlines the institution and blog’s established reputation. In this manner, they present yet another presupposition, i.e. that those who are interested in writing are already familiar with the organisation’s activity and aware of the quality of their work.

Another interesting term in the introduction is “anti-dote”, also found in the Scared Sitless blog. It elevates the blog’s activity to a concrete solution or treatment for an implicit “disease” or “illness”, indicated by the passive established noun phrase “workplace safety as an obstacle”, later defined as a “tick-box, legalistic exercise”. Such a title is immediately juxtaposed to “this blog” which is associated with the more dynamic verb phrase “realising the potential of occupational safety” where “potential” is a very positive lexical choice. The previously mentioned “chance” thus becomes an engaging invitation thanks to the imperatives “join in”, “subscribe” and “share” and the more cordial “please get involved” in order to “lead” and “work towards”, which implicate actively taking command, and to “lead the way” (repeated twice). RoSPA’s claim is also backed up by the temporal deixis “for over 90 years”, expressing credential based on experience.

The blog’s introduction, on the other hand, reads as follows:

(2) Workplace Safety Blog: Health and safety made simple!

Designed to highlight the importance of health and safety at work and providing you with up to date safety advice, facts, tips and opinions. We pride ourselves on working with some of the industry’s leading safety professionals covering a vast range of workplace safety topics such as stress management at work, NEBOSH exam tips, driving for work and career advice.

Workplace Safety Blog is the ultimate resource for anyone involved in health and safety at work so follow us and in return you get exclusive access to the latest workplace safety information that is not only knowledgeable and professional but also interesting and entertaining. Read more about our experts here (need to create this page. Leave out for now, can be added when we have an authors page)

Again, the most common personal deixes here are “we” and “us” and the reader is once again invited to “follow”. The blog itself, in accordance with RoSPA’s claimed leading role, is the “ultimate resource” for information and provides “advice, facts, tips and opinions” which is one of the foundations of workplace blogs.

1.5.2. Scared Sitless: The Office Fitness Site (SS):

The name of the blog is explained as an oxymora “a fun title for a serious subject” based on a well-known expression in everyday life with the intent of making the participant transfer from a negative state of mind, to the emerging “scared sitless” awareness, to a productive solution, i.e. “sit less”. As may be seen in example (3) below, he humour here, as is common in workplace discourse, is combined with the deixes “we”, “us”, and “our” and allows the blogger to surprise and connect with the user by means of the inclusive self-identification “we office workers” before moving on to the “serious subject” explained in detail in various parts of the presentation and a separate part of the blog.

(3) We office workers need to sit less.

Sitting is unnatural. It contorts us into preposterous shapes, causing all sorts of aches and pains. It deprives us of our natural vitality, sapping our productivity. Scariest of all, sitting is deadly.

Sit less to return to your natural roots as a physically active human being, to reawaken your natural vigor and productivity. Sit less to save your life.

Swanson presents his project with the linguistic pre-signal “We office workers need to sit less”. Pre-signals, as Giltrow and Stein point out, enable the user to understand what type of (hyper)text and context they are dealing with and which processing strategies and communicative competencies are the most suitable in approaching, interpreting and interacting within it (2009: 5). In this case it alerts the reader of the true meaning of the blog’s name, moving from the state of mind “scared sitless” to the dynamic “sit less” which implicates the possibility to do something to avoid or overcome the previous negative situation. “Sit less” is then repeated two times more (“sit less to return to your natural roots…” and “Sit more to save your life”, creating a three part list that goes from the least to the most drastic reason to “sit less.” This method represents yet another attempt to counteract the recent turn in office work culture and modern life in general which “seems to conspire to kick our legs out from under us and plop us into an office chair, onto the couch, or into a car or bus or airline seat” and is based on longer hours and a more sedentary life and work style.

The empowerment of the office worker in this case consists in his or her healthier lifestyle and habits (which start in the office and move to other areas of the worker’s life) and entail a more productive and fulfilling life. It is also, like in the WSB, called an “antidote” and therefore considered the way to avoid very serious illnesses – this time of a physical sort – like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The blogger Larry Swanson is introduced at the bottom of every page by means of a boilerplate description, through his multiple roles, or identities, each conferring a certain degree of credibility due to personal and professional experience:

(4) Larry Swanson is a personal trainer and massage therapist in downtown Seattle, WA. A long-time office worker himself, he wrote "Scared Sitless: The Office Fitness Book" to help you stay fit and healthy at your desk job.

The first two roles explain why his method could be considered a valid one, while the latter justifies his understanding of the audience’s situation. A common way of creating group solidarity in fact is to underline how one has “been there before”. Moreover, Swanson also uses the pronouns “we”, “us” and “our” to join his audience as an office worker and a physical person who could be affected by the “sitting disease”. By recounting the beginning of his own interest in the field (the only time he uses “I”), he attempts to adapt his work to the readers’ needs, enacting what Almut Koester refers to as relational talk that “contributes to forging a sense of group identity and building social cohesion (Eggins and Slade 1997; Poncini 2002, 2004; Pullin Stark 2007). This function of small talk is foregrounded in multinational work groups or business interactions, where there is no pre-existing group allegiance, and a group identity must first be built…” (Koester 2010: 100).

1.5.3. The Office Space (TOS):

The blog of the “Officeworks” company purposefully employs an initial welcoming sentence that is visible at the top of every page of the blog: “Welcome to the official Officeworks blog - a place for inspiring and helpful ideas and stories - from home and office styling to the latest technology and product trends to help bring your big ideas to life.” The key words here are “inspiring” and “helpful” (they are also the biggest words in the cloud tag), indicating that the aim of the blog is to assist during all phases of work on a personal level. The coupling of “home” and “office” implicitly put the two on the same level despite the company’s name, for it alludes to the fact that office styling is no longer merely for the office for any workplace. By doing this, it emphasises the blurring between home and office, work and living and therefore attempts to involve participants in their most cherished multiple identities and roles. There is no separate presentation of the bloggers, but rather a brief professional introduction at the beginning of almost every post. This enables the blog moderators to prove that each post is the work of an expert or a person who “has been there”, thus validating the content.

1.5.4. See Jane Work (SJW)

The “See Jane Travel” company’s blog is characterised by a peculiar sort of bio that embodies the previously mentioned concept of “multiple” identities: there are, in fact, four introductions, one of the blog and three of the blogger. The most significant, in terms of the establishment of a relationship with the audience, may be found in the company’s introduction which starts with the rhetorical question “Who is Jane?”, “Jane” being an archetypal name for ordinary women. This is a pre-signal that indicates that the writers, in answering this question, will also give more information on the company:

(5) The first question that pops into most people's heads when they hear about our company is, "Who is Jane"?

Jane is a fictional character who embodies everything working women are today. Whether our work is in the home, in the office, or, in our home-office, we are expert organizers and multi-taskers who can lead the staff meeting, make the contract revisions, and schedule the vet appointment, all before we've had our second cup of coffee.

Many of us grew up in the days when little girls wore pink dresses and Mary Jane shoes to school. Of course, some of us wore jeans with holes in the knees and cowboy boots. Still others had a style all their own right from the start. (And woe to the well-meaning mother who would try to repress that style.) Jane of See Jane Work is that little girl, all grown up. Maybe she's traded her Mary Janes for Prada pumps.Maybeshe's still wearing her cowboy boots. Ormaybeher unique style became a trend, and eager not to appear trendy, she re-invented her style, (and her mother still doesn't get it).

The point is, Jane is a big girl now, and while she might still occasionally manage to skip rope, she must also manage to organize her career, her home, and her future.

See Jane Work offers working women, no matter what kind of work they do, the tools to manage their time efficiently, and to get and stay organized, so that they will be successful in whatever they do.

The reader, like the blogger, is made into a modern day Jane, presumably with all other “working women” thanks to the use of inclusive deixes. In this manner, the company creates an immortalized group which is immediately associated with the reader by means of “our work” and “our home office”, uniting readers and company employees. The “our”, “we” and “us” deixes that follow continue this trend, listing all the accomplishments and needs that “Janes” have to deal with on a regular basis. The combination of a three-part list and place deixes in “in the home, in the office, or, in our home-office” confirms the current and increasingly blurring status from traditional housewife to traditional office worker to a member of today’s modern and hybrid office worker professional community while further celebrating all “Janes” for their multitasking and the strength of their various identities. The second and third paragraphs point out yet another form of negotiation of identity: that of growth and personal development that may take on different forms, as marked by the thrice repeated incipit “Maybe…”. From present simple tenses the text introduces an alternation of present perfect, present continuous and past simple tenses to indicate the various changes a Jane has supposedly undergone to reach her current position, as well as the varying and subjective degree of personal closeness they may still have with the joyful “little girls” of the previous sentence. Both of these identities are necessary in order to successfully manage a range of social and professional contexts, which are marked by the three-part list “her career, her home, and her future”. The external passing of time and worldly accomplishments that have brought about such scenarios are underlined by the switch to singular and plural third person pronouns and the introduction of a new role, that of “Jane of See Jane Work”. Regardless of what form this new and equipped Jane takes on depending on the number and individuality of the users, she/they must always possess the necessary means and honed qualities to reach her/their goals. Although the website and blog obviously seek to present and sell the company’s products, it appears to do so with the worker’s best interests at heart.

The first bio on the blog’s “about me” section is written by the blogger Holly Bohn-Weiss, and indicatively titled “What I say about me…”

(6) I’m Holly Bohn-Weiss, the Jane behind See Jane Work. I love freshly painted baseboards, a good laugh, champagne, picnics at the beach and the moments when all my kids are getting along (not necessarily in that order). I’m a mother of three boys, which has made me a little crazy. I have fashion and décor ADD so my look is always changing. Although obsessed with both style and organization I can often be found working from an undecorated room underneath a pile of paperwork. With three kids, a husband and dog, it’s hard to find time to decide on a paint color let alone get my filing done.

For me finding the perfect mix of organization and style is a journey not a destination and along the way I’ve learned a thing or two. This blog is my chance to share those ideas with you. I’m mostly imperfect, no matter how hard I try, so if these tips work for me, there’s a good chance they’ll work for you to.

Real life is messy and sometimes unpredictable. But you can be organized and on schedule, at least most of the time, by learning to recognize your own work style and build on your strengths. (We all have them.)

Why have two bios? Except for the added stress of a busy career I don’t feel any different now than when I started See Jane Work. My style of writing is more self-deprecating than informational so when I penned my bio it highlighted my inadequacies rather than achievements. When I asked our marketing director to edit it she said “you need to mention your accomplishments.” My response was “you do it.” So she did and now I have two bios.

What immediately emerges is the blogger’s insistence on negotiating and reconciling her various daily identities: Holly, blogger, director, decorator, mother, wife and pet owner. Through this and other strategies, such as a first person introduction, rhetorical questions and the fictional anticipation and addressing of the reader’s possible questions or reaction, the blogger communicates at a deeper “relational talk” level which “can also be seen as a site for identity negotiation. In workplace interactions, speakers frequently make relevant other identities besides their institutional identities (Schenkein 1978; Greatbatch and Dingwall 1998; Bernwell and Stokoe 2006), and both longer and shorter stretches of relational talk provide an opportunity for negotiating alternative identities.” (Koester 2010: 101-102)

In the second paragraph, where Bohn-Weiss clarifies the blog’s goal she creates a linguistic bond with the reader by stating that she is “sharing” and therefore giving her experience-based ideas (conveyed by the expression “along the way” which alludes to both time and space deixes, making it even more solid). This entails the presupposition that the audience should try them, for “there’s a good chance they’ll work for you to [sic too]” and benefit from it. The rhetorical question “Why have two bios?” at the end, one she presumes the reader would ask her prompts her to underline that she still thinks of herself in extremely modest terms and in a very feminine way to reinforce her remaining the same person in search of self-improvement even after being successful and let the director fill in the description with the missing information to enable her to maintain her more personal/individual endearing identity while reassuring the audience that she has the necessary professional credentials to support her advice and claims.

Therefore, as far as the second research question, i.e. “How do bloggers’ and their audience’s personal attitude towards and identification with their workplace and profession, along with their desire to safeguard their professional and personal well-being, contribute to rebalancing the power play between their category and more powerful ones in their favour?”, is concerned, in light of the observations above, the blogger(s)’ bios are in fact a consistent presence throughout the blogs by adjusting verbal tenses, pronominal deixes, pre-signals, inclusive presuppositions and separate but related introductions and self-presentations that highlight the different roles and identities that addresses all readers, including overhearers and eavesdroppers, because they can relate to one or more of these roles and make good use of the blogs’ advice to spread the influence of good work practices to other spheres of their lives.

1.6. Blog posts and comments

The structure of the posts on each blog changes, as does the language. This confirms the conclusions of a study by Tagg and Seargeant on Facebook posts that sustained that closer audience categories, such as addressees, will have a greater effect on the speaker/writer’s choice of language and expression (2014). This is also the case for work blogs, for the more “official blogs” feature more explanations and tend to use more standard forms: this is obvious in the RoSPA blog, where the blogger/professional’s intent is to inform as many people pertaining to a certain category on matters that they should fully understand and act upon. The information must be detailed and in depth and there are often many links to other useful websites where the reader may find contacts, more information and documents. One may generally notice however that, regardless of more or less institutional identity of the blogger(s), the language used in blog posts is direct and inclusive in order to foster a sense of familiarity and group identity among the entire audience and not only direct participants.

The present section will start from the third and final research question, “How are blogger(s)’ and their audiences’ attitudes towards their place of work and profession conveyed, and how do they communicate their desire to create and empower the online community and/or contribute to the dissemination of its knowledge?” and be divided into two parts in order to analyse both the language of the bloggers’ posts (in 2.6.1.) and those of comments written by users and followers in response to thr posts (in 2.6.2.) to assess their frequency, degree of engagement, and solidarity with the blogger and the online community.

1.6.1. Blog posts

In the case of the Workplace Safety Blog there is a difference between the “RoSPA Training” user’s posts and those written by “RoSPA guest” or other guests. In-home posts tend to alternate between an official report, website or statistic and the less formal but helpful information the bloggers are providing. Intertextuality and hypertextuality therefore recur throughout the entire post with extra links, sources or contact information. The other posts, which are referred to in the underlined sections of examples 7-10, are usually structured as a list of tips, questions with answers, sources or highlighted news which make the post easier to read and remember united with the blogger(s)’ mention of his or her/their personal contribution:

(7) Set to become an invaluable resource for students, academics, health and safety professionals and others with a general interest in industrial history, the History of Occupational Safety and Health website sets out developments from the 1802 Factory Act to various regulation changes made by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) last year. […] Below we have picked out some of the highlights from the colourful history of Occupational Health and Safety…
(8) While the total number of fires continues to fall in the UK, fire nevertheless remains a major risk to both households and business. In 2011-12 fire and rescue authorities attended a total of 272,000 fires, resulting in a total of 380 fire-related fatalities and 11,300 non-fatal casualties. […] While we don’t believe in the one-size-fits-all risk assessment templates offered by some fire safety consultants, this short guide will help outline the measures you need to take to perform an effective fire risk assessment….
(9) After 30 unforgettable years, Safety and Health Expo has moved from Birmingham’s NEC to ExCel, London. As well as an excuse to visit the thriving capital city, ExCeL is one of the few venues to offer enough space for the IOSH conference, Safety and Health Expo and the other 5 shows within the Protection and Management series. […] With so much going on, our Events Manager, Matt Cryer, has put together a short guide to help you make the most of your visit!
(10) Lifting operations can often put people at risk of injury, as well as incurring great costs when they go wrong. The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, which are often abbreviated to LOLER, LOLER Regulations or LOLER 1998, place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. In most cases, lifting equipment will also be covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), so be sure to check out our PUWER guide to make sure you understand your legal duties when it comes to maintaining and inspecting lifting equipment. However for now, sit back as we present RoSPA’s guide to LOLER.

Another strategy is that of referring to previous posts that the RoSPA training team presumes the participant has already read (or could quickly read thanks to the hyperlink). Such intertextuality conveys the impression that the association’s posts are part of an ongoing and organic project and that the information is constantly updated as things change. In these cases, the previous post is referred to and/or hyperlinked in combination with signpost language or pre-signals, thus assuming that the reader is a regular and loyal follower that has therefore already come across the post or link. As a result, the language tends to be more informal, with invitations and extra activities:

(11) As we’ve discussed in a previous COSHH definition post [hyperlink], we’re frequently asked “What is COSHH?” and “What does COSHH stand for?” Read on for a COSHH definition, a guide to COSHH symbols and a chance to test your knowledge!
(12) As we discussed in our previous office safety post,‘desk jockeys’are at risk from a range of health and safety issues, with back pain alone responsible for 7.6 million lost work days every year. […] In this short guide we look at the ways you can ensure workstations comply with DSE regulations, reducing sick days and improving the overall health of your workforce. (original bold)
(13) As we discussed in the first part of our work related stress series, poor mental health – including stress and anxiety – is a major issue in the workplace, calculated to cost the UK economy £26 billion pounds each year. While stress itself is not an illness, excessive and prolonged stress can lead to serious mental and physical illness. In this second part, we discuss the practical steps you can take to help reduce excessive stress at work, hopefully making your workplace a healthier, happier environment for all.

In other posts, the initial presumption consists in a starting point or a “myth” that the bloggers challenge throughout the post. This, as may be seen in examples 14-17, is accomplished by means of contrastive discourse markers (in bold). Moreover, in 14 and 15, mitigating hedge clauses like “every business knows” and “an uninformed civilian might think” that distance the writer from the erroneous claim because they are more than just “every business” and undoubtedly informed, are used. In examples 16 and 17, the underlined colloquial expressions present and playfully dismiss the supposedly mistaken conviction:

(14) Every business knows that preparation and training is imperative when it comes to protecting your workers and complying with the law.However, what happens if your workforce has difficulty understanding your policies and procedures? In this special guest investigation, we explore the cultural barriers experienced by non-English speaking employees and the implications this could have on your health and safety policy.
(15) An uninformed civilian might think that being in the Armed Forces and being involved in health safety are two opposite ends of the same continuum. ‘Health and safety is there to stop people being killed and injured, whereas the Armed Forces…..’, the story might go.Butthose who have served will quickly spot the contradictions.
(16) So much of accident prevention is focused on… well, exactly that: Prevention. Of course, as a health and safety professional this is understandable – the financial burden, legal consequences, and the humanitarian costs of accidents in the workplace are well documented and it’s your job to ensure your colleagues remain healthy and able to work.However, what is sometimes overlooked in our mission to prevent accidents, is that there is much that can be learnt from failures in health and safety, after the worst has already happened…
(17) It’s funny, sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. Safety signs and warning signs can make a big difference, simply by highlighting hazards and risks in the workplace, and allowing us to modify our behaviour accordingly.What you may not know however, is it’s a strategy that’s been effective for hundreds, if not thousands of years…

In the case of guest contributors, who almost always write under the username “RoSPA guest”, the blog post is presented in a more neutral and impersonal manner. Instead of referring to the posted activity with the first person plural form, like in “we have picked” and “we have put together”, the contribution is described as a quasi-academic official submission, as underlined in examples 18 and 19:

(18) In the UK today, over 40,000 people have careers in health and safety, while several hundred thousand people work in health and safety worldwide. […] While gaining the right health and safety qualification is vital, the next step to making the most of these health and safety opportunities often lies in the most simple – and sadly most frequently neglected – job-hunting skills. This post focuses on the art of writing a great health and safety CV, paying particular attention to the three ‘c’s: Clarity Conciseness and Consistency.
(19) Substance abuse covers a range of mind altering substances from illegal drugs for example, cannabis and cocaine to legal drugs such as alcohol and prescription drugs. It is defined as continued misuse that affects a person’s physical and mental health, social situations and responsibilities (Mental Health Foundation). This article will focus on the responsibilities related to employment and the cost to employers through loss of productivity in the workplace.

In the Scared Sitless blog there is more variety in the type of blog post: some are product blog posts where Swanson proposes new “gear” (which may be seen, purchased and recommended on other parts of the website) that he has come across or read about, and uses conditional “if” and predictive “should” clauses to describe expected effects based on his or her professional and personal experience. Other posts recommend exercises or productive work and living practices and habits: here the language resembles that of a self-help manual or popular psychology magazine. These suggestions, starting from the office and gradually enveloping an office worker’s everyday routine outside of the office, point out yet again how the influence of the workplace has overcome its 9-to-5 limit and encompassed different settings and contexts. In one post the blogger explains how he is trying these experiments and reports results and future benchmarks, and therefore shifts verb tenses from present perfect continuous to present simple, present perfect and will forms. In the same post, by describing his own methods, which were crafted after a previous experiment by B.J. Fogg but adapted to his needs and behaviour, Swanson enacts a process that entails intertextuality and remediation (Bolter and Grusin 2000) and claims, in one of his posts, that he works towards converging “two of my personal office fitness goals”. He also makes extensive use of hypermedia and intertextuality when linking blogs and pieces (introduced and hyperlinked by the deixis “this”) by other journalists and therapists, especially when they quote his work.

In the case of individual blogs, where the personality of the single blogger emerges strongest, there are frequent cases of what Bronislaw Malinowski termed “phatic communication”, where the instance of communication is motivated by a desire to remain connected rather than by the conveyance of a message’s content (1948). Zappavigna points out that this concept is applied to social media through “linguistic pings” (e.g. “I’m still here!”, “Is anyone still there” or “up” in posts) that have led to the creation of the term “phatic media culture”. He then quotes Miller, who distinguished cases in which “content is not king but ‘keeping in touch’ is and where the text message, the short call, the brief email, the short blog update or comment, becomes part of a mediated phatic sociability necessary to maintain a connected presence in an ever expanding social network” (Zappavigna 2014: 141). The rise and development of web 2.0 has therefore led to a concept of community, category solidarity and information that can be strengthened, changed, negotiated, neglected and regained. In what Miller and Shepherd call “the relatively unstructured rhetorical environment of the internet” (2004) in fact the main driving exigencies in online networking, and more specifically in blogs, are not only constructing knowledge and getting work done, but also fostering a more rewarding professional life both in and out of the office. As a result, the illocutionary act of excusing oneself for a delayed update or promising more regular or longer posts has the effect of reassuring the audience and either regaining its faith or irritating them based on the individual addressee’s perception of how valid the blog is, what regular blogging amounts to, and the blogger(s)’ perceived reliability. There is such an example in this blog below, where the desire to rekindle with the followers is reinforced by an uncharacteristic emoticon at the end:

(20) I apologize for not blogging more and sharing more info on my social media accounts. I’m still doing a lot of massage and am almost literally going non-stop the rest of each day to get the book done. That leaves little time for “extra” writing. This is killing me, because there are so many helpful tidbits to share, but I’m committed above all to finishing up the book. Look for a flood of blog posts after “Scared Sitless” is published.

In the meantime, I hope you’re sitting less regardless of more specific info from as to why you should :)

The Office Space blog, as previously mentioned, is written by many contributors who are introduced at the beginning of each post. Sometimes the “guest blogger of the month”, whose personal blog is hyperlinked, writes a series of posts so anyone who is interested in the blogger’s work can follow his or her work in its entirety. The language is more informal than in the WSB and SS blogs, and the posts occasionally include more and larger visual cues and interrelational colloquialism such as pictures of the blogger, emoticons, imperative instructions and exclamation points. The blogger also may ask rhetorical questions to make the post as direct and clear as possible. In addition, the active verbs that are used in the post’s titles are bold and centred on success, e.g. “imagine create achieve”. In the “small business” and “get organized” posts the blogger may refer to him or herself using first person pronouns and present verb tenses to speak about current habits and convictions, or past simple verb tenses to mention past habits and products. These often consist in checklists with small pictures if necessary, or in a series of quotes from experts in the field in the “small business” posts. They enforce the growing importance of social media and intertextuality to promote office work and business discourse and are also the posts that received the most numerous and supportive comments.

Although the posts are classified by their field of interest: all of them are based on the same premises, i.e. office and home-office workers must take initiative and “own” their workplace by styling, organizing, and appropriating it both physically and socially. These bloggers’ willingness to share their ideas (as well as the products they use, which may be purchased online) with other office workers and entrepreneurs also represents an attempt to create a united community. One presentation in particular underlines the ever-changing nature of today’s office work:

(21) It is not just micro-businesses that are increasingly using co-working spaces. Mid-sized businesses are also using them to shift from an HQ ‘Headquarters’ mentality to a CQ ‘Connected Quarters’ approach in which they seek talent, ideas, community and customers as well as giving their workers flexibility.

Co-working spaces are perfect to help talented staff work in an attractive space but avoid unnecessary commuting, to set up branches in other cities, and to connect into the communities that will drive your business forward.

This post further highlights the central role of today’s office worker by proposing products under empowering, dynamic and individualising headings such as “data-driven self perfection, “your unique 3D print, very personal digital assistants”, “power to the worker” and “light up your life”.

The general idea that emerges in accordance with the blog’s main objective is that the products that are used in the office and by office workers must not only fit but enhance the user’s work and performance to optimise his or her life in the office even if it means negotiating. Each blogger and each post category turns to different social media to provide the reader with more and clearer information and ideas. For instance, the “style” posts are connected not only with Facebook but also with Youtube and Instagram, which are most appropriate to showcase the projects and encourage further contact and “inspiration”, while the “small business” and “technology” posts usually make extensive use hyperlinks and official websites.

Finally, certain posts in the See Jane Work blog focus on action, starting from the title “Choosing an Office Color Scheme” and, in line with its intention to encourage the “Janes” who are reading, follows with the friendly exhortation “don’t be afraid to make your mark”. The post in fact concerns a visually impacting act and change that greatly influences the office environment and worker productivity, for “the colors in your office will impact your work and influence visitors”. Here, the blogger reiterates the modesty displayed in her bio by specifying “I’m not a scientist so I can’t answer that question but I can give you a little advice…” and by pointing out that “I recently updated the post […] It was too long and boring (and that is coming from the author…me). I added fun new graphics that should make it easier to follow and implement”. The rest of the post, divided into brief descriptions of colour schemes that may be used in offices alternates active and passive tenses (although the former is ultimately more frequent), thus mitigating the potentially intimidating full-drive effect created by the post’s title, presumably because of the caution that is needed before changing the entire colour of one’s office.

1.6.2. Comments

Blogs are becoming an increasingly important part of social media: consequentially, in all blogs the readers are invited and encouraged to contribute by joining, sharing or commenting. At the end of one post for instance, Larry Swanson openly asks for the audience’s participation and feedback in one post by writing: “I’d love it if you’d join me in this experiment. Can you think of two or three tiny behaviors that you could work into your office work day, using Fogg’s model?”. Nevertheless, there are very few comments to these posts which have been counted as follows:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 3. Division of comments among the blogs; author’s elaboration

Often the reader does not react by openly contradicting or adding to a post but rather by simply adding “likes” or “shares” of a post they enjoyed on their profile on another social network (usually Facebook or Twitter) thanks to the network’s icon at the bottom of every blog post. When present however, the comments are almost always completely positive. Significantly, because the blogs are purposefully presented and written in a very concise, schematic yet informative manner, many comments focus on and demonstrate their appreciation of this, as underlined in the following comments:

(22) Good presentation of 5 steps of fire risk assessment. They were brief and concise.
(23) I second that. Identification of root cause is indeed very important and analyzing the behavior of accident can be the only mean. Well,thanks for sharingsuch a detailed post, very insightful!
(24) Another great post, I appreciate all the work you put into this site,helping out otherswith your fun and creative works.
(25) Thanks! Some great tips here. Cheers, [name deleted]!
(26) All of us at the clinic think your writing makes one want to return for more.Thank you for sharingyour voice abilities.

Emotional reactions such as “to second”, “some great tips here”, “indeed”, “another great post” directly refer to the opinions and ideas expressed in the post. Comment 26 is also relevant, in that the reference to “all of us at the clinic” indicates that there is a preexisting professional group that works, reads and comments posts under a single username. The expressions in bold hark back to the intent that the blogger expressed in and/or the commenter discerned from the post. Other posts, like the following ones, not only complement but also support the blogger’s argument by narrating their own experience and providing further details or suggestions:

(27) I totally agree with the message this article conveys. I spent seven years of my working life investigating accidents for HSE and the one thing at the back of my mind at all times was how can we avoid such an accident occurring again in the future. It’s very easy to participate in the blame culture and let the investigation become a witch hunt. However the most important aspect of all investigations into everything from minor incidents to fatal accidents is the prevention of further accidents through a thorough understanding of the processes that led up to the incident/accident in the first place.
(28) After burning out as a “road warrior” and itinerant trainer, I took some “desk jobs” and found relief from jet lag but found that I could not concentrate as well, think as deeply, or verbalized my thoughts as clearly when I sat as when I was lecturing from a white board or walking among my seated students. This was not just the effect of going from communicating to coding. Even my coding was decreased if I remained seated, even in a multi-hundred dollar Herman Miller chair. A standing desk helped. So did installing a white board that could not be reached from my desk. Ideas would start flowing within just a few steps as I left my (standing or sitting) desk to walk around, use my arms and hands to draw, and physically and kinesthetically interact with my ideas and the physical world. […]
I now feel bad for placing all my students at such a disadvantage. I should have had them walk and listen instead of turning off their bodies and hobbling their brains.
Here’s to the new walking office and moving classroom!
(29) Being a member of three agriculturally related boards and Director of our own beef cattle company, I know and appreciate what it is to work from my home office. Having worked from home in our own business for the past 35 years, I suppose I really know no other discipline.

Other followers claim that they have learned or been inspired by the post in some way or would like to apply its content in some way:

(30) I’ll be honest about it, I don’t think I have ever seen symbols 8 and 9. I’ll have to go and look it up!!!
(31) I am actually thinking of buying another printer for home office upstairs, need one that is direct USB into a Targus Display link docking station and works with Windows 8.1 one that does not use to much ink dont print photos just documents and color would be great
we have a big Samsung glx 6620 or something network connected but I just want one for myself
any thoughts
PS good article […]
(32) I wish I had read this article earlier. Working at home was not a great success for me because I didn’t have anywhere to work. I just wandered around the house aimlessly. If I had read this article, I would have known I needed a desk and computer at the very least.
(33) This sounds like the perfect gift for my artistic teenage son, and a great paper-saver!

In a few cases, the user takes the opportunity to promote his or her own activity or propose further reading or sources he or she believe could be useful. Intertextuality and hypertextuality therefore come into play once again:

(34) Very practical. What I love about this article is that it’s simple and attainable. Thanks for the advice. If you are planning of renewing your business or starting a business in Australia, this link helped me. [link]
(35) Larry, what you’ve come up here is awfully similar to what Alan Deutschman writes about in his book Change or Die, down to using “three Rs” for making change effective. His three are “Relate” (find someone who’s doing what you want to do, and connect with them), “Repeat” (similar to your “Repeat” — it’s a pretty obvious one to have in this context!), and finally “Reframe” (learn to think about what you’re doing differently, but only after the work of repeating is fully done). I’d recommend the book to you — you seem to have come to a lot of the same conclusions, and his perspective may well help you talk about it with others. He also talks about the three Fs of ineffective change: Fear, Facts, and Force, which people frequently use to drive change and which almost always fail.

In response to the third research question “How are blogger(s)’ and their audiences’ attitudes towards their place of work and profession conveyed, and how do they communicate their desire to create and empower the online community and/or contribute to the dissemination of its knowledge?” has thereby resulted in confirming the thesis that, even in online communicative contexts like blogs, both bloggers and followers may employ linguistic and discursive strategies, as well as macrostructural means, to not only convey solidarity and support, but also to further promote the discourse community’s activity by recommending further readings and sources of interest. More specifically, the linguistic and discursive strategies that have been detected in the dataset include active verbs, deixes and dynamic, colloquial forms that communicate the sense of collaboration and familiarity that is encouraged within the online professional discourse community. The macrostructural features encompass a variety of forms of intertexuality and multimodality that are typical of institutional and popularised genres according to the tone of the blogs and their sections. Moreover, the bloggers extensively use intertextuality, presuppositions and myths to debunk as a way of connecting with the outside “real” world and the current situation of office workers, as well as informal and phatic communication. The blogs’ readers in turn support the blogs mostly through passive means such as “likes” and “shares” but express agreement, appreciation and occasionally the desire to actively contribute by promoting their activity or providing suggestions and recommendations of potentially interesting and useful material and sources.

1.7. Concluding remarks

The present analysis has demonstrated some of the many linguistic and non-verbal strategies that are enacted in blogs destined for office workers in order to empower them both physically and mentally. Each blog takes on the task from its own specific point of view, using media, social media and available information in a different manner, which leads to a strong sense of intertextuality, multimodality and hypertextuality. Images and videos, where present, influence the messages’ conveyance and appeal to a certain role or group of roles of users who are addressed not only as office workers but also parents, friends, colleagues or owners of a workplace). This was clearest in The Office Space and See Jane Work blogs, where the bloggers want the workplace to be more “homely” and part of an ongoing improvement in the office worker’s lifestyle and sense of belonging to a group and place. This is especially significant in view of the increasing hybridity and mobility of the very concept of “workplace”, which results in offices no longer being the fulcrum of workplace discourse, as it traditionally was.

The blogs all seem to concur in their attempt to understand and adapt to or challenge the current “work culture” according to the impact it could have on employees’ life and work habits in and out of the office. The core idea is that office worker must not merely “work in” but also “appropriate” and “inhabit” their workplace and work practices. This in turn empowers workers by making them feel that they are working in the most productive and safe environment, and consequentially enables them to perform at their best because they feel at their best. Such insistence on safety and immediate physical wellbeing was the center of the Workplace Safety Blog and Scared Sitless blogs which presented the most scientific and statistic data and aim at creating a sense of camaraderie within the targeted community of practice by means of conversational and discourse strategies grounded on inclusivity and consistence such as inclusive expressions, continuous activity and research and shared knowledge and presuppositions that are at the basis of this professional community. Moreover, the posts’ contents are simplified and explained through direct question-answer structures or lists and bullet points that help the reader process and remember the conveyed information more easily.

The blogger goes to great lengths to demonstrate that they are “accessible” and have done extra work or experiments for the audience’s sake and invite users to “have their say”, “share” or contribute in some other way. The users’ comments are not numerous and are generally short but prove, either by repeating specific words or by providing additional information, that the blogs have substantially succeeded in their communicative intent. By thanking, complimenting, and sharing on the blog or other social networks, the audience makes good use of social media and collaboration in their desire to reinforce this sense of group identity and commonality regardless of the offices and workplaces where the followers read, write or work.

Blogs (last accessed on August 15th, 2014)

Workplace Safety Blog http://rospaworkplacesafety.com/

Scared Sitless http://sitless.com/blog/

The Office Space http://blog.officeworks.com.au/2014/

See Jane Work http://www.seejanework.com/blog/

References

Baker, Douglas, Buoni, Nicole, Fee, Michael and Vitale, Caroline (2011). “Social Networking and its Effects on Companies and Their Employees”. Retrived. November 15th: 1-13.

Bolter, Jay and Grusin, Richard (2000). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, Massachusettes: The MIT Press.

Blood, Rebecca “Weblogs: A History and Perspective”. Rebecca’s Pocket. 07 September 2000. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html"

Bruns, Axel and Jacobs, Johannes [eds.] 2007. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang.

Cook, Trevor (2007). “Can Blogging Unspin PR?”. In Bruns, A. and Jacobs, J. [eds.] 2007. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang: 45-56.

Charman, Suw (2007). “Blogs in Business: Using Blogs behind the Firewall”. In Bruns, A. and Jacobs, J. [eds.] 2007. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang: 57-68.

Crystal, David (2002). The English Language, second edition. London: Penguin Books.

De Bortoli, Mario and Minazzi, Fabio (2007). “Localization of rich-media interactive ads”, Proceedings of the Marie Curie Euroconferences MuTra Audiovisual Translation Scenarios. Copenhagen 1-5 May 2006.

Di Fraia, Guido [ed.] (2007). Blog-grafie. Identità narrative in rete. Milan: Edizioni Angelo Guerrini e Associati SpA.

Drew Paul and Heritage John [eds.] (1992). Talk at Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fairclough, Norman (2001). Language and Power, second edition. Harlow: Longman Pearson Education Limited.

Fairclough, Norman (2010). Critical Discourse Analysis: the Critical Study of Language, second edition . Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Fitzgerald, Brian and O’Brien, Damien (2007). “Bloggers and the Law”. In Bruns, A. and Jacobs, J. [eds.] 2007. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang: 223-238.

Garzone, Giuliana and Catenaccio, Paola (2009). Identities across Media and Modes: Discursive Perspectives. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang.

Giltrow, Janet and Stein, Dieter (2009). Genres in the Internet: Issues in the theory of genre. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Grafton, Kathryn (2009). “Situating the public social actions of blog posts”. In Giltrow, J. and Stein, D. (2009), Genres in the Internet: Issues in the theory of genre. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company: 85-112.

Granieri, Giuseppe (2005). Blog Generation. Rome and Bari: Laterza Editori.

Holmes, Janet and Marra, Meredith (2002). “Having a laugh at work: how humour contributes to workplace culture”. Journal of Pragmatics 34: 1683-1710.

Jucker, Andreas (2003). “Mass Media Communication at the Beginning of the Twenty-first Century: Dimensions of change”, Journal of Historical Pragmatics 4(1): 129-148.

Koester, Almut (2010), Workplace Discourse. London and New York: Continuum Discourse Series.

Lave, Jean and Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leppänen, Sirpa, Kytölä, Samu, Jousmäki, Henna, Peuronen, Saija and Westinen, Elina (2014). “Entextualization and resemiotization as resources for identification in social media”. In Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. [eds.] (2014), Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 112-136.

Miller, Carolyn and Shepherd, Dawn (2004). “Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog” Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. available at http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogging_as_social_action_a_genre_analysis_of_the_weblog.html

Miller, Carolyn and Shepherd, Dawn (2009). “Questions for genre theory from the blogosphere”. In Giltrow, J. and Stein, D. (2009), Genres in the Internet: Issues in the theory of genre. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 263-290.

Nauert, Sandra (2007). “Translating Websites”. In EU-High-Level Scientific Conference Series MuTra 2007 – LSP Translations Scenarios: Conference Proceedings, http://www.euroconferences.info/proceedings/2007_Proceedings/2007_Nauert _Sandra.pdf

Ng’ambi, Dick (2008). “A Critical Discourse Analysis of Students’ Anonymous Online Postings”. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education. 4.3: 31-39.

Polito, Rabindranath (2011). “Language and Power in Blogging: A Critical Discourse Analysis”. 2011 International Conference on Humanities, Society and Culture. IPDER. 20: 282-286.

Puschmann, Cornelius (2010). The corporate blog as an emerging genre of computer-mediated communication: features, constraints, discourse situation. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen.

Sarangi, Srikant and Roberts, Celia [eds.] (1999). Talk, Work and Institutional Order. Berlin: Mouton de Gruter.

Seargeant, Philip and Tagg, Caroline [eds.] (2014). Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Seargeant, Philip and Tagg, Caroline (2014). “Audience design and language choice in the construction and maintenance of translocal communities on social network sites”. In Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. [eds.] (2014) Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 161-185.

Smircich, Linda (1983). “The concept of culture and organizational analysis”. Administrative Science Quarterly 28: 339-358.

Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning And Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zappavigna, Michele (2014). “CoffeeTweets: bonding around the bean on Twitter”. In Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. [eds.] (2014). Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 139-157.

CHAPTER 2: MEDIA PSYCHOLOGISTS: THE NEW FRONTIER OF A PROFESSION AND A METADISCOURSE

2.1. Introduction: The definition and evolution of media psychology

The branch of media psychology is the object of particular inquiry, as well as of the present study, due to its ongoing and increasing development: its initial research dates back to the 1950s, with studies stemming from sociology on television, advertisement, and their influence on children. Its interdisciplinarity remains and has been enforced by the gradual subdivision of media psychology studies based on “verticals” or “global silos”, i.e. categorising social segments consisting of commerce, education, health care, entertainment, telecommunications, public policy and government (Luskin 2012; 2016). Each vertical features its own followers, organisations and associations (Luskin 2012; 2016), that constitute discourse and practice communities of their own. It was recently acknowledged an as official field that is studied by the evolving professional figure of the “scholar/practitioner” (Luskin 2012) thanks to the establishment of APA Media Psychology Division 46 in 1998, and that of the APA Society for Media Psychology and Technology in 2012. The growth of the field therefore runs parallel with that of the object of its research and the use of diverse and evolving media by different subjects for various purposes and is therefore subjected to constant and unpredictable changes.

Media in fact, have brought and continue to bring changes to individual and collective behaviour both online and offline, as well as to the “sense of self through the passages of time” that has become “democratized” (Fischoff 2005). The perception of liberty and anonymity that is provided by interacting on the internet has even resulted in a phenomenon known as the “online disinhibition effect” (Suler 2004) according to which people express themselves more freely when on the internet. “Benign disinhibition” moreover translates into “an attempt to better understand and develop oneself, to resolve interpersonal and intrapsychic problems or to explore new emotional and experiential dimensions to one’s identity” (Sulas 2004: 321). In fact, more people can afford to use these means to consciously or unconsciously record changes of their self and selves in time, thus crafting and adjusting their online identity/ies and interactions in both positive and negative ways. As far as therapy is concerned, media psychologists must also consider the impact of such remarkable increase in media users and the potential clientele that uses the internet for physical and mental healthcare information and assistance (Antony and Nagel 2010). This results in a surge in psychological information (as well as misinformation) and services that are provided on the web, for an audience that is unknown and general and includes “overhearers” that are simply curious about media, psychology and their association as well as specific categories that may actively use and pursue media interaction as a way to solve certain needs and problems thanks to the assistance of experts that use old and new media to reach and assist more and more people. These are the two main categories that said professionals must have in mind and appeal to when writing, and such acknowledgment is reflected in certain discursive and interactive strategies that are employed in online writing in general, and blogs in particular.

2.2. Background: defining media psychology

In accordance with the previously mentioned ongoing growth of media psychology, a definition of the field is still in working progress, for “while there is much interest in the field, there is little agreement in defining media psychology” (Rutledge 2008) even among professionals. This disagreement emerges quite clearly in the media psychology discourse community and especially in popularizing writing aiming at justifying the field in the eyes of a growing yet often skeptic audience. The fact that media psychology stems from interdisciplinary studies involving various subjects and issues faced in other disciplines has entailed such a definition to start from being extremely general, such as in the case of David Giles, one of the first theorists of the field who underlined that “Media psychology potentially covers an enormous scope […] there are already a number of established fields that could be accommodated within media psychology, such as the psychology of advertising and the psychology of the internet” and that “what makes media psychology unusual among specialist psychology fields, however, is that much of the work has already been done in disciplines outside psychology” (Giles 2003: 4). This also explains media psychologists’ struggle when it comes to justifying the validity and innovativeness of their work in the eyes of a public that has a very vague idea of what they do.

A later definition that attempts to separate media psychology from other fields is sustained that it is “concerned with the inter- and intra-personal psychological dimensions underlying the impact and use of any medium of communication, irrespective of the nature of the subject matter being communicated” (Fischoff 2005), a definition that even includes animals and plants. Later focus was placed on the professional discourse community of “psychologists who use media to disseminate psychology information […] and using psychology for the analysis of media use, development and application” (Rutledge 2008). This entails a shift in the consideration of media, which is not merely the object of study, but the means to provide help for a variety of emerging (cyber)psychological disorders and inquiries.

In the light of the interaction provided by web 2.0 and cutting-edge technology, the most recent definitions seek to recover the interdisciplinarity of media psychology by stating that it deals with “flows from the application of theories in psychology to media” and defining it as “the interface between media and the human response”, as well as “an art and a science” (Luskin 2012; 2016). Ongoing research in the field aims at further expanding it and including new users, forms and applications of media psychology, and presenting it as a “broad and integrated study” (Rutledge). Today’s widespread forms of popularised knowledge dissemination through social media and blogs make them into an auto referential and comprehensive resource that creates a connection between professionals and the lay public and informs them on urgent matters that are still under study but of the utmost relevance.

At this point, it is important to inquire into the manifold reasons why media psychology has experienced great difficulty in emerging in the fields of psychology and linguistics in order to underline the great contribution that social media and its linguistic resources make in understanding professional online interaction both among peers in search of building shared knowledge and collaborative relationships, and with potential or current non-expert targets of interest in search of information and help.

The aforementioned difficulty in defining the field of media psychology is also reflected in that of determining what distinguishes a media psychologist as a separate category. In fact, like their specialization, their professional background is very interdisciplinary and entails an experimental application of psychological methods and frameworks to and for media because they are often clinical or social psychologists with extra training in media studies and effects, as well as counselling. This profession also requires extensive knowledge in multiple competences and fields and involves various subjects (teachers, researchers, counsellors, managers, psychologists who appear in and use media), thus “combining an understanding of human behavior, cognition, and emotions with an equal understanding of media technologies” (Rutledge 2010). Moreover, in the spirit of their being innovative “scholar/practitioners” (Luskin 2012), they must be updated on the latest tools and trends in the media as and willing to change and develop their theories based on their effects on users of various ages and socioeconomic circumstances. Their research focuses on necessary changes in mass media, society and their interaction that users are not aware of, therefore they must constantly justify their often experimental work and construct a stable identity for their professional category though discursive means and evidence that is as incontestable as possible by using the same means they are entrusted to explain.

In fact, media psychologists must address a transnational and varied audience that bases its convictions on “conventional wisdom” (Luskin 2012; 2016) and material coming from other, not necessarily reliable, sources. Media psychologists attempt to correct these established misunderstandings by providing popularised and hyperlinked professional information and advice in relation to words and concepts that are often taken for granted. One of the online genres that best convey such an attempt, as will be explained further on, is represented by blogs. The register with which they address their readers must balance between completely different categories and views such as those capable of reassuring “technophobes”, “digital immigrants”, or those pertaining to generations that were introduced to media later in life, and those mitigating the excessive optimism of younger “technogurus” or “digital natives” (Fischoff 2005; Rutledge 2010). As a result, the communicative intent of this popularising genre must both dispel “collective anxiety” of the internet and avoid its misuse due to heavy reliance and lack of solidity and human interactions in the real world of the next generation (Rutledge 2010).

Another ongoing challenge that media psychologists must face consists in the new legal and ethical issues and dilemmas that concern the profession because they have stemmed from advances in the media and technology. In fact, there is the need to regulate the activity of psychologists who professionally consult those providing media content, those who provide media products regarding their work and research, those who increasingly appear in the media (Luskin 2016). This is even more important from a clinical perspective, considering that media psychologists - and psychologists in general - often cannot directly treat patients online but only advise them and tell them what to do and where to go for direct therapy. Such a limit however clashes with the widely known and perceived interactivity of the internet (Bucher 2005; Adami 2015), which has resulted in greater expectations in terms of instant connection and services by professionals (Antony and Nagel 2010), potential patients, and informers in general.

2.3. Media psychology, language and blogs

Although media psychology deals with all sorts of media, many of which may not include or are not centered around language and words, it deals with the evolving forms of communication and with matters concerning language and linguistics that are connected with linguistic, discursive and multimodal research. In this sense, media psychology blogs represent a mediatic means to present and reflect on media and their effects on the mind and on behavior, and often do so by using media (links, videos, audio, photography, etc). From this perspective, such blogs – and other metadiscursive sites on media as well – contribute to educating the general public on a form of multimodal communicative competence known as “media literacy” which is defined as follows: “the audience of a new medium must be trained to decode the message of a medium, learn the proper language, grammar, emotional impact and requisite senses, skills and aptitudes demanded by the new medium” (Fischoff 2005). Because these media and their online communities change so quickly compared to their traditional counterparts - making their stages of evolution, as well as their effects and dangers, more difficult to see - these fast-paced and updated channels are the most appropriate to encourage and warn in an approachable and large scale manner. Such a need reflects Kress’ belief that media are multimodal and multilinguistic and therefore must be translated in order to get a message across (2010).

Another point of contact between media psychology and linguistics may be found in Luskin’s Three S Model, indicating three areas in which media psychology may be applied:

·-Synesthetics: combining and stimulating senses
·-Semiotics: identification, manipulation and use of symbols such as the screen, icons, navigation and user interface
·-Semantics: understanding the use, effects and implication of words (Luskin 2012)

The second and third areas fall under the competence of linguistics and semiotics, confirming Giles’ previously quoted claim that media psychology deals with matters that have been dealt with elsewhere. Being a field with a professional culture and institutional order of its own, psychology - and media psychology with it - has given shape to its own emerging and hybrid form of ESP (Short 2010; Abbamonte and Petillo 2015) uniting specific micro language and technical terminology with CALP and BICS contexts that entail a range of registers, genres and context/cultural sensitive discursive strategies. Moreover, the media and media psychology have also bred “new and sometimes convoluted language” (Luskin 2016), thus contributing to studies in neologism, morphology, syntax, pragmatics and phonetics (in terms of discussing the pronunciation of said neologisms). Some of these new words regard the media itself, its instruments and those who use it (ex. psybermedia, emoticon, screenager, webhead, cybrarian), while discourse analysis has found fertile terrain in the web 2.0’s emerging interaction patterns and portrayals of online identity. These have led to the online version of traditional discursive patterns on many levels such as “netiquette”, “online discourse community” and “web genres”. Upon considering the role of the media psychologist as a gatekeeper in possession of innovative information and data who decides to share that knowledge and its potential with non-experts, the analysis of their blogs and blog posts lends itself to Critical Discourse Analysis and its aim to reveal social connections of empowerment and solidarity through dissemination of knowledge and provision of professional advice beyond the boundaries of profession, time and space.

In accordance with the field and profession of media psychology, blogs written by media psychologists, regardless of the target, vary greatly based on the professional’s individual background and particular approach to media (enthusiastic or skeptic attitude, kind(s) of considered media and multimodality, diachronic or synchronic comparisons) and psychology (branch of psychology, preferred school of thought, type of analysis and therapy).

As will be demonstrated in the present study, media psychology blogs are relevant in that they present, elaborate and disseminate updated scientific knowledge and information on not only the presence, but also the dangers and potential, of the use and misuse new and social media for personal and societal interaction and development. They allow ideas, studies and results to be shared in real time and therefore is especially relevant in today’s fast-paced communicative and learning context. For this reason, even if internet genres are generally “placeless” within cyberspace unless otherwise indicated (Myers 2010), it is inacceptable for them to remain “timeless”, for the lack of updating would impact the study’s credibility in the eyes of peers and readers alike. This necessity is therefore provided for not only by indicating and/or emphasising the date of posting, but also through constant and consistent time and place deixes in relation to the information/study itself and its connection with the reader’s current situation and the professional’s adopted perspective (Fischoff 2005).

Another great advantage offered by blogs consists in its potentially infinite space (Blood 2000), which enables professional bloggers to express their thoughts more fully and provide accessible definitions of the scientific terms and methods that are mentioned for the non-experts’ knowledge and use. This space also allows the surrounding context to be explained and described in further detail, with examples and narrations that create a greater impact on the reader (Page 2012) and may even become therapeutic for those writing (Tan 2008) but could not be included in scientific articles and texts with their word limits and limited (and almost exclusively academic) readership. In addition, blogs often contain and add extra multimedia content to illustrate and sustain the point at hand, thus further fostering knowledge sharing and dissemination.

The media psychologist’s interdisciplinary training and personal experience, both in terms of education and of case studies and particular areas of interest, lead to their professional and individual multifaceted identities, which emerge in the blogger’s online writing style and choice in linguistic and discursive idiosyncrasies. The professionals’ thoughts and stories explain the reason for the theory or opinion they are expressing in relation to the issue at hand and allow them to connect with the readers as people who have “been there”. Blogs foster these aims by enabling media psychologists to present and construct these different “identities” and reveal different sides of their personality and professionalism (Pennebaker et al. 2003; Garzone and Catenaccio 2009; Page 2012; Seargeant and Tagg 2014). The establishment of such a relationship between experts and non-experts who usually do not meet in person, and the ways it changes based on the identity that the blogger decides to highlight, are at the heart of the present study.

2.4. Dataset and methodology

The present study endeavours to provide a close-reading and qualitative linguistic analysis of a small dataset (presumably also due to the fact that all blogs are managed by one blogger and not a team) of posts from comparable blogs on media psychology and written by media psychologists who are also all members of APA div. 46, and therefore have obtained an official qualification or specialization in media psychology. Moreover, two of the blogs, Millennial Media and Digital Altruism, are part of the Psychology Today popular magazine’s online platform. This criteria was established based on the popularity of the magazine (which is available both in printed and online form) among non-experts as well as of its intent, through the online platform, to represent both traditional and emerging branches on psychology and provide readers with resources and contact information for further information and professional assistance. Two of the blogs, Digital Altruism and Dana Klisanin, were both written by Dana Kilsanin and both are considered in the study in the same section because the blog posts of the latter are also posted on the former and in order to verify whether there are any noticeable differences between her blog in collaboration with Psychology Today and the one she runs as an individual. To create a visual connection with the blogger, each blog presents a biosketch and a picture of the blogger.

The period of both the writing of the posts and their analysis in the present study concerns the 1st January 2015 – 15th October 2016 to guarantee that all blogs are referring to the same time context. To ensure the homogeneity of the number and content of the posts and of the standing of the professional bloggers, the dataset was divided as follows:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1. Division of blog posts; author’s elaboration

In light of the previously outlined peculiarities and challenges that characterise this professional category, the study will focus on each blog in turn due to their divergences and, in doing so, focus on the following research questions:

RQ1: How and with which attitude do the blogger(s) approach and discuss current issues in and about the media and the use of media psychology in the macrostructural elements and the posts of the blogs?

RQ2: How do the bloggers interact with and relate to readers?

RQ3: Are there any differences between blogger as individual, as an autonomous professional, and as part of a larger online community?

The methodological framework with which the analysis will be carried out is that of Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 1995; 2001; 2010) in order to better underline the blogs’ democratising effect of knowledge that is usually exclusive of the scientific academic community, especially at its experimental stage. Furthermore, it highlights the role of the professional as a gatekeeper who willingly disseminates this information, also by making the language more accessible and popularised (Garzone 2012) and by providing practical and professional advice, to make the public more aware of issues that could concern them and their relations. More specifically, the present study will focus on the bloggers’ self-presentations, the titles of their blogs and posts, the manner in which their work and research is justified and supported, as well as the rhetorical and discursive devices and linguistic strategies that are employed to present emerging trends and topics in media psychology as promising or menacing.

2.4.1. Millennial Media: The media saturated generation Y

The first thing that emerges when analysing this blog, as opposed to what is usually expected from a media psychologist, is the negative approach to and evaluation language of media and the effects on society that its currently saturated. Such saturation has led to a series of problems caused by excess, to the point that it has become something to be “tackled”. This may be seen in the underlined parts of the blurb of the blog on the Psychology Today platform’s search function and on the page of the blog:

(1) Generation Y has seen its share of history. From the removal of a planet in our solar system, to the ubiquitous understanding of the term, "wireless," never has a generation been so saturated in media. How is meaning made from conflicting messages? What are the implications of information overload? A millennial tackles all this and more.

The presentation of the blogger, Goal Auzeen Saedi, Ph.D, is found on the blog page as well and touches upon her many identities, all of which are connected to her profession and to her approach to media psychology, which unite more traditional and known methods, such as CBT, with innovative ones like mindfulness that are still under experiment. The description is entirely in the third person, and therefore conveys a more distant aura of a multitasking and highly competent and specialised media psychologist in various areas ranging from her practice, to her research and academic activity, to her appearance in the media and at popular knowledge dissemination events like TEDx, all of which are expounded on with lists of titles and qualifications.

(2) Goali Saedi Bocci, Ph.D., received her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Notre Dame. She completed her Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Stanford University. Prior to this, she completed her Pre-Doctoral Internship training at the University of California, Berkeley; here, she had the distinction of receiving a national honor when selected for the Outstanding Graduate Student/Intern award from APA's Division 17 Society of Counseling Psychology Section on College and University Counseling Centers. She also graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Portland State University, where she was a Presidential Scholar.

Dr. Saedi Bocci is the published author of several books […] She is currently working on two more titles […]

Additionally, she has written for APA publications, The School Psychologistand The Amplifier, Media Psychology. She has also published empirical articles in such journals as […]. Additionally, she has written for the Encyclopedia of Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. She has been serving on the board for the APA Division 46 Journal of Popular Media Culture since its inception.

Dr. Saedi Bocci currently serves as an adjunct faculty member for Pacific Univeristy's [sic. University’s] School of Professional Psychology teaching Human Diversity, as well as co-taught a seminar on at-risk youth for the University of Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns. She also taught courses at Stanford University through the Department of Education for their Peer Bridge Program.

Dr. Saedi Bocci appears regularly as an expert for a number of media outlets, including […]. She has also appeared as a regular television guest on AMNW, a Portland, Oregon morning television program, and appeared on Good Morning San Diego. Dr. Saedi Bocci has done several radio programs as well, including the Dr. Howard Gluss radio show discussing foreign policy in the Middle East.

In 2013, Dr. Saedi Bocci gave a TEDx talk at Gunn High School in Palo Alto on the intersection between beauty, exoticization, and race in contemporary society.

To ensure that this is not merely a policy of Psychology Today platform members, this introduction has been compared to that presented in the website of her consulting service glistenconsulting.com). This is a shorter version of the same presentation with almost the same qualities and is also written in the third person, this confirming that this is a personal preference and creates a professional distance between the blogger and the reader. Moreover, there are no indications of personal interests and even the only reference that most closely resembles a personal interest, i.e. her being a yoga instructor, could be motivated by and integrated with her work.

(3) Goal Auzeen Saedi, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in individual therapy and maintains a private practice in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Notre Dame. Her APA-accredited internship was completed at the University of California Berkeley, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University. She possesses expertise in treating young adults, adolescents, and college age populations, having extensive background in university mental health settings. Dr. Saedi specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, perfectionism, academic and vocational concerns, multicultural and identity concerns, as well as life transitions. She obtained specialized training in the assessment of ADHD while at UC Berkeley. At Stanford, she completed training rotations in the area of eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Dr. Saedi’s treatment approach is integrative, drawing heavily from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness approaches. In the former modality, she makes use of “homework” assignments, and uses a very active solution-oriented approach. Through mindfulness, she teaches skills such as deep breathing and meditation. Dr. Saedi is also a certified yoga instructor, having received her 200 hour RYT training through Three Sisters Yoga in Portland, Oregon. She has developed both adolescent yoga teen anxiety groups and mindfulness meditation groups.

Dr. Saedi is engaged in media psychology work, as she writes an online column for Psychology Today, which has to date garnered over 1 million hits worldwide. She writes on mental health, millennials, diversity issues, celebrities and pop culture, and social media. Her articles are regularly selected by editors as “essential reads” and have been featured among the most popular articles on the site. Her first book, PhDiva: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Graduate School Success was published in 2015 through Corby Press.

Dr. Saedi has been a TEDx speaker, and contributed to media outlets including ABC News online, Newsweek, GQ, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Glamour magazines. She has also appeared on radio programs and is a regular guest on the morning television show AM Northwest. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Pacific University’s Professional School of Psychology as well as an alumni board member for NEW Leadership Oregon, a women’s mentorship program based out of Portland State University. Finally, she serves as the Director for Development and Innovation at Oregon Health and Science University’s Department of Public Health.

This is followed by a list of educational achievements and additional training to further define her specialisation. Interestingly, the blogger’s multiple and more personal sides of her personality emerge in the blog posts: here she refers to herself alternatively “as a psychologist”; “as a girl”; “as a millennial”; “as a registered yoga teacher”. Such an alternation serves to support and justify the work of the blogger by proving how all of these identities and experiences make her all the more qualified because of the multiple perspectives that they allow her to tap in.

Like the title of the blog, the titles of the blog posts contain emotional connotations, many of which take on an alarming tone by means of questions concerning how to cure oneself from the damaging effects of media rather than using them to cure or lead a more satisfying life. Some examples include “Taking the Pressure off this Valentine’s Day”; “Is Leaving Facebook Becoming Trendy?”; “Are Vegans Eating Disordered?”, and either contain words connecting excessive trends to mental stress and disorder or the positive effects of no longer following these trends.

Despite - or perhaps precisely because of - the cautionary tone of the blog, the blogger of Millennial Media enacts numerous linguistic and discursive strategies on many levels to gain the trust and the consensus of the readership. Moreover, the above mentioned formality and professionality is balanced by a marked “colloquialiation oralization” (Mair 1997) that makes the posts easy to read and to relate to. This is carried out by playful reminders and references to delineate the context in which the news inserts itself like in expressions such as “Ready or not, it’s already here” or revelations of personal habits and interests that certainly would not be expected by the highly qualified and extremely busy expert like in confessions such as “I’ll admit, I’m still watching The Bachelor”.

This familiarity and solidarity with the audience may also be found in the presignals that are positioned at the beginning of the post and set its tone through a colloquial expression, a personal narration (Page 2012) or a general statement that is known to be common among and with the audience, especially when it comes to everyday difficulties, and therefore creates a sense of community where the professional is on the same level as the non-experts, e.g. “Coming up with something new and original […] can start to feel like a chore…”. The personal stories and narrative sections are enriched with time deixes that link the blogger’s past experience or a past contingency to the current post. Examples of this include: “In 2011 I wrote about”; “a beautiful sunny day”; “now”; “when I was in college”. The blogger’s confidential tone resounds throughout her posts by means of very informal instances of phatic communication that is typical of the “phatic media culture” that requires a connected presence in order to foster an increasingly expansive and engaged online discourse community (Zappavigna 2014). The blogger’s evident needs and ongoing effort to appeal to the online audience is an implicit admission that, regardless of the problems that may be caused by the excess of media on which the blog is based, the communicative and information dissemination affordances that new and social media provide are of the utmost importance in raising awareness, and that these means must be combined with engaging and personable language to attain optimal results. Such phatic communication is often enacted with self-ironising jokes “Ok, maybe I’m just talking to myself…” or endearing personal comments such as “Kidding, mostly...”. Rhetorical questions are also common strategies to make a proposal seem more feasible and accessible, like in “Need to stick to a gift-giving budget…?”; “So why not start a tradition?”.

Other linguistic choices that further engender empathy and camaraderie between the blogger and her readership community consist in the consistent use of inclusive “we” pronominal deixes to interact within the same category by mentioning common situations, e.g. “we’ve seen it all”; “I suppose we’ll all have to tune in”, and the interpersonal and interactive use of direct addresses to the readers, who are directly called into play with pronominal “you” references and conative language to invite and encourage them, like in the example “So figure out what works for you!”.

Yet another purpose of this blog, like the other media psychology blogs and in line with the blogger’s extensive experience in teaching and in research, is to inform and instruct the non-experts who follow it. This is done by means of hyperlinks, both for specific terms and concepts in psychology ESP that are often unknown or misunderstood precisely because of their mistaken use in the media, and for referencing studies that led to the blog post and/or websites and books that the blogger think could be very useful or interesting. These may be also introduced within the post through reported speech and are also proposed at the bottom of every post in a “references” section that recalls the structure and authoritativeness of academic writing but is limited to a few, easily accessible resources that are reliable and represent personal and professional recommendations to non-experts to foster awareness and empowerment through learning in their online and offline time.

2.4.2. Digital Altruism: Cultivating compassion in the 21st century and Dana Klisanin

As opposed to the previous blog, the more positive has a more take on media as focuses on its potential, especially when it is used in combination with other arts and forms of wellbeing. The interdisciplinarity of the blogger’s fields of research and of the productive interaction between psychology and the arts is underlined by the use of the verb “integrates” and the focus on “positive psychology” with the aim of helping the components of the three-part list “ourselves, our families and the planet” that go from the most intimate and personal subject to the largest worldwide community.

(4) Digital altruism is a blog that integrates the latest findings in humanistic, transpersonal, and positive psychology with arts and media for the purpose of creating healthier lives for ourselves, our families, and the planet.

Media in this case are simply tools for propagating positive messages, thoughts and ideas and is on the same level – and perhaps a modernized form of – the arts having the power to transmit psychological therapeutic practices and insights. From this perspective, social media are an enhancement of this potential, therefore leading to a new sort of positive psychology in which empowering values, figures and practices emerge from the intersection between psychological terms and the world of new/social media, as may be seen from the neologisms that are found in the blogger Dana Klisanin’s personal blog (cyber kindness, collaborative heroism, the cyberhero archetype, digital altruism, EGM-Integral) and is enriched with her own artwork. The excerpt below is accompanied by a description of three areas of activity (which lead to different professional identities as researcher, game designer and artist), i.e. “research writing”, “game design” and “exhibitions”, and the underlined sections list further qualifications and merits:

(5) Dana is CEO at Evolutionary Guidance Media in NYC. An award-winning psychologist and professional futurist, Dana explores how the positive use of digital technology and new media is changing the way we think about altruism, heroism, and what we value. A pioneer in an area now called "consciousness hacking," Dana’s interest in using digital technologies to tackle global challenges led her to the field of game design. Through forming strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations, she has designed Cyberhero League, a scout-like adventure with real world consequences that educates as it entertains. Dana has published journal articles and book chapters on a broad range of topics such as the future of media, conscious design, mindfulness, altruism, and heroism in the digital age. She speaks Internationally and has been quoted and interviewed by numerous radio and news outlets including including, BBC, TIME, Fast Company, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, USA Today, Futurist Magazine, Harvesting Happiness, Civilination, and The New Existentialists. She is Executive Director of the MindLAB at c3: Center for Conscious Creativity and Executive Board Member of the World Futures Studies Federation serving as the President's envoy to the United Nations. In 2012, Dana received the Distinguished Early Career Award for Scientific Achievement in Media Psychology for research on digital altruism and the Cyberhero Archetype.

In contrast, the blogger’s biosketch in the Digital Altruism blog is extremely short and only indicates her main mission and fields of research. The positivity here is referred to with the term “flourishing” having a highly positive connotation connected to natural and healthy growing and development:

(6) Dana Klisanin, Ph.D., is an award-winning psychologist exploring the use of media and digital technologies to support human flourishing. Her research focuses on mindfulness, altruism, and new forms of heroism.

As previously mentioned, the posts from the blogger’s personal blog are from her Psychology TodayDigital Altruism blog, along with many other blog posts that are not on the personal blog. Upon examining the selection of posts in the personal blog, it is possible to notice that they all pertain to a more narrow semantic field that is focused on digital altruism, mindfulness, hope, creativity and cyber-heroes, which are precisely the concepts that she holds dearest. The extra posts on the Digital Altruism blog regard “popular” and “current” trends and topics like the latest media products and events (sports events, festivities) that cater more to the expected interests of the audience and the highly popularised Psychology Today platform. The separation of the two blogs could be therefore perceived as a “public professional image” in the one inserted in the platform, and a more “personal professional image” that is specialised and dedicated to the readers who are only interested in digital altruism in its purest sense. This theory is confirmed by the amount of detail and care that is put in the presentation of Dana Klisanin in her personal blog as opposed to the extremely essential one in the public and popularised blog. Her focus would therefore seem to rather be on the quality of individual work rather than the necessary and more widespread reach of a more mainstream audience.

Nevertheless, the blogger always maintains the positive attitude that underlies the presentation of the blogs in the titles her blog posts. In fact, they either focus on achieving the positive, or contraposing a negative situation with a positive one, thanks to the productive use of media, as may be seen in the titles “Making Love with your Bliss”; “Fight Apathy with an Unselfish Selfie”; “Choosing Hope over Denial”; “Hatch your Creativity”. She also seeks to connect with the readers by means of presignals consisting in general and relatable statements, like “Spring has sprung with a leap and a bound”, or in rhetorical questions to draw attention, like “What happens when…?”, or to raise awareness: “Why does this matter and how does it relate…?”; “How are we breathing? What are we feeling?”. This, as well as most of the blogger’s writing in general, contains a substantial use of the interactive “we” pronominal deixes rather than the use of I that was more frequent in the Millennial Mind blog.

The linguistic choices that are present in both blogs denote the blogger’s less didactic and more empathetic and encouraging egalitarian idiosyncrasies and to her conative language with which she attempts “online (meditation) therapy” by means of colloquial expressions and instructions that are typically used in spoken contexts, e.g. “Let’s think it through together”; “Go ahead, close your eyes and try it”; “Excellent”. The potential of these experiments and of the application of the blogger’s advice is conveyed through modal verbs that express epistemic possibility of true/false in presence of a choice, and a deontic possibility of freedom, e.g. “If you could sit down and create….”; “We could stop there, but instead let’s envision…”; “You can engage”. Such instructions even make use of the imperative tense for instructions and encouragement, sometimes in three-part lists, such as in “share your stories, engage in digital altruism, and activate your own hero gene!” The final aim of these strategies, as well as of the blogger’s treatment, is ultimately the reader’s growth and change in “identity” and approach to the healing potential of new and social media: “If you engage enough…you soon find yourself in the territory of the Cyberhero archetype”.

Like the previous blogger, the posts present hyperlinks to the definitions of important concepts and words in psychology and other studies that are integrated into the post, as well as recommendations and invitations that are based on Dana Klisanin’s personal experience and not just on further reading like in The Millennial Mind. This further reflects the more personal and intimate perception of the connections that may be instated thanks to the internet which is well suited the practice of digital altruism that is being advocated.

2.4.3. Media in Mind: Exploring the messy places where human behavior meets the media

In his “About” section, which is the only divergence from the blog posts in reverse chronological order, this blog differs in two major aspects compared to all of the others: the blogger Gregory F. Zerovnik’s use of the first person and the mention of education and professional activities that are not strictly connected with media psychology, as may be see in the following example:

(7) The items I post on this blog site have to do with the remarkably complex world of media and how it influences people and how people influence the media. I go off on all kinds of vectors, ranging from observations about the entertainment industry to developments in neuro-economics, from considerations of biased coverage to discussions of how media can help the human condition. I’m an online professor of business administration and occasional freelance consultant. My doctorate is in Media Psychology from Fielding Graduate University, the first doctoral program in that field. I’m always open to new conversations and research-based discussions. I welcome your comments and feedback.

This is confirmed by the boilerplate description that is found at the end of every post and whose only mentions of media psychology many be found in the reference to the doctorate and blogger’s “special expertise”:

(8) Education: BFA in Painting Sculpture from California College of the Arts (Oakland); Executive MBA in Executive Management from the Peter F. Drucker Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University (Claremont); MA and PhD in Media Psychology from the Fielding Graduate University (Santa Barbara). Experience: Over 40 years experience in marketing, advertising, and public relations on the client and agency sides of the business; for-profit and nonprofit, as well as government. Special Expertise: The interface between human behavior and the media. It's all about "media in mind."

The main semantic fields that are called into play in the presentation are those of complexity and variety, as indicated by the underlined sections. Other founding values – which also reflect the values of the profession – include innovation, reflected in the wide range of studied issues and the fact that the blogger holds a degree in “the first doctoral program in that field”, as well as discovery and openness that seemingly stem not only from the “remarkably complex” world of media psychology, but also and especially from the blogger’s personal approach. The professional here in fact claims that he goes “off in all kinds of vectors” and is “always open to new conversations and feedback”. Such openness has the additional effect of engaging the reader, who is invited to share the posts by means of the available social media (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) or to “leave a comment” at the end of each post.

A further distinguishing element consists in the blogger’s reference to himself as an “online professor of business administration” and an “occasional freelance consultant” before mentioning his qualifications in media psychology, as opposed to the other bloggers, who prioritise this to any other professional title as a fundamental justification for the presence of the blog and their competence to practice and advise in matters of media psychology. He therefore reiterates his many and different competences in very different fields that however involve skills that are typical of a media psychologist: online writing and teaching, business, consulting, working with customers and autonomously. This sort of presentation is more typical of a personal blog, even more so than a professional blog, compared to the others, which more resemble a corporate or institutional blog.

As concerns the selection of blog posts, in accordance with the blogger’s background, they are mainly focused on business, advertising and traditional media and present neutral post titles composed of nominalisations with a few emotional exceptions like “The Cuteness Factor”, “The Warrior Gene”, “Mainstream Media’s Slow Meltdown”. In the same manner, the argumentative patterns of the posts use neutral evaluative language and a regular structure except in posts that discuss issues that are very strongly by him (e.g. “They wrote it like they were Stanford, Penn…”; “not cereal-added, not turkey based…”). Like in the introduction, the posts are written in first person where possible and inclusive pronominal “we” to balance the neutrality of the information and make the reading more enjoyable for the readers.

The Media in Mind blog features a very clear structure and formulation in its post, which includes the following elements:

-Introduction of the post by means of a reference to a study, a scientific article, or an advertisement by means of a time/space deixis, e.g. “Today’s Washington Post…”; “In a November 24th article…”; a first-person narration, e.g. “I was struck by an article…”; or a friendly question, e.g. “Have you seen the latest commercial...?”. The blogger therefore makes substantial use of intertextuality and hypertextuality to support his interest and hopefully draw the interest of the public by referring to material that the public has or could come across during their everyday activities. Other references to time that often create a comparison between the time of the situation that is narrated in the post and that in which the post is written, represent a way to oppose the quality of timelessness that is typical of blogs (Myers 2010), e.g. “recently”; “I remember […] now”; “in the late 1990’s”; “during the Eisner era”. This has the intent of emphasising that the information in the blog post is updated or of underlining gaps in knowledge and awareness between the two that alludes to progress and change in the use of media;
-Link(s) to article(s) or video(s) which are introduced by text deixis such as “Here’s the link/it is…” with the intent of providing further information and resources;
-Reference to other experts of the scientific community to demonstrate his familiarity and introduce the non-expert reader to other fields and streams of research. This is presented by means of signpost language that is more neutral and distant in order to convey the sense of reporting information from an inside and didactic perspective such as “From a media psychology point of view…”and “If what a number of sociologists say is true…”;
-Personal opinions which are expressed by means with mental verbs and authorial evaluation, e.g. “I would say…”; “Or maybe…”; “I believe this accounts for…” or constructs marking authorial stance (Hunston and Thompson 2001) such as “I bring this up in my blog because…”; “My objection has been based on …”; “leads to my opinion that...” that enable the blogger to stand out among the scientific community by giving his own feedback and to present supporting arguments for these statements. They further underline the blogger’s individualism, expertise and professionalism;
-Conclusions that try to engage the audience by presenting a proposal, provocative question, or invitation to the reader “I wonder.”; “Perhaps now…”; “What do you think?”; “Any thoughts?”; “I ask you to join me”

Of the three bloggers, Zerovnik is the one who has detached himself the most from the institutional and expected image of a media psychologist and just a professional and made the most of the democratising elements of the blog genre in order to interest, inform and engage non-experts in manner that leaves the reader more space to form his or her own opinion. He also takes the interdisciplinary quality of the media psychologist to the extreme by discussing media psychology matters but usually in connection to the fields that he is most familiar with, i.e. business and advertising. This blog is therefore the most innovative the sense of identity but more structured in term of textual organization, which probably reflects the blogger’s experience with online teaching and his activity as a freelance professional who writes autonomously while remaining informed and involved with the latest developments of his field.

2.5. Final considerations

The present analysis has focused on the peculiar features of the professional online communication characterising a pioneering and interdisciplinary field, i.e. media psychology, that must face many challenges but allows room for its professionals to experiment different approaches and intersections among disciplines and multimodality. Such innovation transpires from the online writing of these professionals and in particular from their blogs that grant space and the dexterity of hypertextuality and intertextuality, thus becoming an important means to share and disseminate the empowering knowledge that is often reserved for the scientific community in its early yet fruitful stages. Such dissemination is encouraged both by indicating useful material and studies that might be of interest to non-experts who are interested and by integrating the introduction of new concepts pertaining to media psychology with definitions in other pages. Surprisingly though, although the intent to disseminate and teach is quite strong, there is little use of videos and audio is scares and the social networks that are connected to the pages are of a more traditional sort (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in general), which leads to the conclusion that the information and social media that are considered most reliable are the most established and traditional ones. Therefore, while the concepts and approaches that are being advocated are pioneering, the means by which they are diffused are of a more traditional sort and this may indicate that the category of media psychologists seek to emerge but wish to do so using what are conceived as reliable and established means.

To answer RQ1: “How and with which attitude do the blogger(s) approach and discuss current issues in and about the media and the use of media psychology in the macrostructural elements and the posts of the blogs?”, it was important to underline that media psychology is a metadiscursive field that deals both with the presence of psychologists in the media and the application of psychology in media issues and both occur when considering the bloggers. These experts in fact not only discuss the media as a means but also base their claims on their individual personal and professional use of media to spread their ideas and theories.

The analysis of the professional bloggers’ self-presentations revealed that, although they work within the same field, these bloggers’ attitudes to media and its use differ significantly: the first blogger is cautionary and skeptic, thereby focusing on the threats of letting media take control; the second blogger, on the contrary, is hopeful and positive and sees media as full of potential in encouraging the growth, health and development of society if it is geared towards the right values; the third takes on a rather rational approach and, coming from an empirical and managerial background, focuses on the practical use and influence of media on psychology and the importance of understanding its underlying mechanisms. These approaches emerge in the presentation of the blog and the bloggers, as well as in the titles of the blogs, which are very indicative in this sense and generally maintain the same semantic profile and attitude towards media and their effects on people.

As regards RQ2: “How do the bloggers interact with and relate to readers?”, despite the above mentioned difference in attitudes, there are common linguistic and discursive strategies that not only attempt to justify and support the blogger’s claims in order to validate his or her credibility as a professional, but also to create a sense of community and sharing with his or her online readers, in the hope that they will relate to what is written. For this reason, the blogs all take on a colloquial and empathetic tone in order to demonstrate that the blogger has experienced the same situations and therefore integrate their professional observations with personal stories, rhetorical questions, invitations, proposals and instill this sense of community with inclusive “we” pronominal deixes and phatic communication underlining the extension, widespread and loyalty of their online readership

Finally, the third research question: “Are there any differences between blogger as individual, as an autonomous professional, and as part of a larger online community?” led to interesting results in terms of the diversity of self-perception of professional bloggers and the spectrum of identities that emerge from their writing. In fact, the first two bloggers presented themselves first and foremost as professionals that are dedicated to their research and activity in media psychology, to the extent that even their free-time activities are connected to their work, as is further confirmed by the fact that they refer to themselves in the third person. This affects their degree of ‘approachability’ and influences the impression one user has of the blogger’s personality as an individual and a professional because, as Leon Tan points out, the blogger must make some investment and adjustment in order to find a suitable community to which he or she may contribute (2008: 151). In accordance with this line of thought , the seemingly distant professionalism of the self-presentations do not correspond to their self-references in the blog posts, where they both used the first person form and often endeavoured to position themselves on the same level as the non-expert audience in order to relate more. Moreover, the second blogger clearly distinguished between her professional activity for the more mainstream masses of the online platform community and the activity that more closely focused on her niche of choice. The third blogger was the only one who not only presented himself in the first person but made media psychology a passing reference and not the main area of interest. These different identities are called into play based on the topic and the role they had at experiencing the situation at hand.

In conclusion, the study has proven that media psychology is a highly hybridised professional online field in the making, and this is reflected in the writing and interests of its professionals and their discourse, making it a branch of online discourse that is certainly worth looking into to understand if its potential as an online professional community will stand the test of time in blogs as well as in the profession in general.

Blogs (last accessed on November 1st, 2016)

Media in Mind https://mediainmind.net/

Millennial Media https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/millennial-media

Digital Altruism https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/digital-altruism

Dana Klisanin https://danaklisanin.com/

References

Abbamonte, Lucia and Petillo, Orsola (2015). En glish for the Sciences of the Mind and the Brain: Neurosciences, Cognitive, Linguistic and Social Studies. Maggioli Editore: Santarcangelo di Romagna.

Adami, Elisabetta (2015). “What’s in a click? A social semiotic framework for the multimodal analysis of website interactivity” Visual Communication 14(2): 133-153.

Antony, Kate and Nagel, DeeAnna M. (2010). Therapy Online: A Practical Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Barton, David and Lee, Carmen (2013). Language Online: Investigating Digital Texts and Practices. New York: Routledge.

Blood, Rebecca (2000). “Weblogs: A History and Perspective”. Rebecca’s Pocket. http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html".

Bruns, Axel and Jacobs, Joanne [eds] (2007). Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang.

Bucher, Han-Juergen (2005). “The Power of the Audience. Interculturality, Interactivity and Trust in Internet Communication: Theory, Research Design and Empirical Results” The Electronic Journal of Communication 15(12).

Fairclough, Norman. 1995 . Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. New York: Routledge.

Fairclough, Norman (2001). Language and Power, second edition. Harlow: Longman Pearson Education Limited.

Fairclough, Norman (2010). Critical Discourse Analysis: the Critical Study of Language, second edition . Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Fischoff, Stuart (2005) “Media psychology: A personal essay in definition and purview” [Electronic Version]. Journal of Media Psychology 10, http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/sfischo/MEDIADEF-1.html

Garzone, Giuliana and Catenaccio, Paola (2009) Identities across Media and Modes: Discursive Perspectives. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang.

Garzone, Giuliana. 2006. Perspectives on ESP and Popularization. Milano: CUEM.

Giles, David (2003). Media Psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hunston, Susan, and Geoff Thompson [eds.] (2001). Evaluation in Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kress, Gunther (2010). Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. New York and London: Routledge.

Luskin, Bernard J. (2012). “Defining and Describing Media Psychology”. The Media Psychology Effect blog, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-media-psychology-effect/201211/defining-and-describing-media-psychology

Luskin, Bernard J. (2016). “Explaining Media Psychology in 2017”. The Media Psychology Effect blog, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-media-psychology-effect/201609/explaining-mediapsychology-in-2017

Mair, Christian (1997). "Parallel corpora: A real-time approach to language change in progress." In Ljung, Magnus [ed.] Corpus-Based Studies in English: Papers from the Seventeenth International Conference on English-Language Research Based on Computerized Corpora (ICAME 17). Amsterdam: Rodopi: 195-209.

Myers, Greg (2010). Discourse of Blogs and Wikis. New York: Continuum Discourse.

Page, Ruth (2012). Stories and Social Media: Identities and Interaction. Routledge: New York and London.

Pennebaker, James, Mehl, Matthias and Niederhoffer, Kate (2003). “Psychological aspects of Natural Language Use: Our Words, Our Selves” Annual Review Psychology 54: 547-577.

Rutledge, Pamela (2008). “What is Media Psychology? A Qualitative Inquiry” Media Psychology Review 1(1), http://mprcenter.org/review/what-is-media-psychology/

Rutledge, Pamela (2010). “What is Media Psychology? And Why You Should Care”, http://www.pamelarutledge.com/what-is-media-psychology/

Seargeant, Philip and Tagg, Caroline [eds] (2014). Identity and Community on the Internet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Short, Jane (2010). English for Psychology in Higher Education Studies. Garnet Publishing: Reading.

Tan, Leon (2008). “Psychotherapy 2.0: MySpace Blogging as Self-Therapy”, American Journal of Psychotherapy 62(2): 143–163.

CHAPTER 3: MILBLOGS AS HERALDS OF A SPECIALISED PROFESSIONAL ETHICS

3.1. Introduction

The present study focuses on the unconventional approach of the US military community in relation to reputation building in an interactive online discursive context, i.e. military blogs. In this professional discourse community in fact, reputation is not only an authenticating and validating asset, but rather – especially in terms of professional and personal ethos (Brick 2015) –indispensable to work and thrive within the military professional community and lifestyle in general. As opposed to reputation building in the corporate world (Ihlen 2013), the military community is not – or not necessarily – interested in building their image in the eyes of civilians, as the “closed online ranks” of the title indicates. The paper therefore opens with an introduction and the first research question regarding the US military community’s conception of communication, identity and reputation and how it diverges from civilian institutions. This is followed by an analysis of military culture in relation to US culture, which affect their differences in online and offline communication. At this point, the importance of online military communities is explained in the second research question and the dataset, consisting of the self-presentation and blog posts of instructional military websites and milblogs, of the inquiry is presented. Such data is analysed from an empirical, qualitative Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 1995; Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999; Fairclough 2001; Fariclough 2010) perspective with the intent of gleaning the most relevant identity and reputation/image construction and empowerment strategies, which are rhetorical, linguistic and discursive in nature, in order to promote and enforce the ideal military ethos, solidarity, and sense of duty in the diverse categories of professional and non-professional subjects pertaining to the military discourse community (e.g. active and retired service members, veterans, family members). The resulting considerations lead to the paper’s findings and the exploration of directions that may be considered for future research in the field.

3.2. Defining characteristics of the military community and conception of reputation

As pointed out in the introduction, the military community follows different rules and procedures when it comes to reputation building compared to the civilian and corporate worlds. This, as demonstrated further on, impacts the communicative language employed by and for those who desire to partake in the community’s specific knowledge. Hence the first research question:

RQ1: How do communication and reputation building differ within the military community compared to other organizations?

The military, in its entirety, is an exclusive community made up of numerous members that are dislocated and frequently relocated in different parts of the globe and in situations characterised by varying levels of danger:

Along the way, these forces grew apart from the rest of society: marks of this separation came to include living together in encampments, wearing identifiable uniforms, gaining a monopoly on certain types of weaponry, developing a private vocabulary, and above all, viewing themselves as an identifiable group in some sense distinct from the rest of society. Because success in military operations of any kind requires resources, order, and organization as well as the subordination of individual preferences to a larger set of common objectives, rules of conduct unique to the armed forces were inevitable and there remains a place for them. (Fidell 2016:1)

Such constant mobility makes it essential for service members and their families to create an omnipresent virtual environment that allows them to remain in contact and help one another from a distance. This is in line with the military’s close and historical connection with the internet and its use and development in view of knowledge and information dissemination within the military context (Kaltenbach 2000), and enforces the consideration that knowledge of military discourse could provide interesting insights into online communication and knowledge sharing.

The exclusivity of the military community, which is caused both by its desire to maintain a close bond among its members without excessive interference and by security needs, also explains its particular relationship with civilians. The latter are generally little informed on the activity and not informed on the activity and workings of the military communities and installations surrounding them. However, through examples and stories provided by the media and the members of the community that they happen to know, civilians have a notion of the military ethos although they are lacking precise information regarding it and they are aware of the fact that they must depend on the military service members’ knowledge and competence (Brick 2015). From the military service members’ perspective, they are aware and self-aware both of the obligations that their internal reputation ethos imposes on them and of the controversial position they and their professional community may find themselves in at times in relation to the civilian and local national (in overseas bases) community due to the US military’s decisions. The above mentioned exclusivity, along with this shifting relationship with non-military subjects, lead the military community to identify themselves and their professional identity based on “organizational identity” (Ihlen 2013), which is an internally oriented concept, rather than corporate identity, which focuses on improving one’s standing and reputation building on the perception of outsiders.

A clearer understanding of the distinguishing features of military discourse may be attained by inquiring into the divergences between US military culture and communication and those of the civilian world. Therefore, Geert Hofstede’s 6-D model of cultural dimensions (https://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html; Hofstede 2010) is considered a point of reference in finding connections between cultural-organisational and linguistic representations of online self-identification and reputation building.

Power Distance: 40 in US culture, which indicates, according to Hofstede, both that “hierarchy is established for convenience, superiors are accessible and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise” and that “communication is informal, direct and participative to a degree” (Hofstede, website). While military leaders must rely on their team in order for their missions to be successful, there is a chain of command based on ranks and responsibility that must be respected in a specific order and disrespect towards superiors, provided that their conduct is honorable and their integrity intact – is strongly disapproved at best and punishable at worst. Therefore, it is possible to posit that the level of power distance of the US military community is high, which emerges in the high level of respect and formality expressed towards superiors and in accordance with their ascending order in rank.

Individualism: 91 and “one of the most individualist cultures in the world” in which “the society is loosely-knit in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families only and should not rely (too much) on authorities for support” (Hofstede, website) for the United States and in stark contrast with the military community, whose level of individualism is much lower. As previously pointed out, this particular community is very tight-knit and aims at ensuring the safety and support of service members in all stages of their careers and their dependents wherever they may be. Such support is provided by the authorities but also by other online and offline groups created within the community itself ranging from advice and information to support groups and consulting services and search engines to find former ‘battle buddies’. Moreover, the community insists on the importance of collective teamwork and responsibility, as the success and reputation of the entire team – and consequently, of the armed forces – is strengthened or damaged by the conduct of individual members. This cultural dimension is often found in the type of images (Würtz 2006): in websites dedicated to the US military there is a significant preference for pictures of people in groups in the act of helping one another or interacting as colleagues and friends. Here individual, and usually official, pictures are almost always found when narrating the story or experience of one person or when presenting the individual bloggers or members of an online community. From a purely linguistic perspective, the collectivism of this particular discourse community may be gleaned from the use of collectivising pronouns and noun phrases throughout the texts or following a personal narration of a person’s experience by means of the “I” pronoun. This, as underlined further on, may be found in 3 out of the 4 websites that were considered in the present study. Another interesting example that testifies to this may be found in the progression of slogans and mottos of the branches: the US Army in fact has moved from individualistic slogans such as “Be All You Can Be” and “Army of One” to the current group-oriented “Army Strong” (Tyson 2006).

Masculinity: 62 in the US, and therefore in favor of prevalently masculine values such as competition, achievement and success, although there is still a relevant proportion of caring for others and for quality of life as typical of a feminine society. The same may be said of the military community which, as opposed to its reputation, is increasingly focusing on the needs and empowerment of its female subjects (e.g. female soldiers and veterans, spouses) and on those who are in a more vulnerable position and therefore seek a sense of belonging (e.g. physically and mentally wounded soldiers, LGBT service members) compared to the past. As a result, although striving towards results and excellence still drives the actions of the military, special attention is paid to ensure that the warrior ethos of “leave no man behind” on and off the battlefield is upheld. This attention is also and especially enforced in online communities and milblogs in order to assist soldiers’ partners and families during their deployment and relocations.

Uncertainty avoidance: 46 and relatively low in the United States, indicating that there is a certain degree of tolerance for innovation and unforeseen circumstances. However, the US military culture features a significantly higher degree of uncertainty avoidance due to security reasons. This leads to tight monitoring on the part of authorities, of very direct and concrete lexis and to strongly preformulated and standardized document formats to the point of repetition when it comes to rules and regulations and to the creation and enforcement of rigid standard operating procedures. Such control is particularly present, as shown by the data, in online communication both because it is constantly undergoing development, and thus presents many unregulated areas, and because the information that is transmitted may be accessed by outsiders and potential threatening subjects. The websites’ administrators make this clear in their posting and blogging rules.

(1) We believe that the benefits earned in the service should be easier to access and written in plain English. (“About” section of Military.com)
(2) Do write well. We are looking for posts that are grammatically correct and free of spelling and punctuation errors. Write well-structured sentences. Clearly illustrate your ideas. Avoid clichés and jargon. (“Introduction” section of BB)

Long Term Orientation: very low and therefore normative, scoring 26 in relation to American culture, where organisations and businesses generally “measure their performance on a short-term basis, with profit and loss statements being issued on a quarterly basis” which “drives individuals to strive for quick results within the work place” (Hofstede, website). Although it is important to all levels of military subjects to reach their short-term goals, these must be inserted and adjusted based on long term goals that are strictly controlled in view of the high degree of uncertainty avoidance and desire to maintain stability and security.

Indulgence: 68 in the United States meaning that the US population’s tendency to control their impulses is not strong, making it an ‘indulgent’ society. Indulgence in the military, on the other hand, is only approved of to a limited extent, leading to the supposition that this value, if measured within the military community, would be much lower. Lack of indulgence in this context is reflected both in the obligations of military subjects to follow the values and ethos of their branch and in their impossibility to express themselves, which is also connected with the military culture’s high uncertainty avoidance.

These observations on the characterising features of military culture and its discourse could shed light on spaces and situations where misunderstandings could arise between military and civilian subjects even if they are from the same culture. Another impactful cultural component due to the above mentioned degree of collectivism, high power distance, high uncertainty avoidance and low indulgence consists in service members’ impossibility to disclose sensitive information online, which includes any indication of a service member or dependent’s current position and mission, for OPSEC (operational security) purposes. This inevitably influences the poster or blogger’s use of place and time deixes (Myers 2010: 9), but also makes them seem elusive to outsiders who are not aware of this necessity and would like to know more.

(3) Do submit photos. Personal photographs can be used if they do not contain personally identifiable information or geographically identifiable information. […]

Do submit the blogs that keep on giving. All guest bloggers are encouraged to submit material that can be used any time of year. When submitting articles for specific events, such as the holiday season, bloggers are encouraged to keep dates as general as possible. For example, instead of writing, “It’s mid-November,” write, “Just a few weeks until…”

Don’t use rank in your post. Keep the content focused on experiences as a military spouse or family member, and not on the rank of the service member. We discourage the use of rank when including content about service members or other family members. (“Introduction” to BB)

High power distance and the representational importance of individual service members also impede members of the community from expressing their personal opinion on their superiors or on politics while in uniform (Maguire 2015).

Despite these differences it is important to keep in mind that there is a mutual cycle of influence between military and non-military discourse. Military lexis has been adopted in many semantic fields such as corporate management and journalism in order to endow an official and serious connotation to what is being related. It is also often appropriated by the media in order to question or oppose issues and practices that are considered controversial (ex. “shock and awe”, “weapons of mass destruction”) (Chovanee 2011). Everyday language and colloquialism, on the other hand, may be found in informal military texts in order to give a more approachable and relaxed tone to texts that are aimed at informing and engaging with the community (Oxford Companion 2000).

3.3. Role of online communities in the military

After having analysed the culture and relations underlying military discourse and their role in reputation building, the present study now focuses on online military communities by phrasing the following research question:

RQ2: What is the purpose of online military communities?

As mentioned, online communities have always been present in the history of military communication and assume a significant role in virtue of military member’s constant relocation and adjustment and provide information, networking, and support. Being an omnipresent and comprehensive point of reference for individuals in situations of great stress and - on occasion – even danger, these online communities aim exclusively at maintaining a relation of trust and morale within the military community that can be channeled in offline relations as well. The focus here is therefore on reputation building within the military community in order to promote positive values and practices. The values of the assistance they provide is, in fact, all-encompassing both in time (aimed at guiding a service member before, during and after service in the armed forces in a non-specific future) and space (PCS, deployment, searching for others, networking). The exclusive audience consists therefore of members of the discourse society, and not of outsiders who may come across the websites and are implicitly excluded by the use of specific language and jargon. This, as well as the desire to maintain active online participation and interaction, emerges, for instance, in observing the introductions of the websites and especially the underlined words which emphasise that the information is complete, trustworthy and only for them regardless of their location and situation:

(4) Military OneSource is a confidential Department of Defense-funded program providing comprehensive information on every aspect of military life at no cost to active duty, Guard and Reserve Component members, and their families. (homepage of Military OneSource)

Get to know your benefits and prepare for the big stuff – deployments, reintegration, moves, parenthood, retirement and more. […] No matter where military life takes you, with Military OneSource you'll always be in the loop. (homepage of Military OneSource)

(5) The Blog Brigade is the place to discover what military spouses are up to around the world. (About BB)

Another fundamental purpose for these online communities is knowledge sharing and dissemination within the military community. Such knowledge is very practical in nature and use and, as opposed to many other online professional communities, is based on personal experience, stories and data that are relevant for others but have not yet found a theoretical outlet. The value of such ‘hands-on’ experience and its potential usefulness for other members in view of the authority of those providing it are pointed out in every website taken into consideration, as outlined below:

(6) Your search stops here […]. Military OneSource is your central hub and go-to-place for the military community. (homepage of Military OneSource)
(7) Our bloggers share their twists, turns, and tips through a series of entertaining posts […]. It’s military life from a “boots on the ground” perspective. (Introduction to BB)
(8) To be clear, General Leadership is privately operated and is designed to provide leadership perspective and conversation on character and integrity from senior military leaders (About GL)
(9) I’m a combat arms officer in the United States Army with over thirteen years of experience in garrison and combat environments. […] I want to use this medium to add my thoughts to an already existing expert body of knowledge. (About FGN)

All of the excerpts above combine the official nature and importance of the community with friendly, colloquial terms such as “go-to-place”, “insider tips”, “conversation” and “thoughts”. This is in line with the tendency of online communities to be friendly and comforting as well as informative, which encourages different subcategories of the military community to share their knowledge and experience even if it may seem to be practical and unsophisticated.

3.4. Dataset and methodology

In order to focus on reputation building in the military community by the military community, the present study considers online communication with “military-as-context” and “military-as-discourse” (Parcell 2015: 8-9). For the same reason, the administrators and bloggers of the websites that constitute the dataset are all part of a team whose members are or were members of the military community and are therefore in the best position to build reputation from the inside and with an insider’s knowledge. Websites that were managed by non-military or by a mixed community of military and non-military members were thus excluded. They are all moreover experts or people with a certain degree of experience and therefore ‘authority’ figures whose claims and information are considered reliable and both build and are built on the military community’s reputation (Haigh and Pfau 2015). As quoted previously, all of the online communities explicitly state that their goal is to provide knowledge and support to other members of the discourse community. At the same time, they ensure that it is open data that is also accessible to civilian “overhearers” and “eavesdroppers” (Bell 1984) to see whether they would be considered even if they are not the intended target.

The posts and blog posts were all written between January 1, 2017 and June 30, 2017 to gather a suitable amount of qualitative data. The websites were also selected based on the amount and frequency of posting (usually one post every 7-10 days), which had to be as homogenous as possible. An exception is constituted by the extra posts in the From the Green Notebook blog, which posted every day during “Defense Awareness Day”. The dates also had to be indicated to make sure that they concerned the same period of time, which led to the exclusion of one website.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1. Division of blog posts; author’s elaboration

The dataset is only text-based in order to better focus on discursive and rhetorical aspects, so the analysis excluded online communities that shared video or other multimedia content. To carry out a more precise comparison, the study only considered the sections of the websites that were present in all four online communities, i.e. introductions (which served as self-identification), “about sections”, and milblogs (Haigh and Pfau 2015) which represent a space for writers and members of the community to share knowledge and disseminate values and knowledge that could contribute to reputation building within the community inview of the difficulties that the community must face.

Critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1995; 2001; 2010; Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999), with a specific view on rhetoric and discursive identity construction strategies in online communication contexts, is the analytical approach of the present study. In a tight-knit community that undergoes life-changing – and occasionally life-threatening – circumstances, the maintenance of the military’s reputation and moral is of the utmost importance and makes productive use of all the tools provided by rhetoric: ethos, logos and pathos.

3.5. Textual, discursive, linguistic and rhetorical analysis

Although the four blogs were all selected to be as homogenous as possible in structure and aim, the first aspect that strikes the user is the variety in target audience. Despite being military websites and blogs, none of them focus on the community in its entirety, but rather select one or more categories based on the interpersonal relationship, type of information and support exchange relationship and reputational traits that they want to establish. The Military Advantage Blog, for instance, focuses on informing active and retired service members (and their spouses in certain cases) about high-ranking changes in decisions concerning and impacting benefits for soldiers and their families, so it depicts the military as being intent on taking care of those who serve their country. The From the Green Notebook blog addresses active service members, both in commanding and subordinate positions and, while being administered by one blogger, contained the greatest number of guest posters and contributions from experts based on their personal and professional experience and military values. The General Leadership blog, on the other hand, deals with a subcategory of this audience, i.e. service members in commanding positions, and perpetrates the ethos of the ideal leading military figure. Finally, the Blog Brigade eludes the expectations that are sparked by its title by appropriating a seemingly masculine and professional name and directly addressing women (female service members, spouses and their families). In this case, the reputation of the military is upheld thanks to the hard work and support not only of soldiers but also of families, who must also defend the good name of the US military community (and the United States when abroad) in the absence of their loved ones by being an example.

To address these audiences and make the blogs as diverse as possible, a variety of diverse text genres and interdiscursivity are presented in the form of narrations, interviews, lists, reviews, and articles. Inter- and hypertextuality are also extensively present in the form of links and references or reviews to other textbooks in order to gather the information into a sort of collective database that can be accessed and diffused. In consideration of all of this, the blogs are characterised by highly heterogeneous and idiosyncratic language that changes according to the register and type of conveyed information leading, in turn, to a marked diversity of discursive patterns that denote a varying degree of intimacy or seriousness based on the level of specialisation, but not necessarily of expertise, of the blogger. The most formal and distinguished of the blogs is that of The Military Advantage, which takes on a journalistic register and structure with specialised military and financial lexis. In fact, each post starts with a headline/title and lead like in an online news publication; this is accompanied by the indication of “military update” to specify that the information comes from a source within the military community. The content of the headline is then expanded in the first paragraph, followed by additional details, statistics and embedded quotes in an “inverted pyramid structure”. The posts are concluded by means of a quote or contact information in order to either leave an impression based on the words of an important player or institution in the news or to allow the reader to follow up on the information on his or her own.

The General Leadership and From the Green Notebook blogs are similar in target audience, register and tone, but while the former recalls friendly self-help genres providing advice based on experience and subsequent proposals to solve common problems, the latter includes more institutionalised forms of discourse like reviews and academic articles written by experts to disseminate professional knowledge and fill in knowledge gaps within the shared theory of the community. Moreover, The General Leadership blog is more open towards a sort of ‘dialogue’, albeit a hypothetical one, with readers by occasionally presenting questions that the receiver may ponder after recounting the posters’ resolution and conclusion. Such dialogue usesthe post as a starting point for resolution within and for the community, especially given the importance of the Internet for such a geographically dislocated community. From the Green Notebook ’s intent, on the contrary, is to create a one-sided channel where information flows from the senior expert to the receiver through grounded recommendations and encouragement that are expressed by using specific terms and inserting them within descriptions of the writer’s professional experience and personal take on it. This ‘transforms’ the writer’s input into a sort of ‘know how’ that is shared within the online professional community.

Finally, the Blog Brigade takes on an even more popularised format due to the large component of ‘non-expert’ but decisively interested users, i.e. wives and mothers of the military community, who are also affected by the dynamicity of the above-mentioned movement and therefore make great use of the online community’s resources and stories. In these cases, in fact, the posts generally open with a narration or direct general statement referring to a common situation that the blog’s users can surely relate to but then indicates its problematic issues and potential risks before providing advice (usually in the online user-friendly format of lists) and finish with friendly encouragement that has a confidential tone like one to be found within a female community. This tone recalling solidarity encourages stories, advice and useful personal experience but is somewhat opposed to statistics and empirical data, which is usually considered an indicator of noteworthy and reliable information, for they claim it is hard to verify (for more on this, see Ihlen’s concept of goodwill 2013).

RQ3: Which linguistic, discursive and rhetorical devices were employed to promote the military community’s reputation and organisational identity?

The overall intention to assist and promote the online military community while respecting its distinctive professional culture and the needs of its community may be seen not only in the content of the posts but also in the framing of problems, solutions and proposals. A series of linguistic choices on multiple levels concur in the representation of a military community – and especially its professionals – as united and honourable. Starting from a broad perspective, i.e. choices of discursive genres to integrate into the military blogs, the values of the military are reflected in the choice that two of the blogs - and interestingly the two milblogs General Leadership and The Green Notebook - frequently insert inspirational quotes (Ihlen 2013) that praise aspirational ideas and social change and represent the pathos of the rhetoric of reputation because they appeal to emotions. In contrast, The Military Advantage blog opts for a more rational approach to uphold the reputation of the military organisation and its objective integrity, and it does so by using supposedly factual textual and reporting genres like interviews and press releases that have the intent of confirming facts, thereby balancing towards the logos part of the spectrum.

As far as the blogs’ lexical choices are concerned, the pronominal deixes of choice that are used in all blogs are inclusive and neutral in order to convey a sense of both community and reliability, while time and places deixes are used for specific purposes (Myers 2010: 9), when necessary and with caution in order not to spread confidential and potentially compromising information outside of the community. Another characterising feature of military communication is the creation of neologisms (Oxford Companion 2000; Wilson 2008) to define increasingly numerous and relevant subcategories of the military community through blending. Two of these may be found in the analysed blogs, i.e. “ventrepreneur” in the General Leadership blog, that emerged due to the increasing number of military service members who served and become entrepreneurs after retiring from the military (and are defined as “veterans” regardless of their age), and “milspouse” in Blog Brigade to refer to the spouses of military service members that follow them and therefore must adapt to the lifestyle of the military community.

As opposed to the American civilian community, the military community is characterised by evident repetitions both with the same words and with similar reframings in view of their strong reliance on uncertainty avoidance, especially in rules and regulations, as may be observed in the “netiquette” of the General Leadership blog:

(10) The images depicted and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author and contributors and do not represent those of any agency of the United States Government […]. The opinions of the authors and commentators are theirs and theirs alone. […]. The curators and owners of General Leadership do not assume any responsibility for the opinions of posts or comments they did not personally write. Opinions are based upon personal experiences and knowledge. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners/administrators of General Leadership and remain the intellectual property of the individual author. (About GL)

The opinions expressed are solely those of our authors. (About GL writers)

Anaphoras are another common rhetorical figure and are coupled with “foregrounding” to enable and invite the readers to remember, reflect and look for more by following the rhythm (Chovanee 2011: 86), as may be seen in the following excerpt:

(11) Our Beliefs

We Believe Leadership is a Choice!

We Believe Experience Promotes Growth!

We Believe Example Influences Change!

Our Values

Serving Others by being Responsible

Sharing Generously by being Humble

Walking the Talk by being Accountable (About GL)

The text starts with a statement of purpose, i.e. the ethos represented by “beliefs” that also conveys the pathos that is enshrined in this foundational value. This value is converted from an ideal goal to a course of action thanks to the list of three denoted by the verb “believe” and sets of positive evaluative terms that are positioned as a step in progress after and a result of the other (leadership, experience and example as well as choice, growth, and change). From “our values” on, this progression is flipped over once again by indicating that it is possible to undertake this task of reaching such a change by means of three actions in the continuous tense to convey movement and development: serving others, sharing generously, and walking the talk.

Another instance of anaphora may also be found in the From the Green Notebook blog at the beginning of each verse with “it is” to give incisive contours:

(12) It is a state of readiness, a position and a posture.

It is your landing attitude.

It represents how you should be. (FGN)

Significantly, these are the two same milblogs that used inspirational quotes, as previously mentioned. This leads to the conclusion that these particular blogs aspire at constructing a solid reputation for the military by appealing to pathos and emotions, while the other two are more focused on organisational and practical aspects.

Another category of rhetorical figures that are essential in constructing the image of a profession consists in associations between military and everyday contexts such as metaphors, similes and synecdoche. These may be more or less explicit and may refer to a range of subjects and ideas, like events in excerpts 13-15, institutions in 16-18 and categories of people in examples 19-21. The last two examples are related to female subjects and could therefore reflect the gradual progression towards gender equality and gradual distancing from the masculine image of the hero that was mentioned when discussing cultural dimensions in the army (Hofstede and Minkov 2010: 183):

(13) Military life journey (BB)
(14) Deployments are like the military spouse Olympics, aren’t they? (BB)
(15) Exiting an aircraft […] makes for an unnatural, turbulent, and adrenaline-charged experience. Career change […] shares similar qualities (FGN)
(16) The engine-room of GeneralLeadership.com is fueled by its authors- the Senior Military Leaders who have dedicated themselves to providing leadership lessons that will take your performance to the next level! (GL)
(17) In the modern military, as in modern business… (GL)
(18) The US Army is a learning organization (FGN)
(19) To be a successful orchestra and to make beautiful music, you must have an inspired conductor (leader) to guide the musicians to success (GL)
(20) Military moms are the glue that holds their families together and are a shining testament of toughness and creativity (BB)
(21) Whether you’re wearing the boots or standing beside them” (BB)

A common semantic motif of ethos that is strongly advocated within the profession to attain personal excellence and a strong community is the idea of “reputation through example” that is present in almost all of the blogs:

(22) You’re an example. (BB)
(23) They are imparted less by lecture and more by example. (GL)
(24) Strive to set the example for your leader by upholding the rules and the culture of the organization (GL)
(25) So the lesson is this: where possible, show, don’t tell. We needed to demonstrate the efficacy of the operations officer more than we needed to tell them about it. (FGN)

Another quality of the military, with which it seeks to uphold its reputation, that is reiterated throughout the blogs and the online military community as a marker of the profession consists in the provision and honing of skills that is typical of the military lifestyle:

(26) Military kids have a certain set of skills that separate them from the crowd (BB)
(27) Military life had prepared me for this scenario (BB)
(28) Military veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than people with no military experience (GL)
(29) I believe we do leadership transition well in the military, so there’s some lessons there for others. (GL)

However, the conflict between civilian and military values occasionally emerge in relation to reputation within the military community and result in contradictions in the discursive construction of the military. These paradoxes always involve the representational power and value of military professionals. Some of these concern the figure of the leader as an individualist who must assert his or her authority to achieve the goals at hand or a collectivist who simply directs the group:

(30) The most effective leadership style is one that is both task-relevant and is tailored to the ability and willingness of those the leader is attempting to lead (GL)
(31) The servant-first leader is one who ensure the other people’s highest priority needs are being served. (GL)
(32) Going it alone won’t work. Building a team and leading it toward a common goal is the only way you can succeed. (GN)

Such a conflict also implicitly underlies the continuous alternation between the use of “I” and “us” pronominal constructs in these posts. Another dilemma centers on service members and their accountability as representatives of the armed forces or as individuals expressing their own views. Although there are laws regarding this in offline contexts, the situation is not as clear as the service member uses an individual account and may express him or herself as an individual but not use his or her rank or professional position to enforce his or her view:

(33) As a guest blogger for the Blog Brigade, you take personal responsibility for your comments, your username, and any information you submit. Publication on the Blog Brigade does not constitute official endorsement of personal blogs or websites on behalf of the Department of Defense. (BB)
(34) The way you shape challenges into opportunities and embrace each adventure makes you, your family and your country stronger. (BB)

This standstill is further complicated by the fact that it may be traced back to a matter of accountability from the point of view of ethos: while exercising their profession, any damage incurred by service members by mistake is not punishable by non-military authorities in the USA because the individual is acting as part of the US armed forces. This rule however is not necessarily valid abroad, in that service members’ legal rights and limits depend on the SOFA (status of forces agreement) that have been previously instated in agreement with the host country. In contrast, if they break the law on their own or when off duty, they may be punished by the military - and in the worst cases sentenced to “dishonorable discharge” - by the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) if they do not respect their code of conduct which is based on both legal and moral standards. Legal accountability is therefore connected to personal integrity and the individual’s adherence to the values of both military culture and legislation, which ensure that American soldiers contribute to building a positive reputation for the military community in the eyes of civilians and local nationals. In this sense, there is a connection between the logos of the law and the pathos of professional values that unite to uphold the ethos of the military community.

3.6. Preliminary findings and directions for future research

The present analysis, which has inquired into the textual, discursive and linguistic means by which a form of professional online discourse, i.e. blogs that are written by and for members of the American military and their families and have become a subgenre of their own (milblogs), has portrayed and supported the ethical standards and values that are at the basis of their profession and reputation. It has also demonstrated that the communicative practices and rhetorical points of interest of the military reflect the peculiarities of military discourse and diverge from those of American civilians and integrate practical information (logos) with rhetorical discourse conveying emotions (pathos) to maintain the closeness and solidarity that characterises this particular discourse community and keep shared knowledge within the community as much as possible, considering the open and disseminating nature of the internet and blogs as a genre.

The analysis has established that online military discourse communities are greatly focused on reputation within the community organisational identity and therefore seek to connect, assist and support the various subjects in continuous movement that may find themselves in different countries and be subjected to diverse legal circumstances and positions. The military presents itself as a community and a lifestyle with exclusive integrity and solidity that are based on example and everyday practice, rather than theory and promotion, as well as unique skills that are endowed to those who live the same experiences and that help members of all categories tackle everyday challenges in the civilian world as well.

As much as the present study has attempted to inquire into in relation to the military, there is still much that could be done in future research in military community discourse. Complementary research on civilians’ perception of the military’s reputation and ethos either in general or regarding specific controversial issues could be carried out. Another research stream of interest could focus on comparing the similarities and differences between the discourse of different branches of the military both in general and in relation to certain genres or topics, or on analysing the idiosyncratic structures, use and dissemination of academic language and knowledge in the military field. Yet another research path could further pursue the incipit provided by the present study and focus on the implementation and adaption of different kinds of media in building and supporting the reputation of the military community on a national and/or international level.

Blogs (last accessed on June 20th, 2017)

Military OneSource www.militaryonesource.mil

Blog Brigade https://blog-brigade.militaryonesource.mil/

General Leadership https://generalleadership.com/

From the Green Notebook https://fromthegreennotebook.com/

References

Bell, Alan (1984). “Language Style as Audience Design”. In Coupland, N. and A. Jaworski (1997, eds.). Sociolinguistics: a Reader and Coursebook. New York: St Mattin's Press Inc: 240-250.

Brick, Jo (2015). “The Military #Profession: Lawyers, Ethics and the Profession of Arms”. The Bridge, http://thestrategy.org/thebridge/2016/2/1/themilitary-profession

Chouliaraki, Lilie and Fairclough, Norman (1999). Discourse in late modernity: rethinking critical discourse analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Chovanee, Jan (2011). “Weapon of Ms Destruction: The Subversive Role of Linguistic Creativity”. Slovak Studies in English 3: 82-93.

Compton, James (2006). “Shocked and Awed: The Convergence of Military and Media Discourse”. In Wilkin, P. and Lacy, M. Global Politics in the Information Age. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 39-62.

Fairclough, Norman. 1995 . Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. New York: Routledge.

Fairclough, Norman (2001). Language and Power, second edition. Harlow: Longman Pearson Education Limited.

Fairclough, Norman (2010). Critical Discourse Analysis: the Critical Study of Language, second edition . Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Fidell, Eugene R. (2016). Military Justice: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Garzone, Giuliana and Catenaccio, Paola [eds.] (2009). Identities across Media and Modes: Discursive Perspectives. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang.

Haigh, Michel M. and Pfau, Michael (2015). “A Comparison of Embedded and Nonembedded Print Coverage of the U.S. Invasion and Occupation of Iraq”. In Parcell, Erin Sahlstein and Webb, Lynne [eds.] A Communication Perspective on the Military: Interactions, Messages and Discourses. Peter Lang Publishing: 255-274.

Hofstede, Geert and Minkov, Michael (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. 3rd Edition McGraw-Hill USA.

Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of national culture (United States), https://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html, last access on July 3, 2017

Ihlen, Øyvind (2013). “Relating rhetoric and reputation”. In Carrol, C.E. (ed.). Handbook of communication and corporate reputation. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell: 249-261.

Kaltenbach, Susan (2000). “The Evolution of the Online Discourse Community.” http://noonuniverse.com/Linked_work/online_discourse.pdf

Koester, Almut (2010). Workplace Discourse. London and New York: Continuum.

Maguire, Katheryn C. (2015). “Military Family Communication: A Review and Synthesis of the Research Related to Wartime Deployment”. In In Parcell, Erin Sahlstein and Webb, Lynne [eds.] A Communication Perspective on the Military: Interactions, Messages and Discourses: 19-38.

Myers, Greg (2010). The Discourse of Blogs and Wikis. London and New York: Continuum.

Oxford Companion to American Military History (2000). “Language, Military: Informal Speech”. http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/language-military-informal-speech, last accessed on May 23, 2017

Parcell, Erin Sahlstein and Webb, Lynne (2015, eds.). A Communication Perspective on the Military: Interactions, Messages and Discourses. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Parcell Erin Sahlstein (2015). “Research at the Intersections of the Military and Communication: A Preview and Review”. In Parcell, Erin Sahlstein and Webb, Lynne [eds.] A Communication Perspective on the Military: Interactions, Messages and Discourses: 1-15.

Tyson, Ann Scott (2006). “Army Debuts New Slogan in Recruiting Commercials”. Washington Post November 22, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/21/AR2006112101295.html (last accessed on July 4, 2017).

Wilbur, Douglas S. (2013). “Leveraging Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory to Improve the Quality of Information Operations”. Small Wars Journal, March 13.

Wilson, Adele (2008). “Military terminology and the English language”. http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/6362-WilsonAdele.htm (last accessed on April 13, 2017).

Würtz, Elizabeth (2006). “Intercultural Communication on Web sites: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Web sites from High-Context Cultures to Low-Context Cultures” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 11: 274-299.

CONCLUSIONS

In light of the previous three chapters that focused on very different professions with their own needs and discourse community (both in terms of professionals and the non-experts and other members who require their expertise), blogs are a widespread and highly adaptable online genre that provides information, extra resources and a plethora of identities that are manifested by means of multimedia, discursive and linguistic choices. These elements attract the attention of a varied audience “peer-to-peer between experts, expert-to-layman or information posted by anyone who wants to express feelings, emotions or opinons” (Turnbull 2013: 5) whose need of, interest in and use of these sources of knowledge and empowerment position them along a spectrum that leads from other experts to online overhearers and eavesdroppers. The studies have been carried out throughout a period of three years and the comparison of the depicted situations with the current situation of these online professional communities may lead to even more insight into the potential and evolution of professional blogs.

To connect with the first chapter on office workers, a perusal into the blogs that were analysed in 2014 and those that are currently available for this reveals that three of them have either been discontinued (Scared Sitless and The Office Space) or are no longer dedicated to office workers (RoSPA). On the other hand, See Jane Work has expanded to include sections on office furniture and office supplies. This confirms the presence of the observed trend regarding the change in the use of the term “office” and “office worker”. It is in fact increasingly being substituted, presumably for two reasons: because the term “office worker” is perceived as too limited and restricted for an online community that is increasing and includes diverse categories of workers and users, and because the growing online community of workers who are following new and dislocated working practices like “co-working” and “workshifting” (Doerr 2018) are doing away with the very idea of confined working spaces, as may be judged by the emergence of new blogs that represent the results of various intersections between open workplace design and a more airy, inspiring company culture like in the case of Officesnapshots and Fastcompany Open Offices. In these new office blogs, empowerment is attained through visually liberating spaces and slim logistics and technology. The ideal office is therefore the contrary of what an office used to be and the office work is consequently unconfined.

Another very interesting trend in office blogs is the appropriation of the word “office” in blogs that are managed by corporations and employers, like in Officevibe and iOfficecorp. Corporations have therefore opted for the third possible reaction of companies to blogs that was mentioned in Chapter 1, i.e. “Embracing both the concept and the new technology while trying to understand and employ it to its full extent”. These blogs either provide software for the office or managerial advice for employers and employees in search of a better working environment, in accordance with their tendency to be factual and outward facing, using a linking style that points to interesting or relevant information on the Internet. There is less discussion of the issues people are facing in their jobs than one might expect from the culture of openness we observe in public blogs, so they are rarely used as a way of soliciting help, information or support.” (Charman 2007: 59). It is uncertain whether this is a manner for employers to blend in with their employees in order to empathise with them, or rather to avoid disruption and recreate the order and monitoring that they used to have in physical offices also in the online professional community.

To follow up on Chapter 2, all of the blogs that were analysed in the study are active except Dana Klisanin, although this could be due to the presence of the blog posts on the blogger’s other blog D igital Altruism and her increase in professional responsibilities and projects in recent years. These professionals therefore seem to have well integrated into the online community and maintained their individual styles and interdisciplinary approach of choice. There have also been updates in the self-presentations in the case of new accomplishments, but they maintain the same third or first person positioning as in 2016. The use of media content and frequency of posting of the active blogs has also remained consistent, which leads to the conclusion that they are still seen as reliable and entertaining sources of information and insight on media psychology.

Finally, the military blogs and milblogs on which Chapter 3 was centred are also going strong and there only have been slight changes in the graphics to freshen the look and to update the profiles. The most relevant and interesting changes in fact lie in the increased focus on the presentation and “personalisation” of the bloggers and guest bloggers whose presence is justified by the professional or experiential credentials that are underlined in their profiles. As opposed to the office worker blogs though, where groups, teams, and communities are the focal point, or to the media psychologists’ blogs that are centred on one individual professional, the military blogs balance the value of each individual member and the unity of the team of bloggers which changes due to the relocations, deployments and retirements of its members – shown both in uniform and in civilian clothing - but still remains a strong collectivity whose ethics and reputation are upheld by the images and colours of the profession and by the conviction of the discourse of its members. Interestingly, the military community has also extended its use of online multimedia discourse and interaction, such as online QA forums, in order to allow professionals to better tailor their advice to non-experts’ specific circumstances and requests (Doerr forthcoming).

The relevance of professional blogs may be traced back to its roles as a platform for experts to provide advice and services on emerging research to a vast audience, a point of reference for non-experts in need or search of information, and as a mirror of the state and developing trend of professions and work practices. Furthermore, the analysis of these blogs by means of linguistic frameworks like those provided by Critical Discourse Analysis allows the researcher to glean information on how the work cultures, ethics and practices and self-identities fruitfully merge thanks to the freedom of expression and space that are provided by online discourse in general, and the language of blogs in particular, thus leading to innovative and more democratising forms of interaction within the online community and popularising knowledge dissemination practices. As a result, these blogs prove how communicating professional content may also represent a means of communicating professions, as well as their core values and potential contribution to the increase of awareness on an international scale.

References

Charman, Suw (2007). “Blogs in Business: Using Blogs behind the Firewall”. In Bruns, A. and Jacobs, J. [eds.] 2007. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang: 57-68.

Doerr, Roxanne B. (2017). “Blogging in and about the workplace: a linguistic and multimodal analysis of work psychology discourse and discourse communities” Lingue Culture Mediazioni – Languages Cultures Mediation 4(1): 97-115.

Doerr, Roxanne B. (2018). “Work on the go: Linguistic and Discursive Dynamicity in Online Workshifting Communities”. In Garzone G. and Giordano W. [eds.] Discourse, Communication and the Enterprise: Where Business Meets Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars.

Doerr, Roxanne B. (forthcoming) “JAG 2.0: Legal advice and dissemination in online military lawyer forums” In Vijay K. Bhatia and Girolamo Tessuto [eds.] Social Media in Legal Practice (provisional title), London and New York: Routledge Series on Law, Language and Communication.

Turnbull, Judith (2013). A linguistic analysis of English online: Knowledge dissemination and the empowerment of citizens. Rome: UniversItalia.

[...]

Details

Pages
105
Year
2019
ISBN (Book)
9783346074652
Language
English
Catalog Number
v506612
Institution / College
University of Brescia
Grade
Tags
communicating professions blog applied linguistics approach

Author

Share

Previous

Title: Communicating Professions via Blog. An Applied Linguistics Approach