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Meta-phatics (6)


For an index of other posts in this series, jump to the end of this post. This one reviews the following sources:

Lobinger, Katharina 2016. Photographs as things - photographs of things. A texto-material perspective on photo-sharing practices. Information, Communication & Society 19(4): 475-488.

Recent changes in visual communication refer to photography becoming 'networked' due to the prevalent practice of sharing photographs immediately after capture via instant messaging tools or social media applications. (Lobinger 2016: 475)
So, aside from phatic communion, among other types of communion we could basically also talk about "visual communion"?
In doing so, the paper argues for a transmedial, texto-material perspective that conceptualizes photographs as objects and texts, understanding them as doubly articulated artefacts. Three modes of photo sharing that strongly differ regarding the role of the shared photographic objects are discussed: (1) sharing photographs to talk about images, (2) sharing photographs to communicate visually and (3) phatic photo sharing. (Lobinger 2016: 475)
It would appear that Juri Lotman was actually several decades ahead of the curve with his textual approach to images (as "continuous" texts).
Photographic technology is inherently tied to sharing. Most people in contemporary highly mediatized societies carry their cell phone or smartphone with an integrated camera with them at all times and are thus able to take photographs in basically every moment of their lives (Hand, 2012). And as most current camera phones enable an immediate connection to online web communication, they have been characterized as 'networked' or 'social cameras' (Lister, 2013; Rubinstein & Sluis, 2008; Weilenmann, Hillman, & Jungselius, 2013). 'Networked photography' refers to the practice of sharing photographs immediately after capture in real-time, mobile visual communication, using, for example, instant messaging (IM) tools or social media applications. With the proliferation of networked photography photo sharing has become a pervasive routine communicative act. (Lobinger 2016: 475)
So does this amount to a phatic media culture? What else in our "highly mediatized society" is networked in this sense?
Since sharing represents the 'fundamental and constitutive activity' (John, 2013a, p. 167) on which the Web 20 is based, it has recently gained prominence in communication research. Thereby, the concept of sharping has become an increasingly broad keyword to describe a heterogeneous bundle of practices (e.g. John, 2013a; Wittel, 2011). In some cases, sharing refers to technically standardized (one-to-many) distribution or to the exchange of commodities; in other cases it describes communicative practices of creating and maintaining sociality (e.g. Grassmuck, 2012; John, 2013b; Wittel, 2011). (Lobinger 2016: 476)
I'd say that communicative practices and communzational activities (sharing) are interrelated, and one is more prone to share with people one communicates with. Not only is it etymologically sensible, but if communication is viewed in terms of "constitutive" practices (i.e. integration with group and society) then it becomes more apparent that it also involves sharing. "The breaking of silence, the communion of words is the first act to establishing links of fellowship, which is consummated only by the breaking of bread and the communion of food" (Malinowski 1946[1923]: 314).
According to practice theory, as outlined by Schatzki (1996) and Reckwitz (2002), a practice is
a routinized type of behavior which consists of several elements, interconnected to one another: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, 'things' and their use, a background knowledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion and motivational knowledge. (Reckwitz, 2002, p. 249)
Practice theory highlights the significance of the tacit and unconscious layer of knowledge and its shared and collective symbolic structures. According to this conceptualization, a practice is always per se social, being conceptualized as a type of inter-individual behaviour, action and understanding that occurs in different situations in different points of time and is performed by different individuals (Reckwitz, 2002). (Lobinger 2016: 477)
Compare this to the practice theory laid out by Harkness (2015), and possibly the discussion on cultural techniques (in German Media Studies). There is a distinct taste of sociosemiotics to all this that needs to be investigated further.
Practice theory provides a fruitful framework for the study of sharing, as the concept of communication related to this paradigm is explicitly not based on the idea of transferring meanings from one individual to another, hence rejecting the transmission model of communication. Rather, practices already contain routinized, non-subjective ways of understanding that do not require further transmission or transfer. (Lobinger 2016: 477)
Another convergence with communization, this time with Ruesch's emphasis on common experience. Having similar life experiences fosters knowledge of "the way things are done".
With respect to practice theory, photo sharing is here understood as a form of communicative practice involving two or more individuals that includes the use of texto-material photographic artefacts for different purposes with the use of different media and ICTs. The term modes of photo sharing is thus used to foreground the different rules of the photographic object in sharing practices without linking the activity of photo sharing to individual media and ICTs. (Lobinger 2016: 478)
For a more general treatment of the online infrastructure of sharing, I'd prefer the term semiotic resources (introduced by van Leeuwen, if I'm not mistaken), so that sharing of intellectual property (academic publications, music, movies, etc.) could be considered.
Sharing photographs in order to talk about images - This first mode of sharing photographs has a long tradition in analogue photography. It became popular in times when the reproduction of photographs was still less usual and printed photographs were stored in albums and boxes. In photo-sharing situations the photographic object was thus not literally shared, in a sense of giving it - in part - away or of reproducing it. Instead photographs were shown to others, used as conversational resources in communicative practices and finally returned to the owner after sharing. Moreover, sharing analogue photographs usually came with a time gam between the moment of capture and the moment of sharing. (Lobinger 2016: 479)
This is the mode of photo sharing dealt with by Patricia Prieto Blanco with regard to family photographs hung in home entrances. Photographs are shown to others, or people depicted on the photographs, followed by discussion or invocation of previous experiences.
The family photograph, for example, was created and used for the preservation and the construction of family identity and memory. (Lobinger 2016: 479)
That's Blanco's phatic community construction alright.
The sharing of stories around images often happens in collocated settings. When sharing their photographs or recent travels with friends, people might prefer to select and show photographs in a non-predefined manner according to the course of the narration. In the course of the story to be narrated, certain personal photographs are chosen and used as 'anchors for storytelling' (Van House, 2009, p. 1082) and for illustrating and thus supporting the shared story that is created. However, the main meaningful object of sharing is the narrative accompanying the photographs while the photographs are used as a supporting conversational resource. (Lobinger 2016: 479-480)
In other words, photographs in this situation function as conversation pieces, though they can also be treated as "semiotic resources".
Communicating visually and sharing visual stories - The second mode of photo-sharing shifts the focus directly onto the contents and visual qualities of the shared photographs. In this mode, photographs are shared to communicate visually or, in other words, to share visual stories. People then share photographs in order to tell something with the photographs and to express themselves photographically, not with a narration built around the photographs. Photographic content with its special visual style and idiosyncrasies is thus the main object of sharing. Again, this mode is not restricted to the use of certain ICTs. Photographs can be shared with different technologies depending on, for example, the situational affordances, the various social uses of photography or the media preferences of the conversational partners. (Lobinger 2016: 480)
In other words, these are the types of galleries that tell a story without additional verbal information. For example, travel or holiday photographs tell stories of the "I went there and did that" ilk.
IN a non-media-centric, transmedial perspective on photo sharing, strict boundaries between 'virtual' and 'real' environments in the sense of online vs. offline sharing need to be avoided. In fact, the online and the offline visual presentation of identity are highly intertwined (e.g. Autenrieth, 2011; Schwarz, 2010) with complex implications for the negotiation of identity, particularly for teenagers and young adults. The shared photo albums on profile-based SNSs are important resources for maintaining the relationship with a personal network and for creating an authentic visual online and offline identity. In this regard, Autenrieth (2011) has found the aesthetic features of photographs to be less important than the photographs' authenticity, contents and communicative significance, that is, the attention paid to the posted photographs and the obtained likes and comments. (Lobinger 2016: 481)
In this sense photographs shared online constitute a kind of phatic resource for reifying and maintaining social relationships. Look at us, we're on a picture together, obviously we're friends. Just yesterday a Facebook friend had her birthday and her friend posted a greeting in the form of a photograph where they were both younger, the birthday child standing on the foreground with a silly bemused look and the greeting friend sitting awkwardly on the ground in the background.
Phatic photo sharing - The third mode of photo sharing, here called phatic photo sharing, refers to the fact that often neither the content of the pictures and their visual qualities nor the verbal narrations about photographs that were at the core of the two previously discussed modes of photo sharing are the dominant features of sharing, whereas the communicative significance, the pleasure of communication and connectivity of photo sharing comes to the fore. In this mode of photo sharing, photographs are exchanged mainly for the sake of visual connectivity and thus in order to confirm and strengthen bonds and relationships, for example by performing 'visual chitchat' or 'visual small-talk' (Villi, 2012). In some cases, the content of the exchanged photographs is rather irrelevant. Malinowski (1923) and Jakobson (1960) have referred to these meaningful acts of communication - that in most cases, however, do not convey meaningful content - as the phatic mode of communication (Manovich, 2009; Miller, 2008; Senft, 1995; Villi, 2012). (Lobinger 2016: 481)
Unlike Virilio's strictly Jakobsonian definition, this one combines it with Malinowskian phatic communion. It is especially noteworthy that the pleasure principle is mentioned, as I've only seen a few others take this aspect in Malinowski seriously.
People engaging in phatic photo sharing describe the photographs they typically exchange as gratuitous, useless photographs because the motifs of the photographs do not matter at all (Lobinger & Brantner, 2015). The photographs rather serve for keeping up a continuous flow of visual contact with friends. (Lobinger 2016: 482)
I sense a likeness with the phatic fountain (Robertson 2003).
Practices of phatic photo sharing bear a likeness to the tradition of the 'squillo' in Italy, that is, free telephone rings that were used to replace toll calls or paid SMS messages. A squillo is made to say 'thinking of you', 'have arrived safely' or 'call back'. Just as a photograph in phatic photo sharing, a squillo is thus mainly used for creating a feeling of closeness to a significant other and to enable the experience of relatedness (Knobel et al., 2012). (Lobinger 2016: 482)
This also exists in Estonia, where it is called vastakas (a slang for "unanswered call", effectively an "(un)answery"), meaning that you call but hang up before the other person answers the call.
Sharing phatic visual messages, for example, accentuates the social relationship between the conversational partners without further emphasis on the photograph's role for group memory. (Lobinger 2016: 484)
Synonyms, synonyms, synonyms.
As was discussed, besides sharing photographs as either lasting material or ephemeral objects, photo sharing can also assume forms of sharing as connecting or of visual communication, in the sense of sharing information and sharing as telling. With regard to the concept of sharing, this leads to the problem that sharing and communication are partly equalized. In some cases, we do not really share a picture, we communicate visually, just as we do not share words (signifiers) but tell meaningful stories (signified) when talking to someone. This challenges the notion of sharing that still lacks a precise conceptualization, particularly when the object to be shared is at the same time a medium for sharing symbolic content. (Lobinger 2016: 484)
What? Malinowski is referenced, but the point of phatic communion seems to have been missed.

Papacharissi, Zizi 2016. Affective publics and structures of storytelling: sentiment, events and mediality. Information, Communication & Society 19(3): 307-324.

In this essay, I further explicate the construct of affective publics by drawing elements from two case studies, the first focusing on uses of Twitter leading up to and following the events surrounding the resignation of Hosni Mubarak via #egypt, and the second one focusing on online iterations of the Occupy movement, and specifically #ows, one of the more connective and central tags of the movement. I explore what mediated feelings of connectedness do for politics and networked publics in the digital age, and explore their impact on structures of storytelling, sentiments, and the mediality of events broadcast through different platforms. Technologies network us, but it is our stories that connect us. (Papacharissi 2016: 307)
The keywords are commendable, but the overall effect has a "more hope and fanfare than actual results" feel to it, as Miller (2015) proves that in these kinds of transformative political events the actual impact of phatic technologies is negligible.
Even though the deal sets the terms for remaining within the Eurozone, the terms themselves reiterate, reinforce, and reproduce politics of austerity that have guided how the European Union has navigated the financial crisis of past few years. (Papacharissi 2016: 307)
I take a triadomanic likening to these terms. The quasi-marxist in me would subsume all of them under the term "perpetuation", but why have one word when you could have endless many.
[...] I am bothered by the casual use of the term coup d'état. I wonder: Have any of the people using the term had to live through a coup d'état? Yet, the term, used as an open signifier, draws support from a number of networked publics following the developments. (Papacharissi 2016: 308)
You mean a poly- or pansemic signifier?
I would extend this claim to argue that hashtags like #ThisIsACoup, but also #BringBackOurGirls, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, #HandsUpDontShoot, #BlackLivesMatter, nad countless others are actually signifies not empty, but open to definition, redefinition, and re-appropriation. They serve as framing devices that allow crowds to be rendered into publics; networked publics that want to tell their story collaboratively and on their own terms. (Papacharissi 2016: 308)
More triadic spouting of terminology. This author seems to have a knack for it. A matter of preference, I guess.
These networked publics come together and/or disband around bonds of sentiment, and I describe them as affective, convening across networks that are discursively rendered out of mediated interactions (Papacharissi, 2014). They assemble around meida and platforms that invite affective attunement, support affective investment, and propagate affectively charged expressions, like Twitter. (Papacharissi 2016: 308)
I'm still on the fence about "sentiments" in Malinowski - he seems to contradict himself on the matter. "Affective attunement" on the other hand, is basically what La Barre's phatic communication is about.
My goal is to show the contemporary traction the concept of Affective Publics has, and expand on the days initially presented in the book, offering greater clarity and utility to the concept. Therefore, in this essay, I further explicate the construct of affective publics by drawing elements from two case studies [...] (Papacharissi 2016: 308)
My goal with "phatic studies" is similarly to introduce it to the "contemporary traction", though I'm unfamiliar with this phraseology. Rather, I would like phatic studies to gain traction. And since this paper, too, is a phatic study in this sense, I'd like to see how the "mediated [...] connectedness" here purported pans out in follow-up.
Researchers study how the platform is used in news breaking situations, in anticipation or premediation of events that are about to happen or are in the process of happening, thus further contributing to and cultivating a culture of instantaneity in news reporting. Premediation played a central part in how we conceptualized our research design and interpreted our findings. (Papacharissi 2016: 309)
Kekkek. This really reminds me of 4chan "happenings" and how they are "happening" exactly because they are premeditated and premediated - the persons behind the happening leaves a warning, commits the crime, and then - if possible - posts results. All in all it presents an awfully novel aspect to our current "mediated society" - our sociopaths also invite participation in their illegal and destructive activities.
Homophily further drives how people use Twitter, meaning that like-minded people tend to listen to like-minded others online (e.g., Weller, Bruns, Burgess, Mahrt, & Puschmann, 2013; Wu, Hofman, Mason, & Watts, 2011). (Papacharissi 2016: 309)
Much like hodology, this term - homophily - sounds simultaneously useful and superfluous. Can't put my finger on why exactly yet.
In conversations around controversial topics, replies between like-minded individuals tend to strengthen group identity, whereas replies between different-minded individuals reinforce in-group and out-group affiliation (Yardi & Boyd, 2010b). (Papacharissi 2016: 310)
Just like with homogeneous and heterogeneous sympathy in terms of emotional mimicry (Hess & Fischer 2013), the in/out, us/them, with/without etc. distinctions still seem relevant.
Thus, within the sphere of everyday political and social activities, online activity may connect disorganized crowds and enable the formation of networked publics around communities, actual and imagined (e.g., Howard & Hussain, 2013). These publics are activated and sustained by feelings of belonging and solidarity, however evanescent those feelings may be. (Papacharissi 2016: 310)
I like that these "affective publics" do not have to pertain to actual communities. The concept of "community" is problematic, in my opinion, because our post-social environment doesn't really foster classical communities (people who live together), but diffused communities of "like-minded people" who may be physically and even culturally very distinct and separated, but conjoined by a single arbitrary factor (I think E.R. Clay may have treated something like this in terms of sets, i.e. all men who have never climbed mount Everest or something to that effect - it might be worthwhile to look into what he actually wrote and see if it can't be turned around).
Driven by an ambient, self-sustaining mode of reflexivity, generated and re-generated by accumulating and imbricated digital layers of expression, affective traces persist and bind networked publics long after the initial events that called them into being. Dean explains that while affective attachments to media cannot produce communities, they may produce 'feelings of community' (p. 22). (Papacharissi 2016: 310)
Spot on. Also, on "traces" cf. Nozawa (2015), and consider whether Kockelman's (2010) "sieving and serendipity" could be included in the discussion of affective traces that bind networked publics.
Our interpretations are driven by an understanding of affect as a form of pre-emotive intensity subjectively experienced and connected to, in this context, to processes of premediation or anticipation of events prior to their occurrence. We drew from the work of Damasio (1994) and Tomkins (1995) to trace how affect provides and amplifies intensity by increasing our awareness of a certain mind or body state that we, as adults, learn to label as a particular feeling and express as a given emotion. Without affect, feelings essentially do not 'feel', for it is affect that provides the intensity with which we experience emotions like pain, joy, and love, and more important, the urgency to act upon those feelings (Damasio, 1994; Tomkins, 1995). (Papacharissi 2016: 311)
How does this compare to the linguistic exposition of Martin and White (2005), according to whom affect is language is "concerned with registering positive or negative feelings", i.e. almost like a value-judgment of emotions.
Because of its not yet element (Spinoza, in Seigworth & Gregg, 2010), affect contains anticipation, promise, hope, and potential, or, what Seigworth and Gregg term 'an inventory of shimmers' (p. 9). This liminality renders individuals powerful and potentially powerless at the same time because of its ephemeral and transient nature. (Papacharissi 2016: 311)
While the (previously mentioned) linguistic evaluation comes after the fact, affect itself here is reminiscent of Peirce's Firstness, which encompasses qualia, emotion, possibility, etc.
Affect is not emotion. It is the intensity with which we experience emotion. It is the slight tap on our foot when we hear a song but have not yet cognitively processed that we like it. It is the phatic nod we produce when we are listening along to what someone is saying, but we have not yet decided whether we fully agree or not. (Papacharissi 2016: 316)
Good analogies. The core argument seems to be that, much like Peirce's Firstness, affect has not yet developed into a token and cannot be attributed to a type.
(5) The streams sustain publics convened around affective commonalities - Impact is symbolic, agency calimed semantic, power liminal (Papacharissi 2016: 318)
c.o.m.m.u.n.i.z.a.t.i.o.n

van Es, Karin 2016. Social TV and the Participation Dilemma in NBC's The Voice. Television & New Media 17(2): 108-123.

[...] I identify a participation dilemma. This dilemma results from the fact that in giving viewers influence over aspects of the production to create an emotional investment, producers relinquish control over the contents of the show, which needs to appeal to large audiences. In addition, I classify the applications of social media: promotion, affective, functional, and phatic. (van Es 2016: 108)
These distinctions imply that the phatic is separate from promotion (which is not the case with Virilio's phatic image), or affect (not the case with La Barre's phatic communication) or functionality (not the case with phatic function in general). But I hope that these distinctions are nevertheless sensible and operational, and my own view of phatics is merely too broad.
Recently, the genre has proved particularly suited to what is colled "social TV": the combination of television with the real-time experience of social media (Ducheneaut et al. 2008). (van Es 2016: 108)
The pairing of social media, or networking, seems to have no limits. Above it's "networked photography", here it's "social TV". Soon enough we'll have social-networked everything.
I analyze how NBC fine-tuned its social media strategy over the course of these seasons, disclosing and subsequently reflecting on what I call the "participation dilemma": the clash between the promise of interactivity characteristic of reality singing competitions and some of the basic interests of television producers. To generate high ratings, producers must offer compelling television in the form of tightly structured narratives, but certain types of audience participation threaten their control over the program. As a result, viewers are invariably offered relatively superficial types of interaction that claim ostensibly to blur the line between producers and viewers - and by extension, to shift power to the audience - but in fact keep their roles distinct. Effectively, social media's potential is curbed: its use is molded to serve the interests of the television industry. (van Es 2016: 109)
In effect, the use of social media for politics or entertainment is beginning to look "appropriated" in the sense of maintaining the status quo rather than subverting it. It reminds me of Thomas Matthiesen's (1974) book about The Politics of Abolition, where he noted that honest co-operation with "the authorities" will inevitabli lead to "the road towards being integrated into or absorbed by the system we were trying to change" (original emphasis). That is, both politics and entertainment are seemingly integrating and absorbing social media as a transformational tool and neutering its potential for change. This might be a good point to revisit with more information and expand into a treatment. #absorption
Against the background of supposedly passive media consumption of "old" media, "new" media's interactivity promises to restructure the hierarchical relationship between senders and receivers, taking power away from the mass media and giving users greater control over mediated communication (Müller 2008b). (van Es 2016: 110)
Folly. Is it a threat or a promise? A rhetorical question, but perhaps a significant one to ask at this date and time: what if the restructuring of relationships between media producers and consumers is not so much a "possibility" but an "inevitability" that we're not yet realizing? What happens when media and entertainment organizations no longer simply cut back but really go under? What will be left? I want to paraphrase Orwell's sentence, "If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles" and say that if there's any hope it's in the blogs, but at this point I'm not even sure if that's the case, or if adding (micro) to "blogs" would change anything.
Social TV stimulates viewers to watch programs while they air, as only then can they participate in on-air events, and this is the peak time for socializing with other viewers about the show (a Facebook post or a tweet the following day can seem like a reference to ancient history). At the same time, the rise of new information systems, including social media, introduces novel possibilities for the collection of audience data - and even for the collection of new kinds of information. More specifically, they allow the measurement of audience engagement: how people feel and respond to programming, rather than just what they are exposed to. (van Es 2016: 111)
This might explain why the relevant term is "affective media", not "cognitive media". It's all rather impulsive. You get "entrained" because of "emotional valence" (Fusaroli et al. 2015), but you don't have near enough relevant information in the heat of the moment, nor time to look up facts. Going on William James's (1890) definition of the intellect, i.e. involving the ability to delay gratification, I'd say that there's a more cognitive-ideational enjoyment of things that are "ancient history" (e.g. binge watching Breaking Bad after it has aired so that you can proceed quickly and familiarize yourself more objectively with the surrounding hype long after mass interest has waned away). I'm thinking of retroactive engagement, aren't I?
She proposes the terms reactive, active, and interactive to identify common ways of classifying the degree of user influence on production output. Respectively, these can be defined as low influence on the production process (as in quizzes and polls), accumulative influence on production (as in voting), and high influence on (parts of) the production (Enli 2012, 123-27). (van Es 2016: 112)
Useful distinctions. My blogging format is reactive, but a few years ago I sent a recommendation (which in itself is active, I guess) to academia.edu for them to create a sidebar for comments, like we have in MS Word (or already on some social media sites like Soundcloud), and they finally created it; I got to use it for the first time yesterday and it seems to amount to an interactive degree.
As for Twitter, viewer tweets were featured only during the live shows. During the blind auditions and battle rounds, only tweets exchanged between the coaches and the host - often in the vein of silly quarrels - were shown, in the bottom third of the screen. Gillar (2011, 234) has referred to this type of social media use, a form of overlay, where comments from the show's representatives but not the viewers are included on screen, as "promotion disguised as viewer interaction." (van Es 2016: 113)
What was Matthiesen's term again? Absorption.
Nonetheless, rather than allowing the audience vote alone to determine who moved forward in the competition, the show's three experts were given considerable voting power - and for a specific reason. As Mark Andreqevic (2001) has noted, in taking power sharing "too literally," viewers of Big Brother voted contestants home who had made the program more interesting (because they were phony or manipulative), so their decision was not in the best interests of the show. This relates directly to the participation dilemma: the need for producers to control their shows' content, making sure that what is broadcast will be attractive to a large audience. (van Es 2016: 116)
If the general population were to take a vote on which types of media it would espouse and ban, we'd probably end up in the world of Fahrenheit 451.
Looking across the reality singing competition spectrum in 2015, it is possible to discern four main, nonexclusive applications of social media in reality TV competitions, which I designate here as "promotional," "affective," "functional," and "phatic." (van Es 2016: 117)
Good term. Likewise, Roman Jakobson's speech functions are not really exclusive (since subordinate functions are always there in some measure), but I wonder if even the "dominant" - which is often used as an apology (even by me) in these situations, is really the right approach. "Salience" used in some other quarters at this point seems preferable because it implies that the particular function is salient for the investigator or situation of investigation.
Of course, social media are also being used to nurture and deepen the emotional investment of viewers. Such use relates to how, in light of increasing audience fragmentation and autonomy, the industry has been revaluing fan loyalty and participation (Jenkins 2006). Television networks, as mentioned, are increasingly interested in measuring audience engagement rather than their exposure to programming (Napoli 2011). In social TV, as opposed to transmedia storytelling, the emphasis is on audience participation in real time. The preferred form of user influence for an affective application of social media is active engagement, which tends to result in relations of extension (e.g., in the Twittersphere) and overlay (on screen). (van Es 2016: 118)
This reminds me of how the Daily Show (with Jon Trevor) now has a tumblr account with pre-fabricated gifs. That is, DS has extended to tumblr. Now that I think about it all makes sense - tumblr is by popular opinion the home of the most whiny and emotional pre- to malpubescent people; and DS is pandering exactly to that demographic. It really is the mouthpiece of the SJW movement.
These practices closely align with something long recognized in television studies, which Donald Horton and Richard Wohl (1956) described as the establishment of "para-social interaction." In mass media such as television and radio, the authors claim, the shows' representatives are encouraged to have direct contact with the audience, so as to make it feel as if the performers belonged to a circle of peers. By giving the audience a "direct line" to the performers, coaches, and host through Twitter, the frame separating it from the show is made to seem permeable, implying something of the intimacy of a face-to-face relationship. (van Es 2016: 118)
Holy shit! Could this be the source for elaborating my half-baked "parachannel" idea? Horton, Donald and Richard Wohl 1956. Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes 19(3): 215-229.
As Nick Couldry (2009, 109) points out, interactivity around content is a way of "showing, in performance, the otherwise merely assumed connection between medium and representative social group." Social media enhances this performance for television, by enbaling real-time interactivity around live content. (van Es 2016: 118)
In my half-baked channel theory, an observer or someone who happens to overhear the conversation from some distance is part of the meta-channel (Colin Cherry's concept), while someone talked about belongs to the para-channel. While quite useless for the study of face-to-face interactions, the para-channel is relevant for online conversations, especially ones stored for public access, because the person named can find the conversation and read up on what is said about him or her.
The final application of social media in television identified here can be called "phatic." Here, the primary function of social media is to keep communication channels open. This occurs in situations when viewers are asked to respond to questions simply to keep them involved, but without having them influence the narrative. These scenarios usually involve reactive forms of participation. (van Es 2016: 119)
This is how the Nightly Show uses Twitter. Each episode ends with some innocuous question or other to which the audience should respond.
In the future, television producers will probably continue to revive the promise of interactivity, and find new ways of incorporating viewers into their programs. However, I have suggested that although the industry usually relinquishes some control over the program narrative in the process, it simultaneously tends toward managing user participation to maintain its business model. It is to be expected that new technologies for participation will continue to be used in similar ways, and serve the industry by remediating successful practices from the past. In this case, also, actual opportunities for audiences to influence program content will remain an empty promise. We can thus only expect shifts in power between producers and viewers with the adoption of other business models: those not reliant on the selling of audiences to advertisers. (van Es 2016: 121)
Yup. This is exactly what I think. There will be opportunities for participating in media more in the future, but we have to first see old business models die.

Papadima, Aspasia and Evangelos Kourdis 2016. Global meets local: typographic practices and the semiotic role of subtitling in the creation of parodies in Cypriot dialect on Internet texts. Social Semiotics 26(1): 59-75.

The rapid growth of technology has led to the use of increasingly complex multimodal cultural texts aiming to transfer information to even larger masses, thus allowing researchers to develop the concept of mass culture. Mass culture is the culture addressing the mass and the wide public. It is woth noting that mass culture is not created by the masses but is industrially constructed to be consumed by the masses (Vasiliou and Stamatakis 1992, 237). One of the media for promoting mass culture is the Internet, whose impact is ever increasing. (Papadima & Kourdis 2016: 59)
Nah. This does not hold true for the internet. I'd rather stick to Ruesch's definition of mass culture, according to which it is a network characterized by the fact that anyone (in the wide public) can be the addressee, but the addresser is anonymous. The anonymous constructors of mass media messages in industry is just a special case of it. The internet offers counter-examples, including viral videos, memes, copypasta, etc.
Gonzálaz intentionally connects text type with translation. Today's global culture operates on a system of semiosis where the registers of communication are mixed: they are both pictorial and linguistic at the same time, they incorporate motion and have produced a whole new definition of text. (Papadima & Kourdis 2016: 60)
This seems to be in vogue. Papadima & Kourdis (2016, above) likewise argued "for a transmedial, texto-material perspective that conceptualizes photographs as objects and texts, understanding them as doubly articulated artefacts." Here, at least, Uspenski et al. 1973 are quoted.
So the question that arises in this case is which is the role of subtitling if it does not repeat the content of the audiovisual text? The answer to this question is related to the concept of recontextualization. As Androutsopolous (2010, 215) states:
[r]econtextualization involves the appropriation and the reworking of globally circulated media material into a local code for a local audience. In the case of spectacles, this involves the manipulation of different media and modes, intertextual tensions within popular culture, and heteroglossic contrasts of re-voicing and re-imaging.
Androutsopolous (2010) characterizes this phenomenon as a "local response to global media content". (Papadima & Kourdis 2016: 61)
Thus, recontextualization is the opposite of what is commonly understood as appropriation. A classical example would be the coke bottle in The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980).
In the same framework, code switching between worldwide hegemonic English and the local Cypriot dialect is not surprising, e.g. "One way ticket να μεν ιξανάρτουν" (one way ticket so that they will not come back). The use of Greeklish, Cyprenglish actually, is the finishing touch for the atmosphere of parody the third video under examination creates [...] (Papadima & Kourdis 2016: 63-64)
Add Cyprus to the long list of countries where young people speak a mixture of English and local language (i.e. Estonglish, Chinglish, etc.) (in phatic studies read during the last month or so I've found such remarks about Nepal, Arabic Countries, and there was maybe one more). It's a worldwide phenomenon, after all.
The medium where typography is projected, i.e. the screen, is a decisive factor. Paper reflects light depending on its colour and brightness, whereas the screen is self-illuminous and creates different dynamics in the relationship between text and reading surface. (Papadima & Kourdis 2016: 66)
Sel-luminous. I like that. In my own short stories (which I wrote in my youth), the walls, ceilings and floors of built environments were self-luminous for the most part. In my current fantasies they still are. // Maybe relevant conceptualizing Joe's phatic "focus". Specifically, how television and other self-luminous screens capture attention.
For Archakis and Tsakona (2012, 79) "[...] humor is a decisive factor for integration in a group, since it brings to the surface the more or less latent values and the explicit or implicit norms of the group". It is a fact that the mother tongue is a medium to express values, perhaps the most important one. Besides, in which other language could someone express oneself about everyday topics, such as sports and politics in a humourous manner if not in one's mother tongue? (Papadima & Kourdis 2016: 69)
Something phatic. Also, compare this to Mühlhäusler's (2016) understanding of the death of a "phatic" language.

Ballantyne, Anne; Victoria Wibeck and Tina-Simone Neset 2016. Images of climate change - a pilot study of young people's perceptions of ICT-based climate visualization. Climatic Change 134(1): 73-85.

The role of the public in responding to the challenges of climate change is increasingly being emphasized in climate science and policy debates (Joffe and Smith 2013). In particular, it has been argued that the public can contribute to climate change mitigating through lifestyle changes and "green consumerism", or through exercising political influence by supporting climate-friendly policies (e.g. Whitemarsh et al. 2013; Lowe et al. 2006). A key concept in these debates is "public engagement", which refers to the active participation of the public in learning and action addressing climate change (Wolf and Moser 2011). (Ballantyne, Wibeck & Neset 2016: 73-74)
Above it was hypothesized that public engagement may not be as opportune at current stage of our social-networking development to be as affective in effecting transformative politics as we'd like it to be. Hopefully this paper will offer a more positive outlook.
[...] this paper takes its point of departure in a semiotic framework that "is interested in how things come to gain meaning for individuals, and how these meanings are a product of the cultures and worldviews from where they originate" (O'Neill and Hulme 2009: 403). (Ballantyne, Wibeck & Neset 2016: 74)
Not a lot could be hoped from a semiotic theory that takes "meaning" to be its primary operative term. "Throwing putty" is what Charles Morris called it.
The focus of this study is on how messages come to gain meaning for members of a target audience. Theories of semiotics provide a framework for understanding how systems of meaning employed in visual communication are communicated and interpreted. Additionally, it "can contribute to a more complete understanding of how communictaion in general operates" by emphasising the meaning perspective in the context of visual communication (Moriarty 1996: 186). The relationship between signs and meaning is a fundamental aspect of communication theory and it provides a framework for understanding interpretation as a core facet of communication, by accentuating the active role of the audience (Fiske 2011). (Ballantyne, Wibeck & Neset 2016: 75-76)
I know of systems of signs, but systems of meaning?
In particular, our analysis identified three interrelated sub-categories all relating to "concretization", namely making complexity visible, clarifying and/or providing an overview, and making climate change tangible. (Ballantyne, Wibeck & Neset 2016: 80)
Since concretization (metaphorically, borrowing from Gilbert Simondon) is also a theme in our meta-analysis of phatics, these four aspects might be well to keep in mind.
Contemplating the semiotic approach to communication, it is not surprising that interpretations are influenced by existing knowledge. As such, this situates climate change communication in a theoretical context that holds interpretation and meaning as principal elements influenced by contextual factors. To investigate the effects of communicative efforts, these factors, i.e. social context, prior knowledge and levels of interpretations, need to be considered as part of the communication process and be embedded in the methodological design of climate change communication studies. (Ballantyne, Wibeck & Neset 2016: 84)
Buzzwords buzz, but do little more.

Ledin, Per and David Machin 2016. A discourse-design approach to multimodality: the visual communication of neoliberal management discourse. Social Semiotics 26(1): 1-18.

Our sense of design here draws on Kress's (2010, 6) notion of this being the way that individuals and institutions realize their interests in the world. A designer (an individual or an institution) uses certain available semiotic resources that are apt to serve certain purposes. Such purposes are in a sense "built in" to semiotic resources, since they have historically evolved potentials for meaning-making, what is called their affordances. Due to their affordances semiotic modes such as photography, graphics, layout, colour, numbers and writing will be deployed and co-articulated. (Ledin & Machin 2016: 1)
This kinda sounds like hodology. (I really should look into it.)
We show how a pervasive management discourse is communicated through a principled design, and takes over the control of work practices. The discourse is about neoliberal ideas of how to make the running of public institutions more efficient, how to improve customer relations and market success, how to implement and use steering systems that ensure accountability and higher productivity. (Ledin & Machin 2016: 2)
Phraseology. Might be useful for my planned analysis of Anomalisa, and the discourse on customer relations in it.
Research in multimodality has pointed to the increasingly promotional character of communication in the universities. In prospectuses and on websites we find uses of colour, photographs and space that resemble commercial brochures (Teo 2007) and readers are addressed in a casual but trendy voice. Photographs are intended to create more personal feeling, oriented to presenting students as customers who will acquire a degree, where university is more of a "lifestyle", rather than about study and learning (Zhang and O'Halloran 2013). (Ledin & Machin 2016: 2)
"It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It's about creating a home here!" screeches the Yale student at her campus administrator.
These networks are seen as based on three metafunctions underlying semiosis. Semiotic modes (connected systems of resources) are simultaneously used to say something about the world (the ideational metafunction), to signal our relationships (the interpersonal metafunction) and marshal these into a structured whole (the textual metafunction) (Halliday and Hasan 1985, ch. 2). (Ledin & Machin 2016: 3-4)
Damn Halliday! The referential function is the first and primary function of semiosis, along with emotive and conative, or "affective" and "energetic" in Peircean terms. The relational (phatic) function is a metafunction, though. And I don't even know what the textual function is about - the marshalling of semiotic material into hierarchically increasing structural wholes is not even a function, it's a baseline for any kind of semiotic activity.
Voloshinov (1973) viewed that all signs embodied the ideology of their time. Here we want to show how we can take steps to draw out this ideology by drawing on the concept of discourse and how this has been approached through one particular notion in critical discourse analysis. (Ledin & Machin 2016: 5)
Just in the preceding paragraphs you say that "Semiotic phenomena must never be studied in abstract or in an unhistorical manner but as they are situated and material". And now you come out with this blanket statement that, although attributed to an authority, is is nevertheless as abstract and unhistorical as it gets. I've seen similar pronouncements before, and they almost never provide evidence. It may also have to do something with the fact that "ideology" is such a vague notion. But whatever, for sake of Nozawa's "ideology of phaticity" (2015), I'll roll with it.
We begin with a promotional brochure published in 2012. It is written in English, which signals the university's international ambitions. (Ledin & Machin 2016: 6)
Aren't "international ambitions" good?
If we look closer at the listed strategies we find that it is never stated who will carry out which activity. This is achieved through another linguistic device observed by critical linguists called nominalizations. This is when processes are presented as things. So for example, "collaborate", the verb process, becomes the noun "collaboration". It has been shown that this can be used strategically, precisely to avoid stating who did what and when since the use of the verbs requires that we include such details whereas the noun does not. The typical example is "there were attacks on the village", which omits who carried out the attacks and how these were carried out. (Ledin & Machin 2016: 11)
Now this I find interesting, if not only because I did something similar today when writing a few paragraphs about various subjects, and borrowing some verbs from a paper somewhere above.

Gaspar, Rui; Cláudia Pedro, Panos Panagiotopoulos and Beate Seibt 2016. Beyond positive or negative: Qualitative sentiment analysis of social media reactions to unexpected stressful events. Computers in Human Behavior 56: 179-191.

This paper argues that, alongside assessment of the affective valence of social media content as negative or positive, there is a need for a deeper uderstanding of the context in which reactions are expressed and the specific functions that users' emotional states may reflect. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 179)
This veers towards the understanding of affect as evaluative (e.g. the linguistic version in Martin and White 2005; cf. Ho 2013).
Reactions during these events can evidence collective sense-making (Gilles et al., 2013), supportive actions (Murthy, 2013; Panagiotopolous, Bigdeli, & Sams, 2014), social sharing of emotions and empatic concerns for affected individuals (Neubaum, Rösner, Rosenthal-von der Pütten, & Krämer, 2014) and individual strategies of approach/avoidance (Jonas et al., 2014), that would be less prevalent in non stressful situations with lower demands to cope with. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 179-180)
Something along the lines of La Barre's phatic communication, but on a macro scale.
This type of assessment requires a deeper understanding of people's affective expressions on social media and the context in which people express sentiment and other cognitive and behavioural manifestations while events unfold. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 180)
So a deeper understanding of online phatic communion? Emphasis on the context of situation.
Quantitative sentiment analysis methods can be relevant for all types of analyses that focus on what Steth, Purohit, Jadhav, Kapanipathi and Chen (2010, p.1) refer to as "event-centric user generated content on social networks". (Gaspar et al. 2016: 180)
Good jargon is good. It seems to amount to an object-based para-social interaction, where the object is an event.
Social media channels present themselves as a rich source of expressions of coping with demands. Twitter in particular can be considered a good source of affective expressions due to the quick, spontaneous and affective reactions found there, thus allowing access to the "time course of emotional responses to crises" (Spence, Nelson, & Lachlan, 2010, p.13). (Gaspar et al. 2016: 181)
Consequence of connected presence.
Social media messages produced during the time period of extraction, went through a filtering process to reduce the set to include only specific types. This was based on the Burgess and Bruns (2012) classification of types of tweets as: 1) original tweets - tweets which are neither @reply nor retweet; 2) retweets - tweets which contain RT @user... (or similar); 3) unedited retweets - retweets which start with RT @user...; 4) edited retweets - retweets do not start with RT @user...; 5) genuine @replies - tweets which contain @user, but are not retweets; 6) URL sharing - tweets which contain URLs. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 182)
This kind of scholarship seems to have made some real headway in terms of classification, at least. (I was similarly surprised at the clear-cut boundaries in academia between viral videos and memes.)
Two categories in which a diversity of affective expressions were found, were Self-confidence and Support seeking, either in the form of self-soothing or seeking reassurance from others to become more confident, respectively. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 183)
This amounts to a type of affirmation (in the sense of offering/requesting emotional support or encouragement).
Another example of positive affect was the expression of "concern for others". Widespread concerns and worries are often seen as something negative. However, although concern for the self may imply negativity, concern for others is a rather positive action. It helps to protect and increase available social resources such that one can draw on them to implement other ways of coping. This point is also true for tweeting in general: the act of sharing ones concerns ad coping efforts with others helps to form, strengthen and maintain social relationships (see Neubaum et al., 2014), which in turn can have various functions for one's coping efforts: having others as audience, encouragement, informational and practical resources, and finding comfort, agreement, confirmation and emotional support (see also Rimé, 2007). (Gaspar et al. 2016: 186)
Yet even sharing "concern for others" has an ego-centric component. Or in the words of comedian Anthony Jeselnik: "Don't forget how sads I am."
Under this scenario, we move from biological contamination to "psychological contamination", within and between all components of the social system (individuals, groups, organizations, societies). (Gaspar et al. 2016: 189)
Organizations or institutions constitute a level of abstraction missing from Ruesch's scheme.
Evaluations of the handling of the crisis and lessons for the future might even become part of individuals' expressions, hence fostering openness and learning that might not be possible using automated sentiment classification methods. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 189)
Exactly the work put forth by the next paper.
In our view, this contribution makes clearer the importance of future work in human-based qualitative analysis of social media content ad of psychos social media analysis approaches such as this, in general. (Gaspar et al. 2016: 190)
Yeap, this and next paper deal in fact with psychosocial media analysis.

Fersini, E.; E. Messina and F. A Pozzi 2016. Expressive signals in social media languages to improve polarity detection. Information Processing & Management 52(1): 20-35.

The goal of sentiment analysis is to define automatic tools able to extract subjective information, such as opinions and sentiments from natural language texts, in order to create structured and actionable knowledge to be used by either a decision support system or a decision maker. (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 20)
A Social Sentiment Coding System?
This issue is usually addressed at document level (Yessenalina et al., 2010), in which the naive assumption is that each document expresses an overall sentiment. When dealing with social media contents coming from microblogs (like Facebook and Twitter), a lower granularity level could be more useful and informative (Jagtap and Pawar, 2013; Zhang et al., 2011). This new kind of virtual communication has led to new types of contents and diffusion models that need to be modeled explicitly starting from the language. (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 20)
First time seeing "granularity" outside of that computer networks journal.
Inspired by the wide availability of emotional signals in social media and the promising results obtained by our previous contribution (Pozzi, Fersini, Messina and Blanc, 2013), in this paper we investigate the contribution of the most used expressive signals. (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 21)
A F F E C T I V E . M E D I A
In our investigation, Twitter has been exploited thanks to its availability of data that are public by default: the percentage of public profiles available in Twitter is much higher than other social media. For example, in 2012, just over 11% of Twitter users were using the private profiles, compared to over 53% of Facebook (Dey et al., 2012). This turns Twitter into a gold mine of free data. (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 21)
This is also why critics like Vincent Miller hypothesized that Twitter may actually be a marketing tool, or a tool of marketers.
Unlike well-formed documents (e.g., reviews), the writing style and the lexicon of microblogging messages are widely varied. Moreover, messages are often highly ungrammatical, and filled with spelling errors. As reported in Eisenstein (2013), the non-standard spelling on the social media is mainly due to the fast writing of the users, length limits of messages in online microblogs and finally the spread of common illiteracies until they become "the norm". (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 22-23)
An aspect of conventionalization. This is most apparent in "lol" becoming "kek".
Sharing symbols elimination: most of the social media provide specific tools that allow users to share as much as possible their messages (e.g., Hashtags, Mention and Retweet on Twitter). Analogously to URLs, all the symbols related to the sharing tools have been removed because ineffective with respect to polarity detection; (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 23)
Something for the bric-a-brac section. Jagamissümbolid.
These encouraging results suggest that not only words play an important role in sentiment classification on social media, but also that a mixture of expressive signals can significantly contribute to better discriminate between positive and negative opinions. (Fersini, Messina & Pozzi 2016: 30)
In other words, there are nonverbal features in textual material that are relevant for "polarity classification" or affective evaluation.

Kampf, Zohar 2016. All the Best! Performing solidarity in political discourse. Journal of Pragmatics 93: 47-60.

Maintaining, affirming, and re-establishing good relationships with others in political discourse by communicating involvement and concern are important for securing cooperation and acquiring power. (Kampf 2016: 47)
A nice Malinowskian variation on Jakobson's channel operations (or Ruesch's overall effects of social techniques). The topic reminds me of the recent instance of Donald Trump receiving vocal support from Sarah Palin, probably in the hopes of gaining the evangelical Christian vote.
This story, constructed around an act of seasonal greeting, exemplifies in shining colors the power of a group of speech acts - treated in this paper as solidarity-enhancing devices - to re-establish channels of peaceful communication in political discourse. Even if greeting and wishing were only an excuse for Netanyahu to initiate a conversation in a situation which is characterized by non-communication, it is only through the reconciliatory force of concern, folded into the performance of the speech acts, that the exchange of hopes for a peaceful future between the two peoples could be made further in the conversation. (Kampf 2016: 47)
Solidarity-enhancing devices complement attention-getting devices pretty well. One could wonder if La Barre's phatic communication could also be summed up in something like "support-seeking devices".
While it is common practice in some branches of critical study of political discourse to conflate conflict with power (Wilson, 2001), in other traditions of discourse analysis, especially in linguistic politeness, politics entails the "greasing" of human relationships (Chilton, 1990; Blum-Kulka, 1992). In the latter case, political behavior is reflexively designed so as to maintain rapport and achieve cooperation with others in order to acquire and enact political power (and not necessarily ta acquire power and domination over others). (Kampf 2016: 48)
A nice amalgamation of the "social lubricant" idiom and the Foucaultian positive concept of power.
Establishing sociability and cooperation with others can be achieved by performing solidarity in language. Solidarity - the manifestation of involvement and concern (Scollon et al., 2011) - underlines what interlocutors have in common ad is enacted by positive politeness strategies such as sharing the same concerns with a hearer, expressing a compatible stance, or showing appreciation for others' character and achievements (Brown and Levinson, 1987). (Kampf 2016: 48)
Thus, solidarity can be reinterpreted in terms of Ruesch's communization. I like that "solidarity in language" is part of it, because Malinowskian propitiation can play into it.
Common to the uses of these speech act verbs is the discursive construction of solidarity by either signaling the pleasure of a speaker in light of a gladdening event (which happened to the hearer in the past or the present) or expressing the hope that such an event will happen to the hearer in the future. (Kampf 2016: 48)
Thus, even greetings are underlined by the pleasure principle, which is not altogether groundbreaking an assertion, but does tie Malinowski's phatic communion and Jakobson's phatic function together in a novel way. (Or did John Laver already bring this out?)
Their dissemination by journalists across political communities allows individuals and communities to monitor actors' emotional and moral stance vis-à-vis acts, events, or other actors in the public arena. (Kampf 2016: 49)
Could this be the "actionable knowledge" that the psychosocial media analysis (above) is after?
(Kampf 2016: 51)
Goddayum. There's so much phaticity in this table that I can't even begin to analyze it. I will have to return to this when I have finished my paper on "Phatics, phaticity, and phatic studies" and pick this apart. Let me just say that it's refreshing to see a past-present-future orientation scheme used this way (aside from Peirce, Jakobson, and Laver this is a relatively infrequent operation).
Greeting and welcoming are acts that presuppose spatial and temporal sameness. They are expressive speech acts that convey the speaker's pleasure at the presence or arrival of others in or to the same place (Wierzbicka, 1987). In temporal terms, while congratulating and other supportive acts are post actions, directed at past occurrences, greetings and welcoming others are present-oriented actions, although they may [be] accompanied by future-oriented actions such as wishing the best. (Kampf 2016: 55)
Good points all around. It might be neat to compare, contrast, and seek continuities in Peirce, Jakobson, Laver, and this.
They serve as solidarity-enhancing devices because they acknowledge the sovereignty of individuals and groups with whom the speaker communicates (Duranti, 1997), assert discursive equality, and establish trust (Young, 2000) - all of which are necessary moral conditions for reaffirming, reinforcing, or re-establishing social relationships (Papson, 1986). (Kampf 2016: 55-56)
Synonymorium. Why not "reiterating, reinforcing and reproducing"? Realizing now that such representations register reactive or retrospective relations, and reiteration and reproduction refer to renditions.
It may be somewhat odd to find that 22 cases (4%) religious authoroties, mostly certified rabbis, blessed public figures before a variety of occasions such as medical procedures, election campaigns, and accession to high ranking positions. In a country such as Israel which has no separation between religion and state, being blessed by a religious figure has become a regular political ritual which may be perceived as a strategy for connecting with audiences of faith. (Kampf 2016: 57)
Phatic techniques on the group, organization, or society level.

Smith, Benjamin 2016. Turning language socialization ontological: Material things and the semiotics of scaling time in Peruvian Aymara boyhood. Language and Communication 46: 42-50.

This article develops an approach to semiotically mediated processes of socialization that can make sense of the agency that non-humans - especially material things - wield in socialization. (Smith 2016: 42)
Not bad. That is, not redundant, like "semiotic communication". A non-semiotically mediated process of socialization is held as a possibility even by Charles Morris, who held that communization can occur "by signs or other means" leaving those other means open to interpretation.
Answering this last question provides the opportunity to expand the theoretical reach of scholars interested in the timescale of socialization, praticularly scholars of language socialization. Language socialization researchers have, to great effect, shown how language usage serves as both a medium for socialization as well as its object (i.e., socialization occurs both through language and to use language [Ochs, 1986:2]). (Smith 2016: 42)
The underlying assumption being that language use is a pleasurable activity in itself. Socialization has a definite place in phatic studies.
The promise of an analysis of marbles is that it extends this concern in a new direction. Although the things that make up a marbles playing field are, to be sure, media or modalities of a specific (non-linguistic) sort, they also act as semiotic agents within processes of entextualization or discursive positioning, processes that are implicated in socialization. Making sense of the semiotic agency of material things in socialization - or, really, the agency of non-humans more generally - opens onto a new line of inquiry for scholars of language socialization. (Smith 2016: 43)
Partly concerned with what we call "transcommunication" (and also not unrelated to a variant of para-social interaction), although our interest is more technical, in computer-mediated communication itself as a semiotic agent (given the possibility of Google's artificial intelligence ultimately becoming the mediator between technologically communicating humans). In other words, it is not out of the question that the future of sociolinguistic socialization may consist of interactions with the conscious medium, a hyper-intelligent "Siri" who "concretizes" (in Simondon's sense) the search engine, teacher, friend, etc.
The Aymara variety of marbles requires a further extension: it poses the problem of how to theorize the communicative role of material things in socialization. In the Aymara version of marbles, it is the marbles playing field that, in concert with a wider range of human and non-human actors, helps to bring about processes of socialization into masculinity and the human. And, it does so as a semiotic or communicative agent (and is recognized as such): ultimately, it is rocks and twigs that select for boys of a certain sort, and it is boys who, indeed, respond to them in both linguistic and non-linguistic ways. How, then, can material things - and non-human agents more broadly - be understood as, indeed, semiotic agents in socialization, agents comparable in some way to parents, peers, and siblings? (Smith 2016: 43)
All this is extremely fascinating, excluding the emphasis on masculinity and humanness. With "transcommunication" we are facing similar theoretical problems, though with artificial intelligence instead marbles.
These two questions are motivated by concerns that are, in the contemporary sociocultural idiom, "ontological." That is a movement that is diverse in its theoretical concerns, being primarily linked to the relatively divergent agendas of scholars like Bruno Latour (2005, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (2014), and Philippe Descola (2013). It is well beyond the goals of the current work to give an account of this line of scholarship. From a semiotic or linguistic anthropological perspective, the primary utility of this work - and, indeed, the one that inspires the current piece - is its attempt to broaden the range of entities that can be considered agents within human worlds. As these scholars (and others) have theorized the agency of entities like speed bumps, door openers, human-like jaguars, dogs, etc., they have developed a set of theoretical terms that allow for the agency of non-humans to be legible to anthropological analysis. Of special utility for the current analysis is the critical attention these scholars have given to the category "human" itself. They have, in divergent ways, shown that the category "human" is not easily discernable through traditional diacritics like society, culture, language, and self (e.g., see Kohn, 2008), 2013), a line of inquiry that allows for a rejuvenated concern for the study of the emergence of human-ness across processes of socialization. (Smith 2016: 43-44)
Cool. I've read one paper by Latour which I didn't like very much because it obfuscated linguistic functions. But I downloaded some by de Castro and Descola, which I'll hopefully get to read sometime this year.
Kockelman's attempt to formulate a general theory of meaning (2010, 2011, 2013), for example, has yielded an array of concepts that help to theorize relatively non-human forms of semiosis (so much so that it is beyond the scope of this essay to review them): e.g., processes of sieving and serendipity, the semiosis of channels, and the derived semiotic agency of machines, among others. (Smith 2016: 44)
Yup. I've also read one paper by Kockelman, and it too, did very little for me, although I do have several of his papers in my current readings list, and I was planning to re-read some of the phatic studies I read in fall 2014. So I might do a "Kockelman day".
In the first, longer section of the paper, I give an account of the semiotic agency of the marbles playing field, a task that requires me to draw on the Peircean-inflicted tradition of linguistic anthropology. (Smith 2016: 44)
Ground control to major kek. Peirceanism is an infliction, i.e. something unpleasant or painful, a nuisance.
To put it in a semiotic or informational idiom, finding and making an appropriate marbles playing field is an act that creates a network of channels or media through which a marble can pass (c.f. Kockelman, 2010; Shannon, 1948). It is an act of phatic labor, in Elyachar's sense (2010). More mundanely, it is a task of finding a field in which there are number of possible channels through which the sort of thing that is a marble can be struck towards a series of holes dug about four feet apart from one another. It must be a field in which not all possible channels are available, but certainly a majority of possible ones must be open or available. (Smith 2016: 45)
This is indeed idiomatic, because the "channel" here is metaphorical. It would maybe make sense in Kockelman's framework, but I'm pretty sure that it does not constitute phatic infrastructure in Elyachar's sense. (BTW while taking a smoke break I thought of expanding her theory in a totalising way, so that I may end up writing a paper "On Phatic Superstructure".)
Creating this network of channels requires one to pay attention to the interdiscursive or, better, intermaterial relationship between material things. In the first instance, the playing field is not just a single thing or object. It is a relationship between an indefinite number of things. The things that together comprise some field - twigs, rocks, clumps of grass, debris, plastic bottles, small inclines and declines, etc. - must be orchestrated in such a way that a sufficient number of channels remain open for marbles to traverse their paths. Implicit to this observation is another intermaterial relationship. These indefinite number of things only comprise a "playing field" relative to the sort of thing that a marble is and the sorts of things that a marble can do. (Smith 2016: 45)
We stumble upon hodology. This discussion, I think, could still be employed - at least metaphorically, if need be - to elaborate our transcommunication theory in the sense that if or when an artificial intelligence does become like a parent, peer, or sibling, it raises questions about the socially regulative role of that semiotic agency - what kinds of paths it might draw for us to traverse.
It is not just, in Kockelman's sense (2013), a sieve that keeps certain things from passing and holding up other things. It is, in an informational sense, a channel designed to introduce noise. Or, to put it in a more fully semiotic or interactional idiom, it is a channel populated with what Serres (1982) refers to as parasites. Relative to the sort of sign that a rolling marble (i.e., a sign of direction, skill, and strategy), twigs and rocks and bottles are things that perturb, create disorder, and undo intention - they act as parasites with respect to a marble and its intended target. (Smith 2016: 46)
Mention of Serres' parasites might contribute to why I can't help but think of transcommunication while reading this. In "a channel designed to introduce noise" it would be productive to consider noise - as Jurgen Ruesch does - as metacommunication, which would indeed be the primary function of the kind of "parasite" we envisage (a self-conscious channel that communicates about itself, in a sense, but also about codification of content, and possibly about all factors and functions of communication). (BTW if it communicated not only about factors but about functions, that would be a mark of distinction in terms of self-consciousness, because it's yet a more higher metalevel, one which a game of marbles does not reach, for example, partly because functions and communicating about functions is active, while communication about factors is a passive form of commentary.)
The larger issue at stake here is what Latour (2005) refers to as the relative incommensurability of human and non-human worlds. In his account, the agency of objects is - outside of exceptional circumstances like the breakdown of an object - assumed to be relatively discontunious with human forms of agency. For example, a brick that "supports" another brick does so on a timescale longer than conversations, marriages, collages, etc. (Smith 2016: 47)
An artificial intelligence on the other hand poses incommensurability in the reverse temporal perspective: its processing capabilities would make our human-scale conversations seem like the lifetime of a brick for it. Care should be taken that we don't end up with "absentminded" artificial conversation partners who know what we're going to say long before we know it ourselves.
When Marco threatened to kick one of Alberto's marbles, however, both of his siblings started to pay attention and threw Marco to the ground. In acting this way, Marco assumed a socioculturally recognized stance of a lisu child, a stance or position thought to characterize toddlers independent of gender: he was disobedient, mischievous, cheeky, and was doing only what he pleased. In relationship to marbles play, Marco was, if you will, a breaker of worlds. If Alberto works to create and defend the material/semiotic conditions of possibility for marbles play, Marco, in a mostly indiscriminate and unknowing way, sought to upend those conditions. He is an upender, an undoer of human doings, and, in the context of marbles, an undoer of the things that males regularly set out to do. (Smith 2016: 48)
This is just beautifully written. On the whole, this paper is a pleasure to read. Some anthropologists somehow do manage to smuggle literary value into their writings.

See also:

p.h.a.t.i.c (index)


2016.01


2015.12


2015.11


2015.10


2015.09


2015.02


2015.01


2014.12


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2014.10


2014.09