Meta-phatics (2)

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

Holba, Annette 2008. A Response to Phatic Communication: Inviting Dialogic Potential. Florida Communication Journal 36(1): 35-46.

Ideal human communication includes a grounding in genuine dialogic communicative engagement (Buber 1971). In practice, genuine dialogue is sometimes replaced with superficial, inauthentic, or empty communicative encounters (Buber, 1971; Arnett and Arneson, 1999; Malinowski, 1949). These encounters are often described as phatic communication. (Holba 2008: 35)
This is what Carnegie's uncritical "listener" and Ruesch's psychopathological "broadcaster" lack.
In Martin Buber's dialogic philosophy he describes communicative moments as I-It moments or I-Thou moments. It is in I-Thou moments that we find deeply connective communicative engagement and often authentic, genuine, and enriching communictaion. I-It moments can be more often connected to a technical/functional mode of communication that appears to fail to meet the other in a dialogic space because the communication content is not driven by an emerging idea that can bring people together. Examples of this technical/functional communication include people asking a stranger for directions and asking "hello, how are you?" to an acquaintance as you pass by and continue to walk without waiting for a response. In these cases, people are not coming together under an idea or an interest. This failure to meet in a dialogic space is often typified as phatic communication. (Holba 2008: 35)
I though "a technical/functional mode of communication" means referential/cognitive communication. It would make sense, as this kind of talk is about something external, not about either the sender or receiver, and thus could be of no interest to either party (think of an uninspired lecture given to simultaneously Facebooking audience). But this wouldn't be phatic in the strict sense (although it could be stretched to that). Rather, we are dealing with "an emerging idea", which seems to be a Buberism I'm not familiar with.
I-It moments can be elevated from this subordinate communicative space toward a communicative space that offers recuperative potential to phaticity in communicative exchanges. In other words, phatic communication is not always superficial, inauthentic, or empty. In fact, phatic communication can be a pathway toward deeply enriched human communicative engagement. (Holba 2008: 35-36)
As much as I detest the notion of "communicative space" (is the space itself communicative? or is it the space in which communication occurs? in that case is computer mediated communication not communication? the notion of communicative space is problematic in so many ways) but the idea seems to be simple and common: that phatic communion does not have to be meaningless, as so many insist.
Buber's I-It is often overlooked in scholarship on dialogue because the ideal dialogic encounter is in I-Thou encounters (Buber, 1971). (Holba 2008: 36)
Oh. I thought it was because he's a theologian and it's difficult to subscribe to theological arguments if you're a rational, atheistic researcher. I'm not exactly sure what constitutes "scholarship on dialogue" (whether, for example, Lotman belongs to that camp), but Bakhtin was a Buberian, and developed his arguments much further; so returning to Buber is not called for unless you're historically minded.
However, the I-It is just as significant to human communication as it can provide "temporal courage" (Arnett, 2006, p. 3) in times of uncertainty; a temporal home when one feels existentially homeless; and invite a recuperative transformation of a monologic vacuous space into a dialogic space where I-It compliments I-Thou - where human connectedness to the other can be achieved. (Holba 2008: 36)
I have no idea what I just read. Temporal home? How about chronemic situatedness? Or clock-stead? I have a feeling that this paper is attempting to be poetic (which is uncalled for in an academic paper, unless otherwise specified) but not even taking it all the way. Or perhaps I'm so critical because if I'm reading this passage correctly (which I'm probably not), it comes across as a recommendation to engage in prayer.
This is significant to studies in human communication singe it involves a reconsideration of the value of phatic communication. (Holba 2008: 36)
As I understand it, John Laver (1975) already reconsidered the value of phatic communion in a way that "recuperated" it's usefulness for communication research.
We exist in a time where the therapeutic culture of psychologism and the culture of narcissism shape much human communication, which often renders the state of communication reductively to phatic encounters - encounters that are primarily functional, superficial, and sometimes wicked. (Holba 2008: 36)
I, on the other hand, believe that humans have engaged in service transactions, for example, as long as there has been civilization. Be it Ancient Egyptians collecting grain tax or Ancient Romans ordering fast food, human society has a need for superficial encounters for normal functioning. If we were to engage in deep thought with everyone we met, we'd make it so that we'd meet as few people in a day as possible. (I am assuming that "ideal" communication is energy consuming and thus fatiguing.) I don't know what to even say about "wickedness". What even is that?
An I-It encounter represents how we engage the cashier at the grocery store or the toll taker when driving on a toll road. (Holba 2008: 37)
That's what we would call a "transaction".
Phaticity, from a rhetorical perspective, is significant to the study of human communication. The importance of this categorization is to not reduce the importance of phaticity in conversation, rather, phatic conversation is a biological necessity for human beings living-in-the-world with other human beings. (Holba 2008: 37)
Why biological? Will a human being die if s/he doesn't engage in phatic communion with those about him or her? The many cases of socially isolated people leaving among us proves the contrary. Rather, phatic communion is a social necessity.
This study views phatic conversation as a place where "acknowledgement" occurs. In this study, acknowledgement is a "communicative behavior that grants attention to others and thereby makes room for them in our lives" (Hyde, 2005, p. 1). Acknowledgement can be positive or negative. (Holba 2008: 38)
These spacial (and temporal) metaphors are extremely annoying. Conversation is not a place. Conversation is an activity, taking place in a... place. I'd like to say something positive, but feel unable to do so. "Acknowledgement" would be a good find, but it's superflous, for Malinowski already had a term for it, what he called affirmation.
An example of a biological need includes times when conversations occur in the lounge of a public rest room or while standing in a grocery check-out line. In both cases the social or biological need brings people together in the same conversational space but they are driven by their individual social or biological need. (Holba 2008: 38)
So if people engage in small talk at a technology convention, they are brought together by their technological need? This line of reasoning does not make a lot of sense.
Although silence is not bad - it can and does have a rhetorical significance in human communication - but silence as a consequence of phatic conversation is not functional to the development of ideas in human communication. (Holba 2008: 39)
So, when people stop communicating, they stop developing ideas in human communication? I see. Very interesting.
Phaticity has been defined as "dull and pedestrian" (Leech, 1974), "empty" (Turner, 1973), and mere politeness (Aijmer, 1996). (Holba 2008: 39)
Add these to the long list that already includes "meaningless", "desemanticized", "non-essential", etc.
  • Leech, G. 1974. Semantics. Harmonsworth: Penguin.
  • Turner, G. 1973. Stylistics. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Aijmer, K. 1996. Conversational routines in English: Conversation and creativity. New York: Longman.
Phatic communication becomes problematic when it becomes the normal mode of communication. (Holba 2008: 39)
Same with Gary Genosko: fundamentally misunderstand or misrepresent phatic communion/function and rush in to pounce on your straw-man. Phatic communication is already normal. It is one of the very normal modes of communication we have at our possession.
In other words, I-It encounters fall somewhere outside of ideas that can connect one human being to another human being. (Holba 2008: 40)
Can you provide an illustrative table of (a) ideas that can connect one human being to another human being; and (b) ideas that cannot connect one human being to another human being?
This could lead to feelings of isolation as one stands outside of a familiar narrative structure. (Holba 2008: 41)
I usually prefer to stand on the border between the fixated black-and-white of print and the incomprehensible, ever-changing stream of consciousness that flows underneath. I know nothing of familiar and unfamiliar narrative structures. In fact, I know little about narratives in general. And yet I do not feel isolated. I feel full. I feel like a primate with an enlarged neocortex. But in the end we all will perish like dogs.
Home is a "dwelling place" that is "the metaphysical symbol" for a particular state of being that affords comfort, a sense of nostalgia, and a place where one would want to go in their death (Hyde, 2005, p. 100). In home one finds acknowledgement, trust, familiarity, comfort, and the opportunity to be oneself. Home is not often easy to feel or find. Especially if one has moved from a comfortable geographical location or into a new job or career. (Holba 2008: 41)
My home is where my laptop is. Instead of a dwelling place we can now talk of a storage place. Where I keep my documents and configuration files is where I find my piece of mind, or rather, the literal pieces of my mind that I have externalized and digitalized. Those nearly endless accumulations of binary data is where I want to go in my death. Even more, that is already where I am and where I will forever be. Lacking acknowledgement, trust, familiarity, and comfort, I take solace in pageviews, profile views, and personal messages that allow me the opportunity not to be myself. /home is easy to find since it's a root folder. Back it all up, and you will never be /home-less.
For example, engaging in phatic I-It encounters on a daily basis at the local grocery store creates a temporal home to rest within because through these encounters one begins to feel more comfortable as these acknowledgements continue. These encounters can reassure one's place in the world until a dialogic home can be found. (Holba 2008: 42)
You should read Maria E. Placencia's 2004. "Rapport-building activities in corner shop interactions" instead of Martin Buber.
Revisiting Martin Buber's I-It permits the use of phatic communication as a rhetorical strategy to recuperate the quality of human communication. (Holba 2008: 43)
I can't believe I was excited to read this paper when I downloaded it. I have been interested in getting acquainted with Martin Buber's philosophy for a while now, and sincerely thought that such a familiar topic as phaticity could be a way to get into it. But this paper obfuscated much more than it made clear. In fact, I'm not sure it made anything clear. This is the most unclear piece of writing I've read in a while, and if it didn't treat phaticity I would have ragequit after the first page.

Cruz, Manuel Padilla 2013. An integrative proposal to teach the pragmatics of phatic communion in ESL classes. Intercultural Pragmatics 10(1): 131-160.

An area that poses difficulties and challenges to many learners of English is phatic discourse, small talk or phatic communion, i.e., that "language used in free, aimless, social intercourse" (Malinowski 1923: 476), or, in other words, that conversation devoid of relevant factual content but with a great latent significance because it creates, maintains and/or enhances friendly relationships (Burnard 2003: 680). (Cruz 2013: 132)
Acknowledging both Malinowskian and Jakobsonian lines in the same breath, although not referencing Jakobson because he does not use the term "friendly relationships". In fact, I'm beginning to doubt in this addendum myself, as Ruesch's social techniques are not "set on" relationships but on people: you approach, preserve relations with, or detach from people themselves. Jakobson's "contact" really muddles it up a bit.
However, the pragmatics of phatic communion varies across cultures and communities of practice, unveiling differing underlying value systems (Placencia 2004; Sun 2004; Ladegaard 2011). For example, Duda and Parpette (1987) noted that, when engaging in phatic exchanges, learners of French used quite idiosyncratic formulae and made distinct estimations about who could initiate such exchanges, their topics, loci or the amount of talk, which resulted in unwanted interpretations. (Cruz 2013: 132)
Since this paper is focused on pragmatics, I'll take "interpretation" to be the key word here. In Placencia (2004, but especially 2005) it really does appear that very minute differences lead to very different interpretations about motives.
This proves that this area of interaction, often regarded as unproblematic, may at times turn out to be risky, treacherous, and troublesome, so it deserves pedagogic attention. Indeed, an effective management of small talk in any language requires knowledge of subtle issues, such as when and with whom to engage in it, the underlying reasons and purposes to do so, the topics that can be addressed or the effects achievable. (Cruz 2013: 132)
As much as I can make out from a historical perspective, David Abercrombie (1956) was the first to call "pedagogic attention" to phatic communion. There have been numerous other such calls over the years, but I'm not aware if these calls are responded to.
However, these only represent ritual acts to establish contact and create a propitious atmosphere for interaction (Laver 1975, 1981; Edmondson and House 1981). (Cruz 2013: 133)
You mean a sociable atmosphere?
Owing to its alleged triviality, obviousness or meaninglessness, phatic discourse is often regarded as aimed at establishing or maintaining the interactive contact, recognizing and acknowledging the presence of others and accommodating them (Abercrombie 1956; Turner 1973; Hudson 1980). Hence, it is associated with purely social or interactive discourse, as opposed to authentically informative or transactional discourse (Scollon and Wong-Scollon 1995). This attitude has marginalized sociality "as a 'small' concern" and foregrounded "language for transacting business and other commercial or institutional instrumentalities" (Coupland 2000: 7-8), which surfaces in the emphasis on transactional speech acts (requests, invitations, offers, etc.) and discourse types (arguing, giving opinions, debating, etc.) in many didactic materials. (Cruz 2013: 133-134)
B-but Malinowski does describe it as purely social communion. The trouble is, "speech in social intercourse" is a type of communion among other forms of communion, and that's how it should work anthropologically, while linguists take it as a type of speech among other forms of speech.
Like any other communicative practice ingrained in and affected by the sociocultural milieu and the identities of interlocutors, its teaching becomes indispensable because phatic communion displays differences not only across individuals from various backgrounds, but also across smaller communities of practice. Cultural beliefs, norms, and tendencies highly influence what may count as talkable topics, when interlocutors will be allowed or expected to engage in small talk, with whom, its outcomes, and even the inferences that its (in)felicitous use may trigger (Placencia 2004; Sun 2004; Ladegaard 2011). (Cruz 2013: 134)
"Communities of practice" is a step further than "speech communities", but still focused on a communitas. I'll be patiently waiting for pragmaticists to discover Morris's interpreter families, which can span over communities and localities.
The few available English course-books that include phatic communion (O'Dell and Broadhead 2008; Dellar and Walkley 2012 [C1]) place it under the rubric of "small talk." Unfortunately, a closer inspection reveals that what students may receive is just exposure to texts and dialogues containing phatic talk, a few hints about the sort of "ice breakers" to open or close conversations or to engage in extended phatic dialogues. (Cruz 2013: 134)
I'd attribute this to the mix-up between Malinowskian and Jakobsonian approaches. The former mentioned "pure sociabilities and gossip", which was consequently interpreted as small talk, and the latter mentions "a profuse exchange of ritualized formulas". These are qualitatively (and quantitatively) different phenomena, but since both are called "phatic" they're spoken about in a single breath.
Regarding English, at least in the United Kingdom and the United States, research in general and intercultural pragmatics, sociolinguistics, the ethnography of speaking and discourse, and conversational analysis has shown that there are well-differentiated types of phatic tokens (Laver 1975; Ventola 1979; Edmondson and House 1981), significant restrictions operating on topic selection (Schneider 1988) and tendencies in the use of phatic utterances on the grounds of specific psychosocial factors (Laver 1975, 1981). (Cruz 2013: 134-135)
I still wonder if these aspects could be systematized with the concepts of pheme (phatic utterance - structure) and phasis (phatic interaction - process).
Defining phatic communion is essentially in laying solid solid foundations upon which subsequent knowledge can be built, above all when many or most learners may ignore what the term denotese. Explaining when and where it may appear is fundamental in making learners conscious of its ubiquity, as phatic communion is not restricted to conversational margins. (Cruz 2013: 136)
I agree wholeheartedly with this. But I also hold that the inception of "phatic studies" (in terms of metatheoretical awareness) demands an elucidation of the three lineages of phatics (Malinowskian, Jakobsonian, and the understandagly oft-neglected LaBarrean-Wescottian-Austinian line), as well as consideration of social psychology (Mead and Morris; communization and identification) and social psychiatry (Ruesch and Bateson; communization and social techniques). Without doing the necessary leg-work and sticking to post-1970s approaches to phatics, solid foundations will surely have deep shortcomings.
Through it, individuals avoid the unpleasant tension that undue silences or greeting or sticking excessively to the point may cause, since the former may be perceived as a sign of hostility or bad mood, whilst the latter may imply disregard for personal relations and commonality. On other ocasions still, through phatic communion, interlocutors avoid some immediate interactive conflict when carrying out some transaction and restore harmony by creating bonds of union. (Cruz 2013: 137)
In contrast, ideal phatic communion should consist of signs of friendliness and good mood, and imply regard for personal relations and commonality. These can subsequently be replaced with more commonplace expressions (Carnegie has several to offer, I believe).
L1/L2 Data-collection Worksheet
Step 1. Provide an example of phatic communion: ...
Step 2. Think about:
  1. Interlocutor's age and gender: ...
  2. Interlocutor's role-relationship in conversation: ...
  3. Interlocutor's occupation: ...
  4. Interlocutor's intention: ...
Step 3. At which conversational phase did this example occur? ...
Step 4. Describe the context where interlocutors were speaking: ...
Step 5. Comment on tone, gestures, body-position, eye-contact, body-contact, physical/spatial distance/closeness: ...
(Cruz 2013: 138)
I wonder if me and Joe should construct something like this if we are ever to analyze phaticity in Rick & Morty.
In Edmondson and House's terms, these two categories are known as remarks and discloses. Remarks are commonly banal and help the speaker to "establish or increase familiarity with his hearer" because their content typically has to do with topics with whuch "both speaker and hearer are assumed to be equally familiar" (Edmondson and House 1981: 58). In contrast, discloses provide the hearer with information that the speaker "believes [he] may be interested/amused, etc. to gain the acquaintance of, or further familiarity with, his person" (Edmondson and House 1981: 59). (Cruz 2013: 141)
Cruz argues that these terms are equivalent with Laver's "self-oriented" and "other-oriented" but I have a hard time seeing which is supposed to equate which. Discloses should be self-oriented, but are remarks here really other-oriented? Since both are familiar with the thing remarked upon, it's really the hearer's reaction that is "other-oriented", but since it's already the other's reaction, these are also self-oriented. I think this is important because it may parallel the more general orientations between the uncritical "listener" and the maladjusted "broadcaster" that I'm attempting to juxtapose with regard to Ruesch and Carnegie.
Undoubtedly, the phaticity of utterances and topics resides in the estimates of what can count as trivial or irrelevant, but only partially. Neither utterances nor topics can be taken to be inherently phatic, or likely be interpreted as such, only because they seem obvious to the speaker: The hearer's uptake needs to be taken into account. Therefore, phaticity must be presented as a constantly negotiable feature, upon which interlocutors make and revise decisions on the basis of cultural conventions about expectable topics or what can be talkable, and factors such as the spatio-temporal situation, the institutional nature of context, the conversational phase, the activity in which interlocutors are immersed, and the farmes they activate (Kasper 1984; Coupland et al. 1992; Coupland et al. 1994). (Cruz 2013: 141)
It's a matter of interpretation what is phatic or not. It looks like Cruz is attempting to reformulate the "hierarchy of speech functions" that Jakobson formulated so long ago. But "inherently phatic" is problematic, because etymology makes it absurd: phatic utterances constitute a type of speech that's inherently speech.
In turn, Schneider (1988) thinks that phatic discourse depends on two orientations people may adopt: politesse or formality, when interacting with strangers, and friendliness, typical of social events (Schneider 1988: 285). The former results in a distant style similar to that emanating from Lakoff's (1973) first rule of politeness - "Do not impose, keep the social distance" - and surfaces in the use of neutral phatic utterances. The latter yields a deferential style like that arising from Lakoff's (1973) second rule of politeness - "Offer options to the hearer" - and is manifested in the usage of personal phatic utterances. These two orientations yield two supermaxims:
  1. "Avoid offense" (politesse), which can be paraphrased as "Avoid everything negative" and regulates formal behavior.
  2. "Be friendly" (friendliness), which can be reworded as "Make your interlocutor feel good" and applies to friendly behavior.
These two supermaxims are articulated in four more specific maxims referring to four interactive dimensions:
Table 4: Schneider's maxims regulating small talk
Politesse - "Avoid offense"Friendliness - "Be friendly
1. DiscourseAvoid silenceSay something nice
2. PersonAvoid curiosityShow interest in the hearer
3. UnionAvoid conflictCreate ties of union
4. EmotionAvoid pessimismBe optimistic
(Cruz 2013: 145-146)
Isn't this exactly the stuff that Dale Carnegie wrote his book about? Don't criticize and make friends. "Say something nice" and "Show interest in the hearer" are as if torn from the pages of How to Win Friends and Influence People.
As for free-written tasks, these may rely on computer-mediated communication (CMC), such as posting on blogs, emails, or conversations in chat rooms or educational forums. Asynchronous tools, like posting on blogs and emails, avoid the anxiety that speaking in public may cause some learners. They also allow learners to carefully edit their written production, organize linguistic data under different "threads" or subject lines, or analyze the phatic language they and others use. Thus, they can create some sort of database of samples to which they can subsequently resort (Ishihara 2010b). Furthermore, despite the dangers inherent to the use of email - e.g., introducing conventions typical of oral discourse, impossibility to rectify misunderstandings, or to negotiate phaticity, etc. - emails offer students excellent opportunities to take chances they might not otherwise take in face-to-face conversations (Bloch 2002: 118-121). (Cruz 2013: 153)
Curiously, we reach back from the functional to the strictly structural viewpoint: "phatic language" once again enters the company of the formalists' "poetic language", "expressive language", and "practical language". As to the core argument here, I've held for a while now that the properly phatic portion of a verbal text consists of statements such as "here I am, writing again, typing on the keyboard". Personal blogs are chalk full of these kinds of ponderings: "I should write more often;" "I don't know if anyone is even reading this", "What should I write about today?" etc.

Varis, Piia and Jan Blommaert 2015. Conviviality and collectives on social media: Virality, memes and new social structures. Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies, Paper #108. URL: https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/upload/83490ca9-659d-49a0-97db-ff1f8978062b_TPCS_108_Varis-Blommaert.pdf.

Miller sees the avalanche of 'empty" messages on new social media as an illustration of the 'postsocial' society in which networks rather than (traditional, organic) communities are the central fora for establishing social ties between people. The messages are 'empty' in the sense that no perceptibly 'relevant content' is being communicated; thus, such messages are typologically germane to the kind of 'small talk' which Bronislaw Malinowski (1923(1936)) identified as 'phatic communion' and described as follows:
"'phatic communion' serves to establish bonds of personal union between people brought together by the mere need of companionship and does not serve any purpose of communicating ideas." (Malinowski 1923(1936); 316)
For Malinowski, phatic communion was a key argument for his view that language should not be seen as a carrier of propositional contents ("communicating ideas" in the fragment above), but as a mode of social action the scope of which should not be reduced to 'meaning' in the denotational sense of the term. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 2)
Communities are also networks, but the relevant difference between "people brought together" in a physical space and people brought into contact via CMC consists in the mode of togetherness; between physical and symbolic togetherness.
In an excellent paper on the history of the term 'phatic communion', Gunter Senft notes the post-hoc reinterpretation of the term by Jakobson (1960) as 'channel-oriented' interaction, and thereby describes phatic communion as
"utterances that are said to have exclusively social, bonding functions like establishing and maintaining a friendly and harmonious atmosphere in interpersonal relations, especially during the opening and closing stages of social - verbal - encounters. These utterances are understood as a means for keeping the communication channel open." (Senft 1995: 3)
Senft also emphasizes the difference between 'communion' and 'communication'. Malinowski never used the term phatic 'communication', and for a reason: 'communion' stresses (a) the ritual aspects of phatic phenomena, and (b) the fact that through phatic communion, people express their sense of 'union' with a community. We will come back to this later on. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 2-3)
Gunter Senft sounds like he's up to snuff. It is indeed a "reinterpretation". But then again most approaches that deal with phatics these days are; Vincent Miller included. And he's right on the money with the distinction between communion and communication, which many ignore. The earliest promulgator of "phatic communication" was La Barre (1954), but he meant something completely different by this term.
While Malinowski saw this horror vocui as possibly universal, Dell Hymes cautioned against such an interpretation and suggested that "the distribution of required and preferred silence, indeed, perhaps most immediately reveals in outline form a community's structure of speaking" (Hymes 1972(1986): 40; see Senft 1995: 4-5 for a discussion). These are indeed communities where, unless one has anything substantial to say, silence is strongly preferred over small talk and 'phatic communion' would consequently be experienced as an unwelcome violation of social custom. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 3)
Estonia belongs to those classes of cultures that prefer silence over aimless discourse. We'd much rather sit and not say anything than yap away about stuff none of us are really interested in.
As mentioned, the perceived plenitude of phatic communion on the internet pushes us towards attention to such 'communication without content'. In what follows, we will engage with this topic and focus on a now-current internet phenomenon: memes. Memes will be introduced in the next section, and we shall focus on (a) the notion of 'viral spread' in relation to agentivity and consciousness, and (b) the ways in which we can see 'memes', along with perhaps many of the phenomena described by Miller, as forms of conviviality. In a concluding section, we will identify some perhaps important implications of this view. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 4)
A. V. is currently writing about phaticity in relation with memes. I wonder if he has read this paper. In any case, the deal with memes is not that they are meaningless (communication without content) but that they can masquerade as such for various purposes. I'd much rather discuss symbols than memes, since - as K. K. has so eloquently put it - originate in a faulty theory of evolution. And there's no need for the concept of memes (borne in the mid-1970-s) if you know that in the mid-1950-s systems theorists already proposed that "the gene as a system in biological evolution really corresponds in important attributes to the symbol in cultural evolution" (Emerson in Frank 1956: 216). And there's much more theorization to support the suggestion that symbols are "forms of conviviality" (just think of Morris's com-signs, for example).
Competent as well as lay observers appear to agree that the phenomenal virality of Gangnam Style was not due to the intrinsic qualities, musical, choreographic or otherwise, of the video. The hype was driven by entirely different forces. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 6)
Why would you say that? "Gangnam Style" did have astounding intrinsic qualities, both musical and coreographic. It was shared so much because it took people by surprise that South-Korea produces European-style popular techno/dance-music, and this was further conformed with the stereotype of "those crazy asians" due to the odd coreography and comedic content of the video. Presumably, no k-pop video before it had been so bizarre as to merit so much sharing. So I'd say that it was simultaneously good (or at least tolerably good) musically as well as a case of curiosity for the Other.
People find it important to be part of a group that "likes" and "shares" items posted by others. It is impossible to know - certainly in the case of Zuckerberg - who the members of this group effectively are (this is the problem of scope, and we shall return to it), but this ignorance of identities of group members does seem to matter less than the expression of membership by means of phatic "likes" and "shares". What happens here is "communion" in the sense of Malinowski: identity statements expressing, pragmatically and metapragmatically, membership of some group. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 6)
All people who like and share some digital item constitute as much of a group as all people who happened to eat a hotdog on a given day. To think like this is to devalue the concept of "group". You may qualify it with "loosely affiliated" as much as you want, but affiliation is not really the intent there, is it? It seems more likely that people find it important to like and share items posted by others because those items seem likeable and shareable in themselves. After that primary concern comes "identity signaling" - i.e. look at me, I like this or that; and long after that comes the group identification matter of "I'll share this because I'm part of a group that shares these kinds of things".
"Sharing", by contrast, recontextualizes and directly reorients this statement towards one's own community, triggering another phase in a process of viral circulation, part of which can - but most not - involve real "reading" of the text. Also, "liking" is a responsive uptake to someone else's activity while "sharing" is the initiation of another activity directed at another (segment of a) community. So, while both activities share important dimensions of phaticity with each other, important differences also occur. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 7)
What this author really should be dealing with is how "liking" is emotive and "sharing" is conative. Furthermore, "commenting" would be referential.
Re-entextualization refers to the process by means of which a piece of "text" (a broadly defined semiotic object here) is extracted from its original context-of-use and re-inserted into an entirely different one, involving different participation frameworks, a different kind of textuality - an entire text can be condensed into a quote, for instance - and ultimately also very different meaning outcomes - what is marginal in the source text can become important in the re-entextualized version, for instance. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 8)
You mean inter- or metatextualization?
Goffman (1963), as we know, described acquaintances as that broad category of people within the network of US middle class citizens with whom relations of sociality and civility need to be maintained. Avoidance of overt neglect and rejection are narrowly connected to avoidance of intimacy and "transgressive" personal interaction: what needs to be maintained with such people is a relationship of conviviality - a level of social intercourse characterized by largely "phatic" and "polite" engagement in interaction. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 17)
I am slowly re-reading Behavior in Public Places. I'll get back to this once I finish.
There is a great deal of sociality going on on social media, but this sociality might require a new kind of sociological imagination. We will look in vain for communities and socialities that resemble the ones proposed by Durkheim or Parsons. But that does not mean that such units are not present, and even less that they are not in need of description. (Varis & Blommaert 2015: 19)
The units are surely present. But they are to be found in metadata. You'd have to be a data miner to get at the heart of social media "groupness".

Frosh, Paul 2011. Phatic morality: Television and proper distance. International Journal of Cultural Studies 14(4): 383-400.

Focusing on television, in the article's main section I will elaborate such distant moral possibities by exploring frequently denigrated aspects of the medium: non-reciprocal communicative relations; the transience of those depicted; the substitutability of individuals and the aggregation of images over time. I will then briefly consider some key problems for any attempt to treat distant mediated relations in morally positive terms: action, routinization, demonization and abjection. I will begin, however, with a section that sets the theoretical stage for what follows, using the notion of 'phatic communion' to draw a conceptual line between media sa representational devices and as means for creating and maintaining connectivity. (Frosh 2011: 384)
There is a disconnection here that I would like to see the author resolve: phatic communion is in some quarters (by Dell Hymes) reconceptualized as "reciprocal expressive function". But there cannot be reciprocity in the media dealt with her. The relations in this setup are "mediated distantly" as the author put it.
I will be arguing that television is in part morally enabling because of forms of inattention and indifference that frequently characterize relations between the medium and its audience, as well as between viewers and viewed. These low-intensity modes of mediation are more usually understood as barriers to ethical sensibility and behaviour, as impediments to proper disatnce. An important step, then, in opening ourselves to the moral possibilities of inattentive communication, is to free the mediation of moral care from what we might call the 'attentive fallacy', the automatic assumption that moral sensibility has a necessary basis in audience attentiveness, intimacy and involvement. (Frosh 2011: 385)
The aforementioned disconnection is more palpable here: phatic communion entails attentive communication, even if the referential/cognitive content of communication is marginal or non-essential. I'm not sure how this can be reconciled with television as inattentive communication. Or what morality has to do with it.
Discussions of the management of viewer attention - most famously the disagreement between John Ellis (1982) and John Caldwell (1995) over the former's claim that watching television is mainly characterized by the viewer's distracted 'glance' - tend to take as their primary point of reference the fact that television is a representational device. Attention is manipulated and attracted through techniques of representation; or, at the very least, such techniques can compensate for a context of viewing and programming that mitigates against prolonged or intense viewer attention. In contrast, thinking about the moral possibilities of media beyond the attentive fallacy involves shifting emphasis away from television as a representational device, and towards its features - and constraints - as system of connectivity. (Frosh 2011: 385)
This reminds me of Paul Virilio's "phatic image" (l'image phatique), which likewise holds that some types of images manipulate and attract attention through techniques of representation. But at the same time, the same goes for so-called social techniques, one of which is exactly this "attraction of attention" through display and exhibitionism. It can be argued that television does engage attention in not only the key of "look at me", but often even in the key of "you cannot help but to look at me". How connectivity fits into this, I'm not sure yet.
Jackobson's [sic] definition is in fact an instrumentalized version of Malinowski's earlier and sociologically richer notion of phatic communion, defined as 'a type of speech in which ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words' (Malinowski, 1923: 315) irrespective of those words' informational content, and against a background where 'the breaking of silence, the communion of words is the first act to establish links of fellowship, which is consummated only by the breaking of bread and the communion of food' (1923: 314). (Frosh 2011: 385)
Despite messing up Jakobson's name (it's a common mistake - I've seen others add that c as well), Frosh hit the nail on the head with "instrumentalization". I have previously called Jakobson's reinterpretation a "technicalization" since he deals with the communication channel, a technical concept from communication engineering and the mathematical model of communication. Malinowski's sociolinguistic concept is indeed richer; so rich in fact, as I've argued numerous times, that when modern researchers do take it up, they take to be selective in what they view as the key aspects of phatic communion. This outline here emphasizes bonds of union, asemanticity, propitiation, and communion. But it does not emphasize, for example, affirmation and consent, disjointedness from action, and ego-centeredness (everybody's waiting for their own turn).
What for Jakobson is a technical linguistic resource for channel maintenance between a communicating pair, addresser and addressee, is for Malinowski an expression of fundamental human sociability among multiple others that fulfils 'the mere need of companionship'. It is a performance of connectedness between individuals and their social whole that is 'one of the bedrock aspects of man's nature of society' (Malinowski, 1923: 314). (Frosh 2011: 385)
All true, but I must add that all of Jakobson's linguistic functions pertain to technical linguistic resources. This is most clear in the emotive function, which had its beginnings in expressive features of the linguistic structure (on the phonological level).
Significantly, phatic utterances and exchanges are performed without the conscious attention or intention of their speakers, or the attentive engagement of their recipients: 'they are neither the result of intellectual reflection, nor do they necessarily arouse reflection in the listener [...] language does not function here as a means of transmission of thought' (Malinowski, 1923: 315). (Frosh 2011: 385-386)
This motive is captured in Malinowski's statement that in phatic communion people mostly wait for their turn to talk. College Humor (youtube) made a video titled "Me, me, me" that captured this situation.
As Silverstone observed in this account of television as a transitional object, even when there are no programmes being transmitted, no representation to attend to - indeed, even when the set is off - the television signifies our connection with an outside that is separate from us, as well as the perpetual availability of that connection. Hence the constant technical performance of connectivity, irrespective of informational content, is a dimension of modern media that underpins routine audience experiences, expectations and relations to the social world beyond their immediate perception. (Frosh 2011: 386)
More so with the internet, though. There may be nothing good on from the television at any given moment but there's something good always to be found online.
In this context the word 'inattention' may in fact be inappropriate, since it operates with reference to media as representational devices. But it is not the paying of particular attention to specific programmes that constitutes the ground of audiences' experience of mediation, but the presence of media perpetually in attendance in our lives and intimate spaces, available when needed to be of service. (Frosh 2011: 386)
This approach could be put to good use in relation with "telescreens" in George Orwell's 1984.
Work on audiences and everyday life has detailed this notion of the availability of connectivity in a context of constant, low-intensity, routine encounters. Gauntlett and Hill, to give just one example, recount how for many of their respondents, especially the elderly, television is a friend or a companion, not only because of the familiarity of particular presenters and actors, but also by virtue of populating the living space with images and sounds of the outside world (see especially Gauntlett and Hill, 1999: 115-19 and 195-200). This experience also appears in Abercrombie and Longhurst's (1998) influential discussion of the rise of the contemporary diffused audience alongside simple and mass audiences. In effect, their discussion of the contemporary diffused audience is also an account of the expansion of the phatic, quantitatively across ass lections of society, qualitatively across all spaces and temporalities of social being: 'The essential feature of this audience-experience', say Abercrombie and Longhurst, 'is that, in contemporary society, everyone becomes an audience all the time. Being a member of an audience is no longer an exceptional event, nor even an everyday event. Rather, it is constitutive of everyday life' (1998: 69). (Frosh 2011: 386-387)
In one of the previous papers I read I noted that "community" and "group" are inadequate for modern forms of sociability. Instead of a totalizing concept like "global village" and whatnot, I'd prefer a particularizing concept. If it didn't have negative connotations, I'd use Morris's interpreter family. But the key feature in the concept I'm approaching is exactly diffuseness. Since the paper that sparked this thought was about memes, my argument followed the approximate route that people who are familiar with certain symbols don't constitute a group or community in any real sense. Rather, they constitute a "diffused audience" where not even a statistical boundary could distinguish members from non-members. For example, elsewhere I could very well talk of a "jazz-hop community", but that would be a misnomer, since the people who produce and enjoy such music are dispersed all around the developed world and not necessarily aware that it's even a musical genre, or that there may be a lot of people who enjoy such music. It''s a diffused audience, but even "audience" here doesn't work well, since in our current media landscape producers and consumers are interspersed, and even graduation from a listener to a producer is not as clear as one would like.
They then go on to quote an interview study on music and everyday life where the interviewee, describing what music means to him, says:
It's like a companion, or a back-up noise. Just something in the background. A lot of people turn the radio on and they're not listening to it for the most part, but it's there to keep them company. [...] It's like the TV; they leave the TV on all the time, although it never gets watched [...] people use it just to feel comfortable with. (Crafts et al., 1993: 109, cited in Abercrombie and Longhurst, 1998: 70)
The use of this quote clearly suggests that everyone becomes an audience in contemporary society by virtue of the way that media integrate companionship and company into the routine background of everyday life. The diffused audience is grounded in the social connectivity produced by media through constant phatic communion, perpetually breaking Malinowski's silence to establish bonds of companionship through a postulated social world. (Frosh 2011: 387)
This also works for an analysis of those fictional telescreens. But I have my own theory as to why people like listening to music (or talking radio) on the background. Despite not really listening to it for the most part, the background speech gives the illusion of being in company by unavoidably arousing the speech centers of our brains. This is where "phatic communion" is applied correctly in its etymological significance: it's a sharing of speech. While there were few options to derive pleasure from speech before radio and recording media besides chit-chatting with those about you, we now have auxiliary conversation partners, people who talk to us through loudspeakers and headphones.
If phatic communion is conventionalized and achieved through representational forms, then its performance by individuals and groups requires levels of competence and mastery, and the resources to achieve them. The second structural dimension of phatic communion is the presupposition that one is recognized as a potential member of the reference group whose members can be communed with: a community. Institutional power can be brought to bear to make one sufficiently unacceptable (for instance, excommunication), or unrecognizable, that one's phatic speech is shunned or refused the status of speech at all. (Frosh 2011: 387)
I'm indeed considering re-reading Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four from the standpoint of phatic studies, and this may be one of the keys for doing so. Winston's social contacts are meager and guarded, he is almost constantly negotiating between party-defined phaticity (all those simple but relevant things that he must say in order to fit in) and facecrime that reveals his thoughtcrime.
A good way of thinking about the moral implications of televisual connectivity is through a paradoxical communicative structure made commonplace and utterly habitual by television broadcasts of the faces of strangers, though we rarely consider its social and historical novelty: non-reciprocal face-to-face communication. Television allows one to be 'face-to-face' with anothe rperson and not pay them any attention. The appearance of another's face on the screen, even when accompanied by direct verbal address, is an indication of their non-presence at the location of viewing. One can maintain an attitude of utter indifference, even when apparently being directly spoken to, ignoring both their face and their words. Crucially, this non-reciprocity is itself mutual, a result of the systemic organization of technologies of 'mediated quasi-interaction' (Thompson, 1995). (Frosh 2011: 388)
This non-reciprocity makes the whole ordeal quasi-phatic (note that not pseudo- but quasi-). The historical novelty of this situation may perhaps explain the changes in reciprocal face-to-face interactions. Is it out of the question that generations of people who are habituated to ignore faces and voices on their screens will apply the same attitude in some measure on their off-screen interactions? That's something for future researchers to study (or dismiss).
Goffman's analysis of indifference and subtly inattentive forms of 'civil' public behaviour is really far more pessimistic about the possibilities of public life: it assumes that public encounters with multiple strangers in the polis are potentially a recipe not for dialogue but for the defensive expression of hostility and aggression. (Frosh 2011: 389)
This phraseology could work for an analysis of Carnegie's social techniques.
The non-reciprocal, transient and aggregative character of television's phatic structure is important here, since it makes possible the generalization of individuals by which fluid instruments of human connectivity and categories of human similarity can be maintained. (Frosh 2011: 394)
I think television's phatic structure can be added to the list of other such lengthy newfangled conceptions as phatic technology habituation and phatic community construction.
There is an important objection to the proposed centrality of weak moral ties and routine connectivity in the mediation of others: that it does not constitute moral action. In the first instance it does not constitute moral action because it does not provide the viewer with a set of practical capabilities and possibilities for influencing the fate of suffering strangers. In the second, and related instance it is not moral action because it is unreflective and routinized: it does not care. (Frosh 2011: 394)
This is largely my issue with numerous "consciousness raising" campaign these days: they make sure we know about atrocities or problematic aspects, but do nothing to point us towards solutions, what we can do about it.
Much has been made of the problem of turning mediated knowledge into action in the world: to a degree the discussion is a long footnote to Lazarsfeld and Merton's (1971) 'narcotizing dysfunction', by which knowledge of the world is confused with - and substituted for - effective action in the world. (Frosh 2011: 394)
Exactly what I meant.
Phatic politics
The moral implications of phatic communion are nevertheless severely challenged by power relations that exclude others from connective relations altogether. A moral community built upon non-reciprocity and the aggregation of transient strangers is still a community only for those who have been recognized as strangers - however briefly (civil inattention) - and whose faces appear to its members on their television screens and can be ignored. The political and economic structures of the mass media mean that there are populations who are beyond connectivity and beyond appearance: unrepresented, unaggregated and therefore not the subjects of judgment: beyond the merely ignorable and beyond 'the human'. (Frosh 2011: 395)
This pertains ideally to the "proles" in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
One upshot of this is astonishingly different levels of coverage for similar events: Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Stanley each caused around a thousand deaths when they hit the Gulf coast in autumn 2005. Katrina dominated news coverage - by January 2006 it had garnered over 3000 references in UK newspapers. The equally lethal Stanley, which hit Guatemala rather than the USA, was mentioned only 34 times in the same period (Franks, 2006). (Frosh 2011: 396)
If a big tree falls on indigenous people in a rain forest village will it still gain comparable media coverage to a crane that falls in Mecca?
Notwithstanding his more technical orientation, Jakobson also suggests the developmental human priarity of sociability over representation when he notes that the phatic function 'is the first verbal function acquired by infants: they are prone to communicate before being able to send or receive informative communication' (1960: 345). (Frosh 2011: 397; note 3)
This characterizes La Barre more than Jakobson.

Miller, Vincent 2015. Phatic culture and the status quo: Reconsidering the purpose of social media activism. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 1354856515592512.

Social media enthusiasts generally see three interrelated features of communication technologies, and social media in particular, as central and fundamental to the vision of new media as politically progressive and engaging. First, the ease of production and distribution of digital media has resulted in an increased amount of information, meaning that alternative, minority and dissenting accounts of the world and the events in it now have a potential mass and worldwide audience in a way not previously possible. The potential consequence here is that state nad corporate media oligopolies do not have the same kind of hegemonic grip over the production and circulation of news and political debate in popular culture as they did in the past. Thus, we see the rise of, for example, Indymedia, political blogging, video documentary and citizen journalism as alternative accounts of mainstream corporatist or state-sponsored accounts. Second, there is the increased ability to connect with others across space, and thus to organize, motivate and mobilize political action and resistance, ultimately leading to more numerous and, more effective, political actions. Last, there is the increased ability to express one's own views and converse with others on political matters, leading to the reinvigoration of a conversational public or public sphere. (Miller 2015: 2)
The other side of the coin is that conspiracy theorists, counter opposition (InfoWars), "alternative media" promoters and other nutcases will reach a much wider audience and their bullshit is more difficult to discern from valid information. And politically it's not all "progressive", is it? Just consider how daesh uses the internet, or how vocal conservatives (e.g. Rebel Media, Vice, etc.) have become in recent times. Forward-thinking people may have been in the forefront with online communication but now the playing field is levelling, and alternative, minority, and dissenting accounts are increasingly drowned out. At least that's my impression of the state of things.
Whilst there can be little doubt that new media have dramatically opened up the number of information sources, political or otherwise, to the general public, this article critically engages with the latter two points above, namely, the power of conversation and the power of mobilization, and will unpack the implicit assumption that the ability of technology to connect people necessarily leads to an activism that involves dissent or resistance. Indeed, I will suggest the opposite that such connection can (and usually does in current circumstances) lead to forms of communion which tend to maintain the status quo, not undermine or challenge it. (Miller 2015: 2)
Yup. That is my impression as well.
Whilst the position I am offering here has some points in common with the position of authors such as Gladwell (2010) and Morozov (2010), my argument will concentrate on the relationship between talk, togetherness, the relationship to transformative politics and how that is or is not enacted by the use of social media. (Miller 2015: 2)
Transformative politics?
I point out a problem of definition in terms of how we can define the acts of social media politics (Christensen, 2011; Loader and Mercea, 2011), posit whether or not social media political gestures can be considered political action/participation or whether they are merely political communication (Hoffman, 2012). (Miller 2015: 3)
Schandorf's paper on phatic gestures is also in the references. But this seems to be one of the rare cases where I can agree with the use of the term "gesture". Thinking of the recent Paris attacks and the Facebook option to overlay the French tricolor on your profile picture I am on board with calling it a "social media political gesture", since in light of "virtue signalling" it does come across as a demeanour (the etymological meaning of gesture).
Whilst these gestures may be political in content, much of the time, the content of these gestures is somewhat irrelevant as compared to what can be called their phatic function. By 'phatic' I am referring to Malinowski (1923) and Jakobson's (1960) notion of speech which is used to express or maintain connection with others in the form of shared feelings, goodwill or general sociability, rather than to impart information exchange. (Miller 2015: 3)
I'm really interested if it could be possible to "rehabilitate" La Barre's (1954) concept of phatic communication. By the looks of it, it should be possible, as these statements here are pretty much in line with La Barre's positions that "a surprising amount of human speech - [including] political - still remains largely phatic (communicating or seeking to induce merely an endocrine state, emotional state, or manipulable "state of mind")" (1954: 166) and that "it communicates a generalized emotional tone through the [group] so that all its members come to have the same attitude toward a situation" (1954: 57). The point is that phatic communion or communication implies the creation of a common frame of reference, a common set of attitudes, and a common disposition towards something without necessarily imparting any quantifiable or qualifiable information. According to Bruno Latour this is almost exactly what political speech does as well.
Rather than making a hierarchical distinction between 'online' and 'real-world' activism, the suggestion is that we need to broaden what we consider activism to include technological activities such as posting links, retweets, 'liking' campaigns, joining social media groups, making statements of support and forwarding emails or video links, which were not possible before digital communications technologies. (Miller 2015: 4)
In the beginning of this September I read Bernie Sanders' book, The Speech (2010), and posted my comments on this blog. I consider that my small contribution to his cause. That is my form of micro-activism. In that sense any one of the thousands of people who read that book and reviewed it on GoodReads contributed a little to raise its profile.
Such behaviour involves a re-conception of terms such as activism away from 'actual' political action as traditionally understood and more towards (virtual) discursive interventions and symbolic demonstrations of solidarity for causes or groups (Papacharissi, 2010; Peretti and Micheletti, 2011). Essentially, this collapses the distinction between political communication and political action, as the communication itself becomes a form of activism. This new type of digital activism has been referred to in academic circles as 'micro-activism' (Blood, 2001; Marichal, 2010), 'micro-contributions' (Garnett 2006), 'sub-activism' (Bakardjieva 2009) or more pejoratively in the popular press as 'clicktivism' or 'slacktivism'. (Miller 2015: 4)
In the broader scheme of things this is just another sphere in which something is conflated with communication. Think, for example, of literary theory that views reading and writing books not in any aesthetic, literary, or linguistic terms but as a form of communication between the writer and reader. It's also how the Barthesian author dies, but the phenomenon is not limited to literature. It is currently happening to marketing, business, politics and probably to various other fields that I'm currently not up to date with. I would call it communicationalization - viewing an otherwise partly or not at all communicative phenomenon through the lens of whatever communication theory happens to be popular at the time. At the moment, the "phatic" theory of communication is popular, so now we're seeing phaticalization of various phenomena.
At best, there is a complex relationship between Internet penetration rates and political activism, usually contingent on other social factors being present. This has been demonstrated a number of times (Alterman, 2011; Couldry, 2014; Noveck, 2000; Xenos and Moy, 2007) and even recently again by Ang et al. (2014) who demonstrate this in their large, cross-national study of anti-government protests in 153 countries over 26 years. They found that on its own, the variable of 'technological penetration', or the increased availability to use ICTs in protests, was associated with reduced protest count, suggesting increased apathy as opposed to activism with increased technological means. Only when technological means were fused with structural conditions (such as a large youth demographic) is technology associated with increasing activism. (Miller 2015: 6)
In other words, no amount of technology will make a population politically active. The key, rather, is young people dissatisfied with the state of things.
Whilst there may be some impact and use among small groups of activists who are invested in the use of social media for these purposes, most protesters rely on traditional media and face-to-face discussion for motivation and organization, respectively. This undermines the narrative that technologies of communication are, through their ability to connect people, inherently politically destabilizing or revolutionary. This is not to say that social media was completely insignificant in these events or is insignificant as a political tool in general. The studies above do demonstrate its place in sharing information (e.g. through links to YouTube videos of protests and police violence), as a source for more influential broadcast media and for broadcasting events to the international journalism community. But social media's role in political action itself, fermenting and organizing protest, is doubtful. (Miller 2015: 8)
I've only seen this narrative reproduced in The Colbert Report, with Stephen Colbert pointing to Twitter logo and expressing surprise that such a small thing can cause so much trouble in the Middle East. But then again, Colbert is an entertainer and a reflection of the media, rather than a source of original ideas.
Marichal concluded political communications on Facebook to be performative. That is, it allowed the creation of a digital front stage as part of a collaborative, participatory identity process, which involves the expression on one's voice as prioritized over actual achievements, stated goals or even dialogue with others. (Miller 2015: 8)
This is by and large the problem with the Black Lives Matter movement, which seems less like a movement with "any real-world political goals or objectives" or even oriented to "open up some sort of dialogue indicative of a public sphere" but rather a "safe space" for black Americans to prioritize the fact that they are black. As a non-black bystander are either with them or against them, you either raise up and show solidarity or you're a dirty racist. No achievements, goals, or dialogue necessary. It is not surprising that the create so much opposition for themselves even from people who do think that black lives matter.
The work of Svensson (2011) is quite informative here in that he demonstrates how the digital citizen uses political expression not only as a means of creating and managing identities but also how such expressions are used to connect to others, simply for the sake of connections and 'being together'. For Svensson, responsiveness and connectedness are the key features of the digital citizen, who must be continually aware of what is talked about and able to participate in the talk by forwarding information on, or offering opinion or support. (Miller 2015: 9)
From a certain point of view, managing identities and connecting to others are interrelated: integration with groups is grounds for emerging identities. In this sense one could probably talk about phatic identity construction as a phenomenon connected to phatic community construction. But then the qualifying "phatic" demands qualification, for identity and community in these cases are constructed through phatic communion, sharing in speech for the sake of sharing in speech.
'Conversation requires us to recognize the other, which in turn requires us to recognize ourselves more carefully and completely. In conversation, we are held responsible for what we say, required to defend our position, even to change our point of view. (menely, 2007: 108)
Conversation has long been portrayed as central to the democratic political process. What is generally considered to be central to a functioning democracy, and the roots of democratic revolutions in the past, is the notion of a politically informed public engaged in rational and free discussion as the basis for government (or the foil for unjust government). (Miller 2015: 9)
This is eerily reminiscent of Mead's "participation in the other" or Burke's identification. This truly inter-ational quality is what is missing from either Carnegie's "listener" and "Ruesch's "broadcaster". It can be boiled down to the stereotypical statement, "Communication is a two-way street."
Schudson (1997) and Scheufele (2000) note this as well and make a distinction between 'sociable' or 'casual' conversation and 'problem-solving' or political conversation. In the former, the conversation has no end outside of itself, and it has no goal or conclusion but is a kind of adventure based on conviviality. It entails the pleasure of interacting with someone else for its own sake, with the dominant function of that interaction being social connection. The latter is based on dialogue, argument and is often uncomfortable or awkward. Still such interaction has a purpose outside of itself; a means to an end, a goal of transformation. (Miller 2015: 10)
Dear god, I just had a flashback. During Baltic Anarchist Meeting in Tallinn, 2012, we had an Occupy-style group discussion. Needless to say I didn't thrive in it. I insisted on writing relevant points down to go-over and reach some practical outcome. The international crowd present had other purposes in mind: just talk. To me it felt pointless, because after hours of such conversation the take-away was close to nil. I think Bookchin wrote about this, and consequently distinguished revolutionary "social anarchism" and cultural "lifestyle anarchism".
More recently, the role of the phatic in online culture has been receiving more and more discussion, empirical testing and nuanced analysis (e.g. André et al., 2012; Dann, 2010; Frosh, 2011; Hopkins, 2014; Kulkarni, 2014; Schandorf, 2012; Radovanovicdda, 2012). Among these studies, there seems to be a general agreement that online culture is very phatic in its communications, although there is a certain amount of debate over whether or not this is a good or a bad thing. Many have pointed out quite rightfully that phatic communion is not 'trivial' and indeed is an important part of creating affective bonds which in turn create a sense of belonging, intimacy and community, so increased phaticism can be positively viewed as signs of togetherness in online environments (Sarjonoja, Isomursu and Häkkilä, 2013; Varis and Blommaert, 2014). (Miller 2015: 11)
Frosh 2011 was about television. Kulkarni 2014 was about instant messaging. I'm not sure anyone else has taken "phatic culture" as the explicit research object. But then again perhaps we operate with different concepts of culture (which, by the amount of available concepts of culture is quite likely). In any case, phaticism? Add this to the ever-increasing list of backformations that already includes phaticity, phaticness, and phaticality. Not to mention my own parasitical phatics.
American literary theorist Tobias Menely (2007), in an evocative essay entitled 'Forgive me if I am fortright', demonstrates how the phatic element of language and normative codes of politeness have the primary function of maintaining social harmony and cultivating the status quo. For Menely, the phatic function of language acts as a social adhesive that achieves social harmony by directing conversation to the least controversial topics, where the actual content of what is said has little consequence or informational value in comparison to its use as a social glue. These topics serve the role of tactfulness, softening the edges of difference among persons and leaving very little room for disagreements in everyday social interactions. (Miller 2015: 11)
Huh. I wonder if Menely's views are compatible with the systems theory inspired approach to interaction homeostasis I'm attempting to develop? The basic concern seems the same, focused on "maintenance" (which I argue is a function of the interplay of engagement and detachment). You could say that "social harmony" is at stake, but I'm focused on the level of interaction, which means that there's an equilibrium between awareness and influence that must be held in place for a communicative relationship to sustain itself.
Radovanovic and Ragnedda (2012) make a similar point through engagement with 'balance theory', which suggests that it is easier to maintain balance in a community, or growth in a network, if one enforces relationships of conformity and harmony and avoids potentially conflictual relationships, which have the potential of reducing interaction. So, for example, Facebook has a 'like' button but not a 'dislike' button as that threatens to induce conflict and therefore may impede network growth. Thus, they argue that social networks steer towards the phatic to be as inclusive as possible in terms of participation whilst at the same time avoiding topics that could cause disruption. (Miller 2015: 11-12)
Yup. This is where, ideally, social techniques come in. Since the goal is preservation ("maintenance"), it is in some cases achieved by avoiding criticism (the preferred technique of Dale Carnegie and anyone who follows the advice of his influential book).
Menely suggests that a cultural logic which encourages us to remain in the safe domains of phatic engagement is one that precludes us from free conversation. Veering away from these phatic issues is risky because it creates the potential to upset social harmony. So, Menely sees phatic communications as a kind of closing off of dialogue. An expressive form of communication (expressing 'I'm still here'), as opposed to a conversational or dialogic form of communication where information is exchanged in order to transform the other. (Miller 2015: 12)
I would argue that in social media this is brought on by external conditions. Much like in Fahrenheit 451, wherein people themselves decided that books are not worth the effort because television is available, Facebook doesn't really prescribe what you can or should post. If we were better people, we'd share, read, and like informative, content-heavy posts and had transformative conversations. But that's too much trouble, and too few are able and willing to engage in something like that at any given moment. So we've reduced ourselves to funny images and videos, short messages and simple pictures. So, I'd argue that it's really a matter of energy and fatigue. Information is still exchanged on Facebook, but rarely is it sustained and measurable.
By idle talk, Heidegger refers to a kind of inauthenticity achieved when one takes on mediated, 'average' or 'mass' understandings of the world without question or appeal to one's own unique understanding:
In this inconspicuousness and unascertainibility, the real dictatorship of the "the they" is unfolded. We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as the [man] take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as they see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the 'great mass' as they shrink back; we find 'shocking' what they find shocking. (Heidegger, 1962: 164)
This becomes problematic because one loses one's own particularity and uniqueness in terms of judgments, decision-making and opinion forming. Effectively, 'everyone is the other and no one is himself' (Heidegger, 1962: 165). Individuals cease to fulfil their potential as distinct entities who express 'care' in any meaningful way and instead replicate and sustain the 'great mass' of 'they-self' of the mediated public. (Miller 2015: 12)
The quoted passage reminds me rather of the case of making a mixtape and imagining what the other person (the addressee of the mixtape) might like, how they would perceive the succession of sounds, the underlying themes, etc. But I can't imagine sustaining this point of view, because the "other" in this illustration is imaginary and ultimately runs into unavoidable uncertainty. In the sphere of CMC, this would amount to sharing unoriginal content and not really producing anything oneself, and tailoring your shares to your audience without offending or disturbing anyone with something unique and provocative. I think I know such people, but not well enough to take their position on things.
The relationship becomes with the talk as opposed to what the talk is about, closing off any meaningful understanding of the topic at hand or the formation of considered individual opoinion. (Miller 2015: 12)
Nice phrase, but it can't be that absolute. Common sense says that relationships develop more easily over shared interests, and people who remain on the level of small talk remain mere acquaintances.
Perhaps controversially, the implication here is that in this type of phatic communion, the political content of such gestures becomes relatively unimportant in the face of their function as acts of sociability.
To put it simply, what I am suggesting is that a large part of the motivation behind participation in social media politics is talking for the sake of convivial recognition as opposed to talking to change the world through political motivation, organization or dialogue. Furthermore, I suggest that such communicative acts because of their nature as acts of phatic communion by and large are more likely to reproduce the status quo than to emphasize conflict or transformation. (Miller 2015: 15)
In Ruesch's terms, communication should be an instrumental action toward a political goal, but has become it's own goal. In effect, the instrument has become useless.
Indeed, more research needs to be done which focuses on the intents and the actual content of social media gestures in order to understand more fully what people are actually doing when they engage in social media activism and express their support for causes and issues. It is a mistake to merely assume that traffic and participation in these modest forms in itself imply meaning, care or concern. This is not to say that social media cannot or will not be an important transformational political force in the future but that, at the moment, we need to accept how social media is currently used by most people, and this is largely as a series of communicative acts designed to achieve communion through passing the word along. (Miller 2015: 16)
The only available paper (Corbett 2015) that currently cites this paper concludes: "The extent to which insider talk in social media spaces connects with actual on-the-ground political action is not yet well understood (Miller, 2015)."

Nozawa, Shunsuke 2015. Phatic Traces: Sociality in Contemporary Japan. Anthropological Quarterly 88(2): 373-400.

Cases of death like this are now captioned in the media as kodokushi, or "solitary death." Kodokushiis, perhaps, one of the most haunting images of troubled sociality that creeps up in the discourse on Japan's "aging society." The term stereotypically refers to when old people, especially old men, die alone without boing noticed immediately, leaving the body to decompose. (Nozawa 2015: 374)
The word kodokushi sounds similar to the Estonian word kodukassid ("home cats"), which in this context brings forth the local image of old people, especially old men, dying alone and leaving their decomposing bodies for house cats to eat in hunger.
So kodokushi has less to do with the modernist lament about the vanishing intimacy of death, but it draws into question the very noticeability of death: how, or really, whether, a death can trigger attention of others. (Nozawa 2015: 375)
Is this the phaticity involved in the phenomenon?
In this way, the pmiostor capitalizes on the perceived crisis of indifference toward the elderly. Like a computer hacker, he scans the kinship system for its security holes - moments of indifference - and fills them up with interest, manufacturing a need for contact, an end. (Nozawa 2015: 376)
This author has a pretty good grasp of phatic terminology (attention, contact) and can relate them with novel terminology (noticeability, indifference) in a sensible way. The approach here is Jakobsonian, but something like this is in dire need with the Malinowskian line. (Generally, Jakobson needs to be explained; but Malinowski needs to be paraphrased; La Barre, on the other hand, needs to be reconceptualized.)
My friends' imagined scenario recognizes both value and danger at the moment of contact, a societal anxiety that is as underspecified as it is real. Contact is an allure. (Nozawa 2015: 377)
Something profound. Damn Japs and their elliptic handling of language.
The management of solitude and indifference is today at stake in everyday Japanese life. The image of an old person dying alone and without recognition in an interstice of urban cosmopolitan grandeur - a room susponded in space and time with material vestiges of everyday life but only in past perfective - is unlikely food for social thought for many people [...]. While such a space-time of troubled sociality might become legible as a particular articulation of discourses of "suffering" projected from contemporary anthropology and other humanist sciences (Robbins 2013), I am here interested in the techniques and ideas through which people seek to engender sociality even in the absence of interest in it. Rather than seeing solitude and indifference as a new problem simply awaiting a solution, I argue that they are in fact productive of a fantasy of sociality, what I will describe below as the fantasy of the phatic. People need this fantasy. (Nozawa 2015: 377)
Nozawa is way ahead of me. One of the reasons I've outlined for founding (or, rather, "calling out", bringing into awareness) so-called "phatic studies" is that Western societies are increasingly digital. It is simultaneously aging. So decades down the line what we'll see is an unprecedented population of old people who are computer savvy. What will this mean? I mean, what consequences will this have not only for ourselves (I may belong to that aging computer savvy demographic) but for society and large and - since we'll be online - for the global information landscape. Because of becoming increasingly digital, human contact is also becoming increasingly quantifiable (even qualifiable). There will be more "traces" available to study as time goes on. So interest in human contact as a transdisciplinary field of its own is not out of the question. There seems to be increasing interest in it. // Random thought: How about a phatic reading of J. C. Powys' A Philosophy of Solitude?
The empirical reality of kodokushi, however, necessitates local, practical responses, such as prevention projects, field assessments, and everyday routines. These respondents involve diverse social actors such as residents, activists, scholars, and officials. In lieu of explicit official codification, it is these responses that are sites of metadiscourse through which the category of kodokushi gets regimented, negotiated, and circulated today: these practical actions cue people to talk about death, sociality, and communication. (Nozawa 2015: 378)
Metaphatics. That is, discourse on contact, relations, relationships, communication, community, group integration, etc. Social techniques barely scratch the surface. As other Japanese authors in phatic studies have noted, Japanese language has native metalanguage pertaining to phatics; their case involved aizuchi (Kita & Ide 2007). But a semiotic investigation into (meta)categories of contact is in order in a multitude of language (this could be especially interesting in relation with comparative or contrastive linguistics).
I argue that the contemporary discourse of troubled sociality articulates an implicit ideology of "phaticity," the configuration (or what Jakobson [1960] referred to as "function" [Einstellung]) of communication that generates a salient focus on semiotic contact. Due recognition of such an ideology of phaticity will help us better parse out different ways in which sociality is understood and acted upon in contemporary Japan. (Nozawa 2015: 378)
I am intending to perform something like this on my own culture. Specifically, I'd like to outline some more curious aspects about the Estonian habits of communication that pertain to politeness, good manners, disturbance (of others), and how an examination of Estonian literature (my corpus is interbellum Estonian literature) reveals phatic techniques.
Common sense holds that we "get in touch" with each other in order to get some business done. We believe we build a bridge so we can transport things, people, and information. The ore ore sagi perpetrators, are like us, commonsensical philosophers of communication. Like us, they presuppose purposive circulation - something moving toward an end, a point of consummation - and [...] Now I suggest that for a change, we forget our desire to be interesting and try to scrutinize phatic connection as such. For all these portraits of troubled sociality in Japan today suggest that social-communicative contact, phaticity, is itself an object of deep desire as well as a source of anxiety - and, as we shall see, a point of semiotic-political intervention. It is an allure. (Nozawa 2015: 378-379)
What Nozawa is essentially proposing is a Malinowskian interpretation of the phatic function, which is a curiosity in itself. Basically, that we take Jakobson's definition seriously and view it in the sense that "the object of talk is not to achieve some aim but the exchange of words almost as an end in itself" (Malinowski 1946[1923]: 312).
While long familiar in the anthropological literature - indeed, one of the few concepts whose anthropological ancestry is clear: Malinowski [1923] coined it - the notion of phaticity has laways been curiously undertheorized [...]. It is treated as less worthy of or in need of theorization precisely because, I speculate, it is viewed as too easily understandable or else too mysterious, as if requiring or affording no further intellectual effort. The triviality of "phatic" talk is often iconically reproduced in its trivial treatment of scholarly analytic metalanguage which, incidentally, has far more robust theories of "metalinguistic" talk. Or else we convince ourselves of its importance by demonstrating, for example, that small talks have big consequences. Such demonstrations, while helpful in revealing the nature of those consequences, have surprisingly little to contribute to critical theorization of the concept of phaticity itself. (Nozawa 2015: 379)
This makes me think that the inception of phatic studies and a thorough review of the historical progenitors as well as current developments is deeply needed.
A friend of mine from previous fieldwork, an old woman in the Tokyo suburbs who lives on her limited pension and her husband's disability payments, once gave what appeared to me a surprising commentary on ore ore sagi; as I now see it, she was also articulating a theory of phaticity. Clearly troubled by these cases of fraud, she nonetheless said: "But I could definitely understand why these old people, people like us, get deceived. It is because they want to give. They just want to give, to anyone." Counterintuitive, and as if condoning the crime, her theory nonetheless astutely bespeaks a certain subdued but urgent desire to engender sociality in today's Japan. However, she relates this desire not to reciprocity and dialogue, but to a pleasure and pain of giving/losing that only oozes out through moments of contact. "I would be duped, most certainly," she added. Rather than productivity, the "phatic labor" (Elyachar 2010) articulated here points to loss as evidence of phaticity. Finding themselves in strange suburban solitude, "these old people" desire the felt reality of a semiotic channel, even a hacked one and even only momentarily, whatever gets produced or moved through it. (Nozawa 2015: 379-380)
If I could translate this into somewhat less poetic language (I think Ruesch has written technically but simultaneously quite beautifully about contact and isolation) this could reveal a facet henceforth unnoticed due to all the attention given to reciprocity. The "willingness to communicate" that underlines phaticity may be just as aimless as the content of phatic talk.
Over and above the oft-noted crisis of the famil, then, people are constructing from within the space of resignation, a fantasy of relationality that lives and dies in phatic traces: just wanting to give. (Nozawa 2015: 380)
But what are phatic traces?
Kodokushi, "solitary death," pointedly signals a profound collective worrying about the situation of what the Japanese call muen, "no relation." The term en, embedded in this expression, may be glossed as "social relatedness"; Rowe (2011: 45-46) suggests "bond," and "connection" may work as well. I will return to discuss this idea below in detail, but let me first explore its absence, encapsulated by the notion of muen (mu- means "nothing"). (Nozawa 2015: 380)
This made me think of Valentine E. Daniel's "The Semeiosis of Suicide in Sri Lanka" (1989) which outlined the differences between concepts like aloneness, loneliness, solitude, and privacy; which proned me to view for analogies in Estonian: üksildus ("loneliness"), üksindustunne ("aloneness"), üksindus ("solitude"), and eraviisilisus ("privacy"). But it was long after that when I read August Jakobson's Üksiklased (1935), which is quite close to muen. Namely, üksiklane is "someone who is alone", almost as an occupation, "a person who's thing it is to be alone". Oh, right, loner. But sadly üksiklane is not a popular word in Estonian - it's one of those old words that 40+ years of Soviet communist occupation made us as if forget.
My point here is simply to underscore the ambiguous nature of muen: negativity and positivity are co-present and negotiated through social practice. I suggest that we entertain, rather than resolve, this ambiguity, and inquire into possible visions of communication it might afford. In what follows, I hope to illuminate how the conditions of solitude today gives particular shape to such a vision of communication, a semiotic ideology that takes phaticity as a point of intervention. This ideology is emblematized by idioms such as fureai, ("touching together"), tsuganari ("connecting"), and more recently in the aftermath of the 2011 triple disaster, kizuna ("bonding"). (Nozawa 2015: 382-383)
Although unconnected, I am reminded of similar phatic ambiguity in artists and writers, who are viewed as simultaneously loners and productive members of society (almost like high-functioning autists).
Crucially, "contact" here is a trope for communication itself, or, rather, komyunikēshon. The implicit ideology of communication here - what might be called phatic-indexicalism - stipulates that relationality is, first and foremost, about making contact through indexical triggering (whatever else may also be accomplished). It is of note, in this respect, that komyunikēshon in Japan often figures as technical "skills," as in komyunikēshon sukiru, a phrase that has gained wider relevance in the context of neoliberalism. It signals an ability to "read" (yomu) the flow - or, as the popular metaphor has it, "air" (kūki) - of interaction, a skill that popular comedians are sometimes seen as possessing. Skillful communicators facilitate the smooth circulation of the "air" of conversation within an interactional space, as by an air conditioner. (Nozawa 2015: 386)
The trope here is that of aerodynamics, while phatic discourse usually subscribes to the notion of "social lubricant", i.e. lubrication of cogs, which pertains to mechanics (rather than aero-, thermo-, or hydrodynamics).
In this vein, Duranti rightly observes that,
[...] the claim that greetings have no propositional content [...] is at least as old as Malinowski's (1923: 315-316) introduction of the notion of "phatic communion," a concept that was originally meant to recast speech as a mode of action [...] The problem with the characterization of greeting as "phatic," and hence merely aimed at establishing or maintaining "contacT" (Jakobson 1960), is that it makes it difficult to acount for differences across and within communities in what people say during greetings. (2009: 190, emphasis added)
This is a necessary and crucial reminder for scholars of the pitfall of instrumental reductionism (see Kockelman 2010). (Nozawa 2015: 387)
Duranti is yet again bringing out an aspect of Malinowski's phatic communion that others rarely emphasize: "Each utterance is an act [...] Once more language appears to us is this [phatic] function [...] as a mode of action." (Malinowski 1946[1923]: 315)
There was another customer earlier in the evening, not a regular of the bar, who at one point took a sticker out of his bag and put it on the wall (as in many bars, people sometimes make this sort of signing on the premise, through inscriptions, stickers, carvings, etc.). The sticker bore an emblem of a professional football team in Kyushu, in southern Japan. Upon recognizing this image, my interlocutor (the first customer) initiated a conversation with the man, telling him that she was a fan of the team, too. The man then revealed that he was not a fan, but actually a player on the team. Then, the conversation ended. It went nowhere, or perhaps somewhere else. [...] "So what?" you may ask. I almost did. But what entertained my interlocutors, in their reporting this moment to me, was precisely the exchange's sense of joyous, funny futility. It was nothing, though it could have turned into something. [...] I asked her and the bartender to elaborate further on their description "sort sort of en." These seemingly random connections, they said, strike the mind as "perhaps not being totally random." These mere connections - a bridge that connects but carries nothing - are sometimes worth paying attention to because they make life "fun." That was their theory of the event and the place. (Nozawa 2015: 392-393)
We had "some sort of en" with Joe when we realized that both of us use Ubuntu and write with dvorak keyboard layout. I don't know anyone else who uses dvorak, and neither does my roommate. With they only other person who I know does, I have a lot more in common, this perhaps not being totally random.
But it is nonetheless noteworthy that the particular theory presented to me that night emphasizes a feeling that was most casually, and yet effectively, narrated through the figure of nanika no en ["some sort of en"]: the futility of identifying and reaching an "end," the fun of capturing a connection as it emerges and forgetting it as it disappears, the pleasure of succumbing to real nothings. (Nozawa 2015: 393)
This reminds me of one of Dale Carnegie's lighter moments: "Oh yes, I did want something out of that chap. I wanted something priceless. And I got it. I got the feeling that I had done something for him without him being able to do anything whatever in return for me. That is a feeling that glows and sings in your memory long after the incident is passed." (1936: 131)
A fuller co-presence may be just a dream, a hoax. People will still die alone. But a reckoning of alterity might allow them to live and die believing their life and death will be notable to somebody, a you, any one of you, on the other side of the channel. I know you are not here, I want to hint, a sign that you are alive and waiting for me - not even that. ■ (Nozawa 2015: 395)
Damn you, Sir. This was an excellent paper.

Ward, Gregory and Laurence R. Horn 1999. Phatic Communication and Relevance Theory: A Reply to Žegarac & Clark. Journal of Linguistics 35(3): 555-564.

In particular, RT [Relevance Theory] work on scalar implicature/explicature and on echoic mention and metalinguistic negation (e.g. Carston 1988, 1995; Récanati 1989) has represented major advances in our understanding of these phenomena and tehir theoretical implications. Thus, whatever one may think of RT, it is a theory that must be taken seriously by anyone working in this area. On the other hand, we find that RT suffers from one of the principal afflictions of the aforementioned work in GB/P&P/Minimalism mainstream: a remarkable failure to address, come to terms with, and incorporate the extensive previous literature on the topic under current consideration. (Ward & Horn 1999: 555-556)
I'll have to see to that that my own approach takes a careful survey of published literature on the subject of phatic communion, communication, and function. (Not to mention all the modern developments from phatic labor to phatic technology.)
Opting for a much broader notion, Ž&C argue that phatic communication is a type of 'covert communication', specifically, communication characterized by phatic implications, i.e. conclusions that do not depend on the explicit content of an utterance (p. 331). Thus, for instance, every time a speaker utters anything, her utterance will ostensively communicate the assumption that she is alive. By Ž&C's definition, this assumption must be phatic, and they readily admit as much (p. 333). But if this is so, then RTers have simply abandoned trying to account for the traditional notion of phaticness as that which concerns the social relationship between speaker and hearer; their term subsumes phatic information (and much else) without accounting for either our intuitions about phaticness or any significant amount of linguistic data. (Ward & Horn 1999: 556)
Phatic communion was a very broad notion to begin with. Communicating the assumption that one is alive would make phatic communication ideally suited for, say, a paper like Shunsuke Nozawa's "Phatic Traces" (2015). Also, it would probably jibe well with that proto-biosemiotic theory of self-affirmation, i.e. that organisms first and foremost say yes to life (I can't recall the author at the moment because it was a secondary source in Sign System Studies for which I have not re-typed my notes).
Nor is the RT notion 'shared cognitive environment' of much practical use in accounting for linguistic behavior, for unless I BELIEVE something is shared, the fact that it IS shared is not available to me. All we want, of course, are beliefs about one another's shared cognitive environment. As far as we can tell, 'mutually manifest' is simply another term for what others call 'presumed shared knowledge' without providing additional insight into the phenomenon. (Ward & Horn 1999: 557)
Oh lord here we go again with phenomenology.
For example, consider the three ways in which they claim a hearer can draw an inference not explicitly sanctioned by a speaker's intentions (p. 341): covertly (when the hearer does not attribute a communicative intention to the speaker, but both the intention to inform and the intention to conceal this intention are so attributed); accidentally (when the hearer attributes neither a communicative nor an informative intention to the speaker), and inadvertently (when the speaker lacks the intention to communicate an assumption, but the hearer is nevertheless justified in assuming that the speaker intends to communicate it). The first two categories clearly lie within the hearer's belief space, representing the hearer's assumptions about the speaker's beliefs and intentions. The third category, however, presents a state of affairs from an omniscient perspective; it simply describes a situation in which the hearer, unbeknownst to himself, holds a mistaken belief. (For if the hearer ever knew an assumption were 'inadvertent', it would immediately cease being so.) Such a belief state could exist only in God's discourse model, a model to which we are routinely denied access. (Ward & Horn 1999: 557)
These commentators either mixed something up (it should be a situation in which the speaker holds a mistaken belief that s/he does does not communicate an assumption; the belief is mistaken, s/he does in fact communicate an assumption), or they're on to something complex but true, which consequently overturns the theory of microagressions. The whole mess hinges on the word "justified", for these commentators hold that only an omniscient God can justify assumptions. But consider the more mundane illustration of a black man assuming that a white man who is speaking to him is racist. WB does not intend to communicate any assumptions in this regard, but is BM justified in assuming that the speaker (WM) is racist, perhaps due to the very fact that WB is a white man. This sounds a bit absurd but there are those who would agree that BM is justified in this situation to believe that (this of course stems from a radical ideology, but I can't currently think of a more relevant illustration). In short form, those radical ideologists on youtube could be asked how they know that all white men are racists, are they God? are they Kanye West?
The second major problem with Ž&C's RT-based account is the failure to adequately address the relationship between phaticness and conventionalization. Ž&C see phatic communication as 'in principle, independent of standardisation and conventionalisation' (p. 329). This is far from obvious. Part of what makes a message a 'social convention' is the fact that it is a fixed way of conveying a particular (phatic) message. This point was made with particular eloquence in Morgan's classic 1978 paper that distinguished between CONVENTIONS OF LANGUAGE and CONVENTIONS OF USAGE. (Ward & Horn 1999: 558)
I have a problem with this as well, but mostly because I don't think phatic communication is "in principle" independent of standardisation and conventionalisation. I'm not sure any form of language is.
And that's the problem: we cannot supply an effective counterexample, since in principle there ARE no counterexamples. If we offered an example where what is said would clearly seem matter, such as 'I want to break up!' or 'You can go to hell!', Ž&C could respond with: 'Well, in that context the relevance of the linguistically-derived content overrides the phatic content'. But for this response to be convincing, we require a characterization of those aspecs of linguistically-derived content that 'override' the act of ostension itself. The general vagueness of the analysis precludes the falsification of Ž&C's claims: if the context is such that what is said doesn't matter, then the utterance is more phatic; if the context is such that what is said does matter, then the utterance is less phatic. But what is it about a given context, specifically, that would lead to one interpretation over the other? All we get are anecdotal observations (and constructed anecdotes, at that). (Ward & Horn 1999: 559)
The case is very similar with Jakobson's linguistic functions. We know that there are dominant and subordinant functions and this is frequently brought to bear on the discussion, but no-one can really delineate what exactly makes an utterance predominantly this rather than that. Also, I'd like to see more illustrations as well. The constructed anecdotes were memorable, but surely there are empirical examples? Maybe from general history?
To illustrate the problem of Ž&C's heavy reliance upon their intuitions, consider their concession (p. 335) that phaticness is a matter of degree, i.e. that utterances may be 'relatively phatic', or 'both phatic and non-phatic'. But on what basis? Like most researchers in RT, Ž&C seem to be relying exclusively on their intuitions for what counts as 'phatic'; some additional evidence or at least some kind of heuristic would be useful. To take a single example that could easily be multiplied, Ž&C assert (p. 335) that How are you? is 'more likely to lead to a phatic interpretation' than How are you today?, which, in turn, is claimed to be more phatic than How are you these days? But what is the basis for this (statistically based) claim? If anything, it strikes us that some of these contributions, depending on the context, may have a phatic AS WELL AS, rather than INSTEAD OF, an information-seeking function. (Ward & Horn 1999: 560)
This is not only the case with Ž&C but with most (if not all) phatic researchers. By way of heuristics Ž&C did provide a concise list of phatic characteristics. And the "as well as" question is not a problem in functionalist thinking (dominant function vs subordinated functions). // Though now that I think about it this really illustrates the problem with phatics in general - the intuitiveness of it, as well as the profound misinterpretation of Jakobson's functions (which actually characterize sub-codes of language).
The efforfulness of processing, of course, is not inherent in a linguistic expression; it will vary with the context. (Ward & Horn 1999: 562)
Ah, above, when reading Vincent Miller's recent paper, this is what I had in mind when I ranted about the "energy" put into constructing social media posts. There seems to be an over-arching assumption elsewhere in phatic studies as well that phaticity is less effortful than other forms of communication. I'll have to keep an eye out for this facet.
Another area left vague is the gradient nature of phaticness itself. The authors concede that phaticness is a 'more or less' phenomenon. But when do we get more and when do we get less? We are never given any heuristics to guide us. But Ž&C do employ a clever decoy to forestall potential accusations of vagueness: they simply claim (p. 346) that their account is 'precise': 'Relevance Theory makes relatively precise preconditions about when hearers or addressees will derive phatic implicatures and interpretations.' Relevance Theory does many things, but alas this cannot be numbered among them. (Ward & Horn 1999: 562)
In Jakobson's writings there is a gradient nature to the expressive function (mainly because it involves speech sound qualities that pertain to emotional qualities on a gradient), but this is the first I've seen similar suggested with regard to phatics. Since phaticity is not a phonological (or is it phonetic?) phenomenon, it's difficult to tell what makes a given utterance more or less phatic. Some heuristic is indeed in order.
Specifically, Ž&C leave entirely unaddressed the question of how their (idiosyncratically and inconsistently defined) notion of phatic communication differs from other types of non-propositional, or 'non-descriptive', meaning. Throughout the century, a wide range of terms have been proposed to cover this type of meaning (e.g. 'emotive', 'attitudinal', 'interpersonal', 'expressive', 'social'); however, their relation to phatic communication is left as an exercise for the reader. (Ward & Horn 1999: 562)
Curiously, I'm on top of all of these types and how they relate to the phatic function. In short order: Marty/Jakobson; Mead/La Barre; Ruesch/Bateson; Hymes; Malinowski.
Although Ž&C do cite the work of Malinowski, Jakobson, and Laver, they do not mention the equally important and relevant theoretical frameworks of Argyle, Bühler, Firth, and Halliday. (Ward & Horn 1999: 562-563)
Bühler? I read Bühler from the phatic standpoint; he has very little to say about it, and writing about it in his perspective would be tedious to most anyone but Bühlerians. Firth is in order, but I don't currently have access to The Tongues of Men (1937). With Argyle and Halliday I'm sure they've written something about phaticity (Kulkarni cited Halliday), but with Argyle I have no idea where to begin (his corpus is huge).
While phatic communication is an important area of linguistic (and non-linguistic) interaction, showing how a couple of examples CAN be accounted for within a particular framework does not in itself represent an intellectual advance. More useful would be some kind of taxonomy of the various subtypes of phatic communication; clearly certain topics are more readily available for phatic interpretations than others. What are they and why is this so? That is, what is the (culturally based) source for phatic communication? (Ward & Horn 1999: 363)
Pffff. Exactly what we're trying to do here. But I have to admit, it's not easy. Currently all we have is a roundabout historical to genealogy (1920s-1960s), an exposition of neglected authors and concepts (Mead & Morris, Ruesch & Bateson), and a whole bunch of divergent developments in various media (phatic gesture, phatic image, phatic traces, phatic finger, phatic foundain, etc.).

Žegarac, Vlad and Billy Clark 1999b. Phatic Communication and Relevance Theory: A Reply to Ward & Horn. Journal of Linguistics 35(3): 565-577.

What is it that makes certain acts of communication tokens of a particular type of communicative behaviour, namely phatic communication? This question can be tackled in various ways. For example, phatic communication can be described by identifying systematic correspondences between (i) particular situational settings (e.g. having a casual conversation at a bus stop), (ii) aspects of linguistic (and paralinguistic) forms of communicative acts (e.g. the use of conventionalized expressions about particular topics, say, the weather) and (iii) the social function(s) of those acts in those settings (e.g. to avoid silence, to establish and maintain a good atmosphere of sociability, and so on). (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 566)
In other words: context, message, and effect. These seem like pretty good heuristics, no?
We do not dispute the usefulness of exercises of this sort, but we have some doubts about their explanatory value. The problem with existing accounts of phatic communication is that there is no logical argument going from a particular theory of communication to an explicit and detailed characterization of this type of communicative behaviour. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 566)
I'm not sure this is the primary problem, but I understand the value of their contribution as introducing the structure of a logical argument. In other words, their own definitions are at least internally consistent, take it as you will.
Second, the data for pragmatic analysis are not the direct observable features of a type of communicative behaviour, but rather, interpretations of observable behaviour. Let us expand on this. Human communicative behaviour is best explained in terms of causal chains consisting of some public representations (i.e. acts of communication which can be observed and interpreted) and some private representations, that is, thoughts and inferences, which are not observable, but which cause, and are caused by, the observable public representations (see Sperber 1996; Sperber & Wilson 1986/95). (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 567)
To me this sounds like paraphrased Peirceanism.
They seem to think that phaticness can only be investigated fruitfully by first describing and classifying a vast range of (naturally occurring) data. They might have a case if phatic communication were not an already established and widely accepted technical term. But it is: pragmaticists, social psychologists, anthropologists and ethnographers of communication do not spend much time arguing about whether particular exchanges are, or are not, instances of phatic communication. Moreover, phatic communication is a rather intuitive technical term: one does not need years of training to develop a feel for distinguishing between phatic and non-phatic exchanges. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 567)
The fact that it's an already established and widely accepted technical term that's "rather intuitive" is part of the problem. There is an illusion of simplicity that goes along with the study of phaticity. The concept is so easy to grasp in fact, that few bother to look into the details to discover the devil of ambiguity, contradiction and complexity.
It seems that what brings together acts of communication which are identified as phatic are not teh resemblances between the public representations which instantiate them (i.e. descriptive similarities), but rather resemblances between the private, mental, representations which are among the causes and among the effects of those public representations (i.e. interpretive similarities). Hence, if people generally find the term phatic communication easy to grasp, it is because their intuitions latch onto the interpretations that certain acts of communication have for those who take part in them. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 568)
You can really do anything with the private/public distinction, can't you?
W&H's remark that 'even traditionally-defined phatic communication (à la Malinowski) represents such a vast and disparate range of data that it would be extraordinary to find that it could be reduced to a corollary of R[elevance] T[heory]' (p. 556) misses this important point. What makes phatic communication a recognizable use of language is precisely the resemblance between the patterns of interpretation that underlie a 'vast and disparate range of data'. Therefore, an explanatory insight into phatic communication cannot be gained by looking at the directly observable data: they are as disparate as they seem. What is needed is an explicit characterization of the interpretive resemblances that bring the data together. Our attempt to provide such an account is located within the framework of a general theory of communication and focuses on a few clear-cut examples. Our approach does not attempt the reduction of a vast range of data to a corollary of Relevance Theory, but it does provide a way of reconciling the intuitive unity of phatic communication with the diversity of its manifestations. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 568)
Okay, I'm sold. If only because the case is rather similar on the metatheoretical level, where the theories, frameworks, approaches, and objects are represent a vast and disparate range, all the while presenting an intuitive unity.
Consider the following quote from a study of phatic communication:
Phatic discourse is too complex a phenomenon to be dealt with in only one book. Much has remained unsaid about it, many details have only been touched upon and require further investigation. Future research needs to concentrate particularly on the induction of other situational frames from instances of naturally occurring data. It seems desirable, for example, to gain more insight into party talk for a more comprehensive understanding of small talk. (Schneider 1988: 288)
Schneider's conclusion about the need for collecting and describing more data reads like a promissory note, and one which we have no reason to believe could be fully honoured. His data-based study fails to provide a coherent and theoretically well-motivated characterization of phatic communication, and, in the absence of a general theory of human communicative behaviour, a description of party talk will remain just that: a description of party talk. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 569)
I really should look into Schneider's book (it's available in Sebeok's library). If even phatic discourse (a limited case) is too complex to be dealt with in only one book, what hope is there for a single paper to attempt "a coherent and theoretically well-motivated characterization" of the whole field? I think our meta-analytic paper must come with a great deal of apology: we may not be able to define it succinctly and satisfactorily, we may not be able to provide a taxonomy, nor a practical heuristic for the study of it. At best we can demonstrate the salience of some details in original conceptions, point to some less-trotted avenues that may be beneficial for future research, and attempt an overview of current developments and the state of the art.
Our point is that utterances may be interpreted as phatic even when their phaticness is not conventionalized. Moreover, utterances which are conventionally phatic may have non-phatic interpretations in some contexts. (It may also be worth noting that, intuitively, the expression 'conventionally phatic' is not pleonastic.) Therefore, phaticness needs to be explained independently of conventionalization. This does not amount to rejecting the importance of conventionalization out of hand. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 571)
True, but what does "pleonastic" mean?
Let us consider the utterance in (4) in a different setting:
  1. On Monday, A and B were in a meeting and had a heated argument. They haven't spoken to each other since then. On Tuesday morning A says to B: I've made tea. Would you like some?
On any characterization of phatic communication, the offer of tea in (4) is a phatic act. It is an expression of the speaker's generally favourable social attotidue towards the hearer, rather than being motivated by the speaker's concern about the hearer having a sore throat, suffering from dehydration, and so on. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 571-572)
Oh lawd. Offering tea is a phatic speech act? It's all confusing and beautiful because phatic act has a specific meaning in Austin's framework, very much unconnected to any of this. On the other hand, expression of favourable social attitude is quite La Barrean.
They do not, for example, point out any ways in which our Relevance-theoretic analysis of phatic communication would benefit from the approach of, say, Argyle and Halliday. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 576)
Yup. In the same vain I have a hard time imagining what benefit could be adduced from the approach of Karl Bühler. As much as I have used his work myself with regard to phatics it leads to über-functionalist theorizing with very little relevant outcomes that would take the field further. Bühler simply does not consider "contact" that thoroughly, it's not in his purview. (Though I may have to re-read Bühler to verify this assumption; after all I read him a year ago and my understanding of phatics has expanded exponentially since.)
We do not see whot would have been gained by also listing the names of some of the authors mentioned in Schiffrin's survey, as W&H do. To us, this would seem to be a rather pointless way of making our paper a little, and our bibliography a lot, bigger. (Žegarac & Clark 1999b: 576)
I have to agree. Ž&C did not intend an overview or meta-analysis of phatic studies. There would have been little point in expanding their bibliography just for the fuck of it. Our meta-analysis, on the other hand, could fit in as many relevant references as possible (with exposition on their content, of course) because we do not propose a new theory or approach but a roadmap, a way-sign. But overall, this exchange was a good read. Both sides had persuasive points. There should be more of this kind of correspondence in our science. (Haha, I just now noticed that Ž&C did take some of W&H's critique - about cognitivism - to heart and changed the title of the paper, which was originally "A cognitive account of phatic communication".)

Coupland, Justine 2003. Small Talk: Social Functions. Research on Language and Social Interaction 36(1): 1-6.

Small talk has conventionally been taken, from both lay and academic perspectives, as a formulaic and superficial mode of talk. More recent work, for example in J. Coupland (2000), has helped to bring into the foreground of research on social interaction a debate about the more positive, more prosocial functioning of small talk. This collection of articles continues the work of exploring the wide range of social settings, genres, and topics in which talk might, in various senses, be regarded as "small" and to further explain the implied contract between "small" and (supposedly) "full" forms of talk, along with the sociopolitics such assumptions carry with them. But beyond this, the articles here take inquiry into small talk forward and mainly in one direction - to a richer and more diverse appreciation of the social functioning of small talk. (Coupland 2003: 1)
It would appear that this debate is contagious, as even people who are otherwise philosophers feel the need to chime in after reading a bit of Coupland (1992). I'm thinking of the bitterly disappointing paper by Holba (2008), above. On the other hand, the sociopolitical aspect comes to the foreground more forcefully, especially when Nozawa (2015) relates it to an ideology of communication.
Some general arguments have been made in previous work [...] that small talk enacts social cohesiveness, reduces inherent threat values of social contact, and helps to structure social interaction. (Coupland 2003: 1)
So, group integration, propitiation, and lubrication.
As humans, we have significant emotional investment in what others think of us, through the impressions others gain of us in our contacts with them (Goffman, 1972, p. 319). (Coupland 2003: 2)
Huh, this is a reference to Goffman's "On face-work", which I have re-typed in full in this blog. I guess I'll have to-visit my notes someday soon.
We might refer to Halliday's description (e.g., Halliday, 1978) of language as simultaneously realizing three functions, or aspects, of meaning: the ideational (the expression of content or the experiential aspect of meaning), the interpersonal (how the message expresses the social relationships between the relevant interlocutors), and the textual (which realizes meanings via the structure and organization of the message itself). So, for example, in making a comment on the weather to an acquaintance at the train station (e.g., "lovely day today" or "what rain!") it is not that there is no ideational significance in the message, but for the purpose of the exchange in that context and at that moment, the interpersonal focus is foregrounded: Sociable contacts holds sway (via the somewhat formulaic textual design of such messages) over the ostensible interest in the weather. (Coupland 2003: 2)
I have a hard time seeing how this is any different from Jakobson's hierarchy of linguistic functions, aside from there being fewer of them.

Peace, Adrian 2013. The phatic finger: Public gesture and shared meaning on the highways of the Australian Outback. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 24(1): 99-114.

Greeting is the recognition of an encounter with another person as socially acceptable (Firth 1973: 229)
The manner in which people greet one another in Australia's Top End is striking, and no one who lived in the Northern Territory for any length of time can remain indifferent to it. I am not referring here to face-to-face encounters of the type so incisively explored by Goffman (1967, 1971). My interest lies in the frequency with which people acknowledge one another when travelling at speed on the highways of the Outback. Across the Northern Territory, the maximum speed limit since 2007 has been 130 kph, the highest in the country by a substantial margin, yet many Territorians consider breaking even this limit as natural as breaking wind. So when two vehicles pass in opposite directions, they do so at exceptional speed - but virtually as a matter of course, most drivers acknowledge the presence of others by a movement of the index finger or raise of the hand. Sometimes whan one observes are encounters between people who are acquainted: their journeys are short, from the Territory's downs to smaller settlements, pastoral properties and Aboriginal outstations. But the bulk of highway traffic involves long distance trips by locals and non-locals, who are therefore acknowledging entirely unknown others in distinctly anonymous conditions. (Peace 2013: 99)
You don't see all that many phatic researchers using Firth (here, Symbols: Public and Private, 1973). Perhaps it's because Firth is discussing greetings which is not a very lucrative avenue, although quintessentially phatic. Even less frequent are studies that deal with nonverbal communication.
It is the social significance of this perpetual public gesturing between people who have never met and are most unlikely to meet which is of interest here. To make sense of it, I draw on what Malinowski (1923) had to say about phatic comunion, a kind of communication not aimed at exchange of substantive knowledge about the world, but the expression of some degree of sociability towards others, even the constitution of a modest sense of human solidarity. (Peace 2013: 100)
Nice, Malinowski is paraphrased rather than quoted profusely. That's a good sign.
Second, whilst giving someone the finger may be 'unambiguous and unmistakable', the opposite behaviour is assuredly not. Raising the finger or hand in greeting can be interpreted in a number of ways, which makes it somewhat similar to the wink as described by Geertz. (Peace 2013: 100)
He didn't even have to mention "thick description", an expression long outworn in many quarters of academia. Also, the middle finger (the eff off) is unambiguous but the index finger as a greeting is ambiguous. Isn't this also the case with verbal signs? Insults are easy to decode as insults, but congratulations and compliments often lead to misunderstanding.
Across the Top End, highway driving makes considerable demands on those at the wheel. Distances are great, roads are straight, interesting man-made distractions are few and far between. Roadhouse proprietors strive to distinguish their enterprises from others, but most people use them for essential functions, above all to stock up on fast food. Such resources are considered necessary to get through journeys across the Outback, along with a travelling companion who knows when to speak - and when to shut up. (Peace 2013: 101)
There should be more research on this phatic aspect of when to speak and when to shut up. The bluntness of the expression perhaps amuses, but the issue is in my opinion relevant, and very much related to interpersonal dynamics and phaticity.
It is then faily evident that raising the finger down the highway at the very least punctuates the tedium of travel. Approaching these non-verbal exchanges as a form of secular ritual, however, is warranted because of several quite specific attributes. The first aspect of this secular ritual is that this behaviour is, in performative terms, markedly contextual. It is specific only to the open highway, which means it is contingent on the conceptual opposition between city and bush. Certainly, if a vehicle accesses the major highway by way of a minor route through open country, raising the finger to passing traffic might be routine. But this kind of conduct would be entirely inappropriate to the city. (Peace 2013: 101)
There is something very down-to-earth in all this.
But on the highway, there is an implicit understanding that all are fellow travellers faced with much the same demanding circumstances, and it is this basic commonality which is being acknowledged by the raising of a finger or a wave of the hand. Conspicuous material differences are set to one side on the understanding that the highway is a shared space where an elementary sense of sociability can be constituted. To this extent, the northern highway is a social leveller. (Peace 2013: 103-104)
This is where the concept of communization would fit in well: this basic commonality is based on shared experience, and thus conditions communication.
This brings us to the third, arguably most intriguing, feature of this collective behaviour: there is no social compunction on the individual to be part to it. It is entirely up to the individual driver whether he or she becomes involved, and makes the effort invested in it. An appropriate comparison is the situation in small, face-to-face communities, whether in Australia or overseas, where failure to acknowledge the presence of others from behind the wheel is looked upon most unfavourably. The recalcitrant may be considered stand-offish and proud, or ignorant and rude, but if such conduct continues without due explanation, some form of social sanctioning gets underway. An essential property of the greeting system in the Outback, by contrast, is the self-evident impossibility of exercising any sanction against the uncommunicative driver. (Peace 2013: 104)
This is indeed intriguing, not the least because this ordeal of social sanctions is generally not mentioned in phatic studies. It is present in studies of "normative control" in dorms, for example, but somehow missing from the studies I've been reading here.
The analytical point I have tried to establish so far is that by exercising choice over when to acknowledge the presence of others, which others to acknowledge and which to ignore, and how to make an effective sign of co-presence, those traversing the Top End are not only exploring the expressive potential of the hand, they are introducing a modicum of sociability into a physical environment which seems, at first glance, quite unamenable to communicative conduct. (Peace 2013: 105)
If I'm mistaken, Firth is one of the very few who explicitly treat greetings as a system of signs. Other modern writers scratch the surface of semiotics by applying some form of Peirceanism or throw around "semiotic" as a buzzword, but rarely does anyone take the sign systems approach seriously.
My concern in this article is simply to establish the point that varied significances and diverse meanings are present in this social order of non-verbal communication. People are variously drawn into this ritual play, they attend to it with different degrees of enthusiasm, and they are diversely reflective on why they play a part in the ways that they do. Unlike the 'unambiguous [...] unmistakable [...] "eff-off" injunction' (Trumble 2010: 193), deployment of the friendly finger is a form of behaviour involving a diversity of intentions and interpretations. (Peace 2013: 107)
Like... a micropolitical structure?
The crucial point is that, whether verbal or non-verbal, phatic messages are not about substantive social issues. Often enough, they are not even meant to be taken literally (for example, elaborate enquiries into another's health). But this not to claim they are somehow inconsequential or meaningless. (Peace 2013: 108)
Negation of unimportance, a frequent player in phatic studies.
If we assume, then, that the strategic use of the fginger as a key symbol of community belonging, of its being able to signify the essence of community-ness, is part of the stock of knowledge of most drivers in the Top End, it seems reasonable to propose that the combined effect of regular and repeated greetings is such as to create a simulacrum of community between these fellow travellers. Not only do these ritual greetings serve to punctuate the burden of long distance travel, they provide those who enter into the spirit of things, so to speak, with a sense of belonging to a broader social collectivity of people who have much the same concerns and issues as themselves. (Peace 2013: 109)
Ah, so the diffused community (somewhere above) could actually be called a simulacrum of community. // Also, having "much the same concerns and issues as themselves" amounts to Ruesch's communization.

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