Deixis and the micro-coordination of social life in mobile technologies

Spilioti, Thiresia (2012) Deixis and the micro-coordination of social life in mobile technologies. In: Language and Social Media: New Challenges for Research and Teaching Linguistics; 26 - 27 Apr 2012, Leicester, U.K.. (Unpublished)


With social media apps becoming a fixture of current mobile technologies, the time is ripe to take stock of previous research on earlier mobile services (e.g. text-messaging and mobile phone conversations) and discuss their resonance to the growing area of social media research. This paper explores the issue of social presence in mobile technologies, with a focus on referential practices of deixis in text-messaging. Deixis is employed as a tool that allows us to look into the contextual aspects to which users of text-messaging orient, in order to fulfil specific tasks. According to Hanks (2005, p. 191), deixis as referential practice invokes a web of the ‘elementary social relations of speaker, addressee, and object, and the phenomenal context of utterance’. These contextual relations support ‘our sense of co-presence, […] and of the immediacy of the spatial-temporal world in which speech takes place’ (ibid). By exploring deixis as referential practice, this paper discusses the issue of how co-participants communicate these relations in mobile contexts. The study analyses a sample of texts exchanged by young people in Greece (summer 2003-spring 2004). It reveals the proliferation of deictic references in mundane acts of micro-coordinating social activities. The data analysis suggests that the current location of the summoned party is used as a contextual resource in pre-summoning sequences that attempt to negotiate and coordinate the actual summons of an imminent telephone call. At the same time, my participants spatially and temporally position and re-position themselves towards ongoing social arrangements. Habitual engagement with people, places and activities allows participants to (re)formulate locational references in line with the interaction unfolding. Such findings are discussed in relation to current advances in social media research, implicating an increasing blurring of boundaries between face-to-face and a range of mediated interactions.

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