Since the end of the twentieth century, New Media has transformed our lives and the way we communicate. Not only has the internet and text messaging impacted on the language we use – for example in the form of ‘txtspk’ – but digital technologies also shape how we interact with those around us, as well as allowing ‘globally-dispersed’ communities to form as people online rally around shared interests, political causes and common goals.
However, for many people – teachers, parents, community leaders – new communications technology also sparks serious concerns and raises troubling questions. Should we worry about ‘txtspk’ and the effect it has on children’s literacy? What impact is the internet having on traditional community networks and our sense of the social? How are Wikipedia, websites and blogs altering notions of authority and what it means to be an author? And is the internet bolstering the global dominance of English at the expense of minority languages?
This module looks at how these public fears can be addressed using tools and theories of applied linguistics, through their application in seminars to naturally-occurring online texts. It explores, for example, the principles and patterns behind unconventional online spellings, the use and significance of multimodal resources, what it means to be literate in an online, connected world, and the nature and function of online social networks. It also asks how online data can be collected and exploited, and whether existing frameworks of analysis can unproblematically be transferred online.
By the end of this module, you will have studied a range of current online contexts – from websites and wikis to texting and Twitter - and will be equipped to consider the implications and issues that arise within the rapidly-changing virtual world.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay