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Title:Navigating (trans-)nationality on social media: online sociolinguistic practices among Iranians
Author(s):Sanei, Taraneh
Director of Research:Bhatt, Rakesh M.; Karimzad, Farzad
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bhatt, Rakesh M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Koven, Michele; Davis, Jenny L.
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
online communication
social media
Abstract:In this dissertation, I investigate the (meta)linguistic and (meta)semiotic processes through which identities are constructed, negotiated, and evaluated online and explore how these processes are guided by social actors’ perceptions of online and offline normativities. Following online and offline ethnography, I focus on online practices of Iranian Social Media (henceforth SM) users within and outside Iran to examine how their normative understandings—of contexts, identities, and linguistic/semiotic behavior— lead to the (collective) construction and evaluation of identities at various scale-levels, including more saliently ‘local’, ‘national’, and ‘trans-national’ levels. My ethnographically-grounded analysis is conducted within a choronotopic-scalar framework which I demonstrate provides the necessary analytical-theoretical tools to capture the nuances and intricacies of the online identity work. I draw on different types of online data (including tweet texts, photos, videos, Internet memes, comments, etc.) from different social media platforms (Instagram, YouTube, Twitter) and analyze them in three, what can be considered as, different yet related case studies. The rationale behind focusing on different case studies is to show how similar processes are at work in the negotiations of identity among Iranian SM users inside and outside of Iran, and how the analytical concepts used in this dissertation help account for these seemingly different online contexts. In Chapter 5, I examine the multimodal identity work done by migrant Iranians through Internet memes. I focus on a specific genre of memes, what I refer to as ‘diaspora’ memes, and analyze how differently-scaled chronotopes of normalcy associated with ‘here’ (i.e. diaspora) and ‘there’ (i.e. Iran) are brought along and embedded within the meme frame to create a space where hybrid transnational identities are performed. I also show how normativities of texts, at various levels of semiosis, become indexically linked to normativities of contexts through these chronotopic invocations. In Chapter 6, I focus on the constructions of an idealized image of (migrant-)Iranianness in a context of virality and through SM users’ orientations to larger-scale hegemonic chronotopes. I analyze a viral music video and the ‘reaction videos’ made in response to it to explore how this ‘ideal (migrant-)Iranian’ comes to be constructed and how the artists in the music video are evaluated through the lens of this image. I again specifically show the indexical links made between normativities of texts and normativities of contexts through SM users’ orientations. Finally, in Chapter 7, I turn my attention to online and offline sociolinguistic normativity by focusing on a new non-standard online Farsi orthographic norm. I discuss the chronotopic organization of SM users’ perceptions of orthographic normativity through tracing another idealized image of Iranianness and how this image gets constructed and contested by SM users. Overall, I argue that a better insight into the dynamics of online communication, with its complexity, multisemioticity, polycentricity, and trans-locality/-nationality requires an approach that can accurately capture the organization of normativities—of text, at various semiotic levels, and of contexts—and how these are constantly invoked and adopted in online acts of identification. I demonstrate through the three case studies mentioned above that a framework that integrates the notions of chronotopes and scales together can allow for such detailed investigation of online interaction. Finally, the dissertation contributes empirically to the scholarship on online sociolinguistics by focusing on and drawing attention to an understudied people.
Issue Date:2021-12-02
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Taraneh Sanei
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-04-29
Date Deposited:2021-12

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