Language and affect in digital media: articulations of grief in online spaces for mourning

Giaxoglou, Korina (2014). Language and affect in digital media: articulations of grief in online spaces for mourning. In: Opening New Lines of Communication in Applied Linguistics: Proceedings of the 46th Annual Meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (O'Rourke, Bernadette; Bermingham, Nicola and Brennan, Sara eds.), Scitsiugnil Press, London, pp. 161–171.



Digital media offer new domains for people to articulate aspects of their everyday self and share resources, views, attitudes, and emotions by variously combining the affordances and constraints of different media. The study of users’ articulations of self and moments of sharing opens up new lines of communication for applied linguists, sociolinguists, discourse analysts, linguistic anthropologists, and scholars of computer-mediated communication interested in developing a nuanced understanding of digital practices (see Barton and Lee 2013, Georgakopoulou 2006, Jones and Hafner 2012).

The present paper considers articulations of grief in online spaces for mourning, which constitute a unique window into contemporary ways of displaying and sharing sympathy and/or pain at the face of irrevocable loss. The focus on digital mourning encourages a shift from modernity’s lamenting over the loss of ‘traditional’ grieving and mourning practices and a turn to the study of ways of dealing with death and dying in current Western socio-cultural contexts that are characterized by individualized and medicalized regimes of emotion (see Wilce, 2009). Furthermore, the exchange of support resources, attitudes and emotions accompanying the extraordinary moment of one’s encounter with death renders digital mourning spaces apt for an in-depth understanding of fundamental expressions of affect.

Digital mourning practices raise a set of questions worthy of empirical investigation: first, what types of grieving practices are encouraged in these new domains and how does grief become linguistically articulated? Secondly, what types of meanings are shared and how does grief become socially intelligible in spaces for digital mourning? Finally, how can we study digital mourning systematically and what types of insights can such explorations offer to the study of digital affect more broadly? This paper seeks to shed light to the aforementioned questions to the extent made possible by the discussion of preliminary findings from an on-going empirical study of grieving online.

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