Events 2016

Subject: A social semiotic approach towards the communication of interest as a sign of learning

Date: 25 October 2016

Place: Ruth Prowse, Woodstock

Presenter: Safia Salaam


Subject: Making tacit modalities explicit for mastering visual literacy in science

Date: 28 September 2016

Place: Ruth Prowse, Woodstock

Presenter: Natashia Muna (Language Development Group, UCT)


Mastering the Discourse of science involves acquiring an ability to work with a variety of literacies and within them a range of modes of semiotic representations, tools and activities, such as written and spoken language, mathematical calculations, gesture, images and apparatus. Learning to fluently switch between and integrate different modes is central to the process of becoming disciplinarily literate. However, disciplinary experts are generally so fluent in the ‘language of science’ that they no longer recognise the array of modes required, and thus fail to make these proficiencies explicit to students. In order to better understand the modal fluency required, and the barriers to acquisition and meaningful integrating thereof, we observed students during a microscopy laboratory practical and analysed the reports they produced.  During the practical it was evident that most students struggled with using the microscope, identifying exemplar cells and estimating their relative size. In the reports these challenges manifested as an inability to correctly integrate a scale bar into their diagrams, despite being able to perform the necessary calculations correctly. The explanation for this goes beyond the conventions of representation; our analysis of the task indicates that it was actually composed of 12 discrete steps, using three different modes and requiring at least ten mode switches. Importantly, our data indicate that an inability to work proficiently in one mode inhibits the acquisition of another. These finding should inform critical reflections of disciplinary practice and the ethical importance for making tacit practices explicit, relevant and accessible to students.


Writers’ Workshop

Date: 13-16 June 2016

Place: Mont Fleur, Stellenbosch

Attendees:  Arlene Archer, Terri Grant, Cheng-Wen Huang, Aditi Hunma, Claudia Kalil, Akisha Pearman, Zach Simpson, Rachel Weiss


Subject: Goffman online: a virtual linguistic ethnography of ‘facework’ on four popular social media sites

Date: 11 May 2016 (Part 1); 1 June 2016 (Part 2)

Place: Centre for Open Learning, Kramer Building, Middle Campus, 2-4pm

Presenters: Amiena Peck, Shanleigh Roux, Kirby America, Zaib Toyer, Sinovuyo Htlale, Crystal Rudolph (Department of Linguistics, University of the Western Cape)


Seminal work by Erving Goffman (1967) concerning the ritualization of interaction and the emergence of ‘face’ has been extremely useful in the study of engagements of different kinds of face-to-face (FTF) and mediated communication. Goffman describes ‘face’ as “… a positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact” (1967: 57) or more simply put, it is the self-image that an individual wishes to maintain in the social space. While most of the applications of facework theory have been employed extensively in FTF interaction, its application has yet to be fully realized within social media platforms in the virtual domain.

One way to engage with the virtual domain is through a virtual linguistic ethnography approach. This approach has its roots in linguistic landscapes studies, which has shown quite a lot of flexibility in engaging with multimodal signage, language –in –place, geosemiotics and corporeality. Some argue that there is place for LL in the virtual domain in what has been coined the Virtual Linguistic Landscape (cf Ivkovic 2009). The academic rigour within this field has resulted in many turns (spatial, ethnographic, geosemiotic and even corporeal). It is at this juncture that social media as an interactive platform in the virtual space (which is imbued with multimodal resources, new forms of communication and multimedia) is explored in an attempt to uncover virtual social ‘faces’ of individuals, institutions and even nation states. Some studies which have taken up this new path have highlighted the richness and seemingly unending vastness of communication interactive data to be found in the virtual domain (Jones, Chik and Hafner 2015, Deumert 2004; Thurlow and Mroczek 2011, Hine 2000, Kelly-Holmes). Of these contributions, Radford, Radford, Connaway & De Angelis, (2011), is one which show the utility of Goffman’s facework theory within the virtual domain however, it is not situated itself within the very popular social media sites used daily by its millions of users.

Importantly, scholars such as Hine (2000) and Kelly-Holmes (2015) have conceptualized the web as either situated within a largely dialogic (interactive) or monologic (linear) space, with social media and websites emblematic of the two hemispheres respectively. This panel will focus on the dialogic web, and offers a visual-corpus building paradigm of social media sites with specific emphasis placed on a virtual linguistic ethnography (VLE) of ‘face’ on the selected social media platforms.

In this way the mechanics of discoursing sets the stage in the meaning of discourse (to paraphrase Goffman).  While FTF communication is evidently not a commonplace feature of the virtual domain, there is evidence of an iterative virtual ritualization of interaction. It is this new mechanics of discoursing which sets the stage for an analysis of mediated facework within the virtual realm, specifically on Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook and Instagram.

Each of these social media platforms are sufficiently differentiated from one another to offer sharply secerned emergences of ‘face’ within their particular domain. A virtual linguistic ethnography framework (following Hine, 2000, Kelly Holmes 2015) foregrounds aspects such as: defamiliarization with the internet, detailed field notes and accessing of site, analysis and follow up of intertextual and hyperlinks respectively and the use of screen shots and traversals. In this way VLE allows for a close examination of the different manifestations of ‘face’ as well as a novel (virtual) engagement with individuals taking a line, changing footing and maintaining and harming face.

This type of virtual linguistic study contributes to wider research questions, such as: what are the possible ontological implications for the ethnographic fieldworker? Can we talk about a Virtual Linguistic Landscape as an extension of traditional Linguistic landscape studies? What contribution does facework theory offer researchers working with online identity and what ethical guidelines should be followed in the virtual space? Furthermore, what significance does this study have for understanding what language is in the digital age?  An attempt to answer these questions will be put forth within a larger linguistic-semiotic social interactional framing.

Key words: virtual linguistic ethnography, social media, facework, Goffman, web, linguistic-semiotics


“Why I shaved my head and stopped shaving my armpits”: ritualizing ‘transgressive’ facework on YouTube – Shanleigh Roux, PhD

Harming Face in 140-characters: A Goffmanian take on Caitlyn Jenner’s debut on Twitter – Kirby America, PhD

Insta-face: an analysis of Beyonce and Bonang strategic facework and marketing on Instagram – ZaibToyer, MA and Sinovuyo Htlale (Hons)

Fees Must Fall: A virtual linguistic ethnography of anti-institutional facework on FaceBook – Crystal Rudolph, (Hons)

From twitter to court: a forensic virtual linguistic ethnography of Tim Noakes’ contentious facework – Dr Amiena Peck, UWC


Kelly-Holmes, H. 2015.Analyzing Language Policies in New Media.Research methods in Language Policy and Planning: a Practical guide 130-139.1

Thurlow, C., and Mroczek, K., eds. 2011. Digital Discourse: language in the New Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hine, C. 2000. Virtual ethnography.London: Sage.

Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual; essays on face-to-face behavior. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday.

Radford, M., Radford, G., Connaway, L. &DeAngelis, J. (2011). On virtual face-work: an ethnography of communication approach to a live chat reference interaction.LibraryQuarterly, 81(4), 431–453.


Subject: Changing views of digital literacy and identity: towards an understanding of digital leadership

Date: 20 April 2016

Place: Centre for Open Learning, Kramer Building, Middle Campus, 2-4pm

Presenters:  Cheng-Wen Huang, Tabisa Mayisela and Cheryl Brown

This seminar showcases research from the Commonwealth Digital Educational Leadership in Training Action (C-DELTA) research project.

For more details view:


Subject: Multimodality and Writing Centres

Date: 6 April 2016

Place: Centre for Open Learning, Kramer Building, Middle Campus, 2-4pm

Presenters: Cheng-Wen Huang and Akisha Pearman

In this session, we present two chapters from a writing centre book, namely:

Huang, C-W., and Archer, A. (Forthcoming) ‘Training writing centre tutors for argument in a digital age’. In Clarence, S. and Dison, L. (eds) Writing Centres in Higher Education: working in and across the disciplines. Stellenbosch University Press.

Pearman, A. (Forthcoming) ‘Supporting academic communication in Writing Centres in the digital age: The case of video’. In Clarence, S. and Dison, L. (eds) Writing Centres in Higher Education: working in and across the disciplines. Stellenbosch University Press.


Subject: Recognition of Signs of Learning in Jewellery Design

Date: 16 March 2016

Place: Centre for Open Learning, Kramer Building, Middle Campus, 2-4pm

Presenter: Safia Salaam

In this session, Safia presents a framework for recognising signs of learning.


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