Dr Claire Hardaker (Lancaster University, UK)
Mediated aggression: Who is the troll?
For years, computer-mediated communication (CMC) was ignored across many academic fields, or even considered an inferior area of study to that of “traditional” modes of communication such as writing and speech. With the increasing ubiquity of computers, tablets, and smartphones, however, CMC has established itself as a fundamental thread in the complex fabric of social interaction. At the same time, within academia, the study of linguistic aggression, impoliteness, and rudeness evolved in a remarkably similar way. Initially ignored in linguistics as a marginal exception from the norm, from the late 1990s onwards the linguistic study of impoliteness gradually began to assert itself. Perhaps most surprising is how slow the two fields – CMC and impoliteness – have been to come together, and it is only recently that we have begun to see a developing body of research into phenomena such as trolls, cyberstalkers, and catfish. Academia is not alone in finding something to study here, however. CMC has provided the mainstream media with a wealth of easily-demonised, faceless “monsters in the wires”. We have seen front-page stories about ask.fm-related child-suicides, Twitter death threats, and celebrity revenge porn, and in turn, various outlets have striven to unmask and broadcast those allegedly responsible in a form of trial-by-media. There have been a myriad of consequences to this. Politicians and policy-makers have come under immense pressure to “fix” antisocial online behaviour, and in response, anti-censorship advocates have stepped forward to defend the freedom to communicate offensive, and even abusive expression as a fundamental right. In short, the past decade has seen a rush to understand, analyse, prevent, protect, manage, and write about antisocial online behaviour, whilst the speed of CMC’s evolution has left behind slower-moving systems and processes, such as legislation, and of course, ethical practice. In the midst of the pressure to be at the cutting edge of publishing about CMC (whether as a journalist or an academic) ethical considerations have sometimes been sidelined, or when brought to the forefront, the ethical needs of one party, such as public interest, have been used to moot those of another, such as the (allegedly) antisocial online individual. In this paper, I present my own journey as a researcher of antisocial online behaviour, from PhD student whose chosen topic generally raised eyebrows, to PI on an ESRC-funded project that encouraged Twitter to update its online abuse policy. I use that ESRC project and an exemplar case from it to illustrate not only how academics may unwittingly find themselves attempting to balance some difficult conflicting demands, especially if they are working in a fast-moving area that suddenly becomes the focus of intense media interest, but also to demonstrate what can happen when the pressure to unmask online monsters overrides the consideration of the human underneath. This ultimately leads us to the question: when the media attempts to expose an antisocial internet user, knowing that this will likely lead to them receiving a barrage of online abuse or worse, who, then, is the troll?
Dr Rosina Marquez- Reiter (University of Surrey, UK)
The indexicality of morality in understanding evaluations of impoliteness
It is now well-established that participants’ evaluations of each other’s actions are essential for conceptualizing impoliteness. This includes consideration of the role of participants’ evaluations of (perceived) infringed social norms (e.g. Bousfield 2008, 2011; Culpeper 2011) according to their (perceived) intentions (e.g. Archer 2008; Bousfield 2008, 2010; Culpeper, 2005; Terkourafi, 2008).
In light of the potential lack of empirical demonstrability of intentionality and social norm infringement, Mitchell and Haugh (2015) suggest that accountability rather than intentionality is key to understanding evaluations of impoliteness. They add that agency explains why some participants take offence or not. Importantly, for the purposes of this talk, they contend that evaluations of impoliteness are inherently moral (see also Kádár and Haugh 2013, cf. Culpeper 2011) as they are open to complementary appraisals such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and understand their recognisability as rooted in the ethnomethodological understanding of the moral order (Garfinkel 1967, Haugh 2015).
Building on this knowledge and on recent research on the relationship between morality and impoliteness (Kádár and Márquez Reiter 2015), in this talk I offer a close interactional analysis of evaluations of impoliteness. I do this, citing as an example, the way the participants in an episode of Loose Women, a British panel daytime show characteristic of social television (Harboe 1999), invoke morality to justify their identity (Bucholtz and Hall 2005), challenging that of the other while recruiting the audience (Stuart Hall 1980) to their own end.
The analysis shows that morality is invoked to perform ethically positioned and relational identities and sanction those of others in light of attacks; and that the cumulative effect of face attacks contributes to evaluations of impoliteness. This is observed by the participants’ reactions to ‘information preserves’ (Goffman 1971) threats, inferentially rich assessments regarding their own identity position, epistemic orientations to the ongoing talk and appraisals of chronotopically (Bahktin 1981) relevant indexicals (Silverstein 2003).
Attacks of the type observed in this show are expected (consider Garfinkel’s notion of the moral order) and institutionally sanctioned (Lorenzo-Dus 2008, 2009). Nonetheless, they are oriented as interpersonally delicate (Marquez Reiter et al, forthcoming). Specifically, they are heard as impolite insofar as the participants’ reactions indicate that they represent inadmissible violations of individual rights (Kádár and Márquez Reiter 2015).
My talk thus aims to contribute to recent research on the nexus between morality and impoliteness by considering the indexical role that morality can occupy in our understanding of impoliteness evaluations.
Mr Cliff Lansley (EIA, UK)
HIGH STAKES - using rapport and directness as tools in behavior analysis to expose those with mal-intent at 30,000 feet.
The role of an Air Marshal has developed from passive observer to one involving engagement and elicitation. This is a trend following the low success rates being achieved by passive observation alone in anti-terrorist activity. Rapport and directness are concepts that are at the core of interpersonal communication for under-cover agents applying their elicitation skills in high-stake security contexts. The process is compounded when the under-cover agent needs to establish this rapport from an identity that is, by nature, fabricated. They don’t have the opportunity to use forced, often impolite, interview approaches or interrogation that suspects are legally obliged to respond to. To do so would expose their cover story, or legend and may drive away the suspect. This experiment highlights how rapport and challenging elicitation techniques were applied by under-cover trainee-agents in an experiment that sought to replicate the real-life, high-stake contexts faced by Air Marshals within an airport and also at 30,000 feet above ground aboard an aircraft amongst a full flight of 162 fellow passengers.
Professor Yongpin Ran (Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China)
‘Equity rights im/politeness’ revisited: Evidence from rapport management in Chinese folk mediation
Im/politeness emerges through evaluations by participants with respect to moral order (Kádár & Haugh, 2013), which is what grounds people’s evaluations of social actions and meanings as im/politeness, im/proper, in/appropriate, and so on (Haugh, 2013, 2015). And as pointed out by Spencer-Oatey and Kádár (2016), im/politeness evaluations can be affected by culturally-based expectations, so there is a need to explore “deep culture perspectives associated with moral foundations and im/politeness”. In line with this, this study will address the relationship between culture and moral order through evaluations of equity rights im/politeness.
Equity rights, as a component of sociality rights, are about consideration and fairness, including cost-benefit considerations, fairness-reciprocity and autonomy-control, these expectations may form the bases of im/politeness judgements (Spencer-Oatey, 2002, 2005). Based on a cross-cultural study on perceptions of impoliteness in five countries, Culpepper (2010, 2011) finds that Chinese people are more sensitive to equity rights violations and argues that one reason might be the ‘reciprocity principle’ in Chinese culture, reflected in Chinese expressions like li shang wang lai (礼尚往来, propriety demands reciprocity). However, this argument cannot explain much, the study goes a step further, offering an interpretation of equity rights im/politeness via qingmian (情面, human emotion and face) — an emic concept consisting of two elements, renqing (人情, human emotion) and mianzi (面子, face). Although some studies have implicated the role of renqing in interpersonal relationships in China (e.g. Chang & Haugh, 2011; Fukushima & Haugh, 2014), certain questions remain unanswered regarding what counts as ‘qingmian’ and its interrelation with im/politeness.
This study focuses on the culture-specific value of qingmian-reciproctyand its influence on im/politeness evaluations. Drawing on evidence from mediators’ rapport management practices in dispute resolution in rural China, this study argues that Spencer-Oatey’s category of ‘fairness-reciprocity’ (the belief that cost and benefit should be ‘fair’ and kept roughly in balance) is empirically inadequate in Chinese culture. A revised notion of “qingmian -reciprocity” is proposed to accommodate the data. In Chinese acquaintance society, especially in rural areas, qingmian is given more priority than fairness and rationality. In some instances, calculating the cost and benefit may hurt other’s feelings. It is assumed that people who know each other have a fundamental belief that they should express emotional concern towards each other (e.g. may contain both affection and tangible benefit such as money, goods, or services), whereby they build up or maintain their mutual face, and vice versa (cf. Hwang, 1987; Chang & Holts,1994).
The analysis of the concept of qingmian-reciprocity examines what counts as qingmian-reciprocity in dis/harmonious situation, and how Chinese mediators evaluate the disputants’ verbal behaviors as im/politeness by invoking norm of qingmian-reciprocity in dispute resolution. It shows that qingmian-reciprocity can be divided into two major types. The first type of qingmian is more affection-oriented, e.g. jueqing (绝情, ruthless), xu jiuqing (叙旧情, talk about emotion in bygone days), qingyi (情谊, friendly feelings); the second type is more face-oriented, e.g. jiangqing (讲情, intercede for somebody), qiuqing (求情, plead for somebody), bu lingqing (不领情, do not acknowledge indebtedness), ni gei ta dian qing ta gei ni dian mianzi (你给他点情, 他给你点面子, if you show some human emotion to him, he will give you some face). It also reveals that renqing-reciprocity is not only a trigger of dispute, but also a resource the mediator uses to repair the damaged relationship between the disputants in order to restore or enhance harmony.
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Spencer-Oatey, H. & Kádár, D. Z. 2016 (forthcoming). The bases of (im)politeness evaluations: Culture, the moral order and the East-West debate. East Asia Pragmatics 1(1).