|Linguistic dimensions of interactivity in computer-mediated communication : a comparative study of corporate posts on Twitter and Weibo
|Wu, Dongying Doreen (CBS)
|Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Language and the Internet
Communication and technology
Online social networks
|Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
|297 pages : illustrations
|This study makes a linguistic contribution to the notion of interactivity in computer-mediated communication and the concern of building dialogic relationships in external corporation communication. As a key characteristic that distinguishes social media from traditional media, interactivity in computer-mediated communication has been primarily studied from technological and reception perspectives, with very few communicative and linguistic considerations. Positing that interactivity is also a textual characteristic of corporate or organizational discourse in social media, this study extends the line of research on text-based interactivity by revisiting and incorporating concepts from interactional linguistics. Specifically, text-based interactivity is conceptualized as a tripartite construct which involves the following aspects or means of realization: 1) interactive linguistic features; 2) relational speech acts; and 3) topical intertextuality. Interactive linguistic features refer to the linguistic forms that emulate the "conversation ideal", including (intimate) address forms, personal pronouns, and discourse particles, through which corporations speak to their social media followers with a conversational human voice. Relational speech acts are the specific types of speech acts that aim to fulfill interpersonal functions of the utterances such as sharing and expressing emotions rather than primarily transactional and one-way information disseminating purposes. Topical intertextuality is indicative of the diversity and scope of prior texts related to certain topics that corporations assume as shared by their followers and incorporate in their own social media pages with various means of quoting. Such prior texts range from specific credited posts published by other users to the broader socio-cultural texts such as festivals, theme days, major events in the world, or viral memes on the Web.
Data of the study consists of posts published by the top 10 global brands (Interbrand 2015) on their Twitter (the leading English microblogging site) and Weibo (the leading Chinese microblogging site) pages over a three-month period. Findings show both similar and differential patterns in the global brands' means of building interactivity across the two social media platforms. First, the corporations employed a similar array of interactive linguistic features on the two social media platforms, though frequency of occurrence differed. While personal pronouns were the major means of constructing a conversational human voice on Twitter, corporate Weibo exhibited a high level of creativity in utilizing general address forms in Chinese social media and initiating a host of brand-specific address forms for self-appellation and for addressing brand followers as well as a higher frequency of discourse particles. Second, the study observed that there were more speech acts devoted to engaging stakeholders than to disclosing corporate information and promoting corporate accomplishments, which suggests that social media outlets such as Twitter and Weibo have become more of a prevalent tool and an interactive space for corporations to build solidarity and interaction with their followers. With regard to specific relational speech acts across the two platforms, while there were more sharing and expressing acts on Twitter than on Weibo (i.e. corporate users are more likely to share non-advertising content and express emotions or attitudes towards people and events), there were more greeting and directing acts on Weibo than on Twitter. Finally, in terms of topical intertextuality, Twitter was the more active platform of the two that witnessed more retweeting posts originally composed by external authors such as customers, business partners, and media outlet; Twitter also hosted more interactive hashtagging practices by employing a greater number and variety of external hashtag topics that were of general public interest than internal ones that concern the corporations or their immediate communities only; in terms of utilizing sociocultural text such as the Olympic Games, corporations on their Twitter pages again showed more intertextual efforts to appropriate various discourse resources to engage and interact with their followers. It is also noteworthy that intertextual practices of the corporations demonstrate both their global and local identities, highlighting the interface and intersection of global and local discourses or discourse resources activated by the international sports event. Variations were also observed between technology brands and food & beverage brands. In interpreting the similarities and differences, established cultural dimensions were found to play a less important role compared with the trend of an emerging global virtual culture on the one hand and unique communicative practices on respective platforms on the other.
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