Theresa Heyd is Chair of English Linguistics and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Greifswald (Germany). Her research is situated in the field of globalized sociolinguistics at the intersection of digital, deterritorialized and diasporic communication. In her postdoctoral work at Freiburg University, she investigated the Digital Diaspora of Nigerian users of English. Her current work is focused on the sociolinguistics of late-modern publics and posthumanist sociolinguistics with a special interest in algorithmic discourse.
This talk will explore strategies of erecting, inhabiting and keeping homes in different digital communities of practice. As digital communication – and its scholarly interpretation – has grown over the decades from a fringe modality into a linguistic practice which reaches into almost every aspect of our lives, so have sociolinguistic concepts of digital place and space shifted, expanded, and become more complicated. As a result, our understanding of language as a mobile resource (Piller 2016) has brought to the fore linguistic concepts of place and space that are not just fluid and transnational, but that may include both offline and online ways of being, both locally anchored and digitally networked communities of practice. As a result, digitally mediated concepts of the home become similarly complicated and may include real and imagined, multimodal and digitally discursive place-making.
In this talk, I will use the lens of convergent digital ethnography (Heyd 2023) to look at the linguistic and semiotic strategies of digital home-makers in different settings. The two communities of practice under scrutiny may seem irreconcilably heterogeneous at first sight. On the one hand, I draw on data from the Nigerian Digital Diaspora and its place-making discourses, which shift between (imagined) nostalgia for the homeland, narratives of the diasporic home, but also conceptualizations of the digital community as a site and target for digital place-making. On the other hand, I consider communities of White British Women and their construction of new domesticity and hygge practices through visual and verbal stagings of the home on Instagram.
Through these practices which permit insight into quite different socialities, desires and material realities, insight can be gleaned into emerging themes of digital home-making, including idealized, staged and nostalgic place-making, but also convergent practices in which the local and digital become blurred and, in some cases, unstable.
Heyd, T. (2023). Complicating the field. In Wilson, Guyanne and Michael Westphal (eds), New Englishes, New Methods. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 243-262.
Piller, I. (2016). Language and Migration. London: Routledge.
Keywords: Place-making, diaspora, online communities, domesticity, nostalgia