Reference : Constructing identity with digital walls: a sociolinguistic case study of Luxembourgi...
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
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Constructing identity with digital walls: a sociolinguistic case study of Luxembourgish teenagers on Facebook
Belling, Luc mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Luxembourg is an officially trilingual country, in which German, French and Luxembourgish all play important roles, alongside newer languages associated with migration, such as Portuguese. Within this context, the position of Luxembourgish is characterized by a highly developed spoken/written distinction. Luxembourgish is mainly used as a spoken variety in daily life, in both formal and informal contexts. In contrast, German and French fulfill almost all formal written functions in Luxembourg (Horner & Weber 2008). The education system focuses on teaching standard German, French and English, and written Luxembourgish has minimal official presence in schools. This means that, although a standard form of written Luxembourgish now exists, its knowledge is not widespread among the population.
Despite this, young people are increasingly using Luxembourgish in informal written contexts, especially in the new media, and in social network sites like Facebook in particular. Teenagers use these platforms to communicate with their friends through chat, private messages and on their digital walls (boyd & Ellison 2007). Walls primarily offer the possibility to publish status updates, which were designed to enable users to keep their virtual friends up to date by answering the question: "What are you doing right now"? This kind of mini-blogging has developed further over time and now provides a plurality of communication possibilities (Lee 2011). Walls also enable users to leave public messages (but often with private content) or post multimedia elements like photos and videos on their friends’ walls. Wall interactions represent a complex research field, offering the potential to analyse diverse communication structures. Accordingly, this paper focuses on the digital walls of Luxembourgish teenagers on Facebook.
Previous research has investigated teenagers’ techniques of self-presentation and identity construction through their online profiles, including the potential risks involved (p. ex Kolek & Saunders 2008). This paper focuses on identity construction through walls rather than profiles. A user can construct their identity by uploading photos, videos and status updates to their wall, but messages from other users are also relevant to this construction of an online identity. On the basis of such wall interactions between Facebook users and their friends, the paper will investigate how teenagers present themselves to their network and how this image is received by their audience. A special focus will be on topics of conversation, often including family issues, love life, school problems etc. But not only is content essential for identity construction, language use is also relevant. On the one hand, the teenagers use Luxembourgish in a very liberal and creative way, playing with their limited knowledge of standard orthography. On the other hand, the high proportion of third generation migrant teenagers fluent in both Portuguese and Luxembourgish strongly links the question of identity construction to aspects of the broader Luxembourg language situation.
A longitudinal analysis of all wall posts of 10 Luxembourgish teenagers aged around 15 years old, over a period of six months, will shed light on aspects of youth identity construction on social network sites, as well as contributing a more sociolinguistic approach to the existing research field of youth identities. The analysis of the online data will be complemented with data from ethnographic interviews with the teenage participants, enabling them to express their own opinions and explanations of their on-screen behavior as related to identity construction. Results from these interviews not only provide insights into new forms of online identity creation, but go further and highlight the changing concept of “friendships” through social network sites (Johnson & Becker 2011; Ellison et al. 2007).
YOUTH 2.0: CONNECTING, SHARING AND EMPOWERING? Affordances, Uses and Risks of Social Media
20-03-2013 to 22-03-2013
Researchers ; Professionals ; Students ; General public

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