IPrA Conference (3): last reflections and a look forward

In this final round-up of reports from the International Pragmatics (IPrA) conference in Antwerp, I’m delighted to have reflections of Barbara de Cock on CA and social media (including Twitter!) and then Catrin Rhys looking forward to her and her colleagues’ organisation of the next big IPrA, in Belfast 2017.

Barbara de Cock: CA, CMC and social media

Barbara de Cock, Université Catholique de Louvain

Barbara de Cock, Université Catholique de Louvain

While some enthusiastic IPrA-participants published about 1200 #IPrA2015 tweets, the proportion ofparticipants active on Twitter was fairly limited (only about one percent of participants published several tweets). In this respect, it is even more interesting that a wide offer of analyses of online production and interaction was offered, including various panels and lecture sessions on different aspects of social media and CMC (computer-mediated communication).

Do’s and don’ts were shared concerning downloading data (in spite of the platforms’ restrictions), searching big data including non-standard language use (Lutzky & Kehoe found no less than 58 orthographic variants for oops – so far for automatized searches…). While CMC are often considered to be interactive, the distinction between different forms of CMC perhaps merits further attention, especially in terms of interaction. Thus, while on the one hand matchmaking websites certainly are conceived with a view to receiving reactions (Heyse) and Whatsapp aims to create group interaction (Björkland, Al Zidjaly), other CMC forms are less interactive. Indeed, blogs, tweets (microblogging) and online reviews (Virtanen) are more conceived of as a forum for expressing the author’s ideas, news etc. Even though reaction/interaction is possible in those cases in comments section of blogs, through reply tweets and retweets (Page) etc., such interaction turns out to be far more limited in (micro)blogging platforms (Salonen, De Cock & Coesemans).

The social relevance of research on the pragmatics of social media was convincingly shown in Walter Daelemans’ plenary on the AMIcA project, arguing that stylometry and the automatized analysis of pragmatic features contribute to detecting cyberbullying, sexually transgressive behavior,… It seems, then, that social media research may be right in tone with the 2017 Belfast IPrA thema “Pragmatics in the real world“.

Catrin Rhys: The next IPrA, Belfast (Northern Ireland) 2017

Catrin Rhys, University of Ulster

Catrin Rhys, University of Ulster

IPrA2015 showed us what a wealth of CA research there is out there and how varied it is. With nine lecture sessions to capture the non-themed CA submissions and close to 20 CA relevant panels (along with stray CA papers in non-CA sessions), the biggest challenge for us CA-ers was how to decide what to miss. And with the great and the good of CA cropping up in both the panels and the generic CA sessions, I’m sure it was a scheduling nightmare.

So what about IPrA2017?

Well, firstly, we listened carefully to the “constructive comments” on scheduling. It makes for a more enjoyable conference experience when you can pick a room and stay there, so that’s our goal. At the risk of sounding ridiculously grandiose, the cohesiveness of sessions in a conference is a reflection of the structure of the discipline. The huge variety of work under the CA banner led one IPrA participant to ponder whether CA would survive as a single discipline. An alternative view is that the variety makes CA a mature discipline with identifiable subthemes/concerns. With this in mind, all thoughts and comments on organizing principles will be gratefully received.

Secondly, we observed that the “luminaries” are always going to attract huge numbers, so make sure the room will hold them. Heritage’s session in the Change of State panel unsurprisingly was full to overflowing.   Though as one of the many left squinting at his Powerpoint slides from the hallway, I did at least get to gather a great “change of state” contrastive pair:

Passerby 1: ((registers listeners gathered at the door)): Who’s speaking?
Me:               John Heritage.
Passerby 1:  Oh:

What better illustration do we need of the complexities of epistemic status?

Lastly, we are optimistic for another strong CA presence contributing to the “Pragmatics in the real world” theme at IPrA2017 in Belfast. CA is, after all, about interaction as social action so it sits squarely inside the conference theme. And as the high number of IPrA2015 papers on very specific contexts of interaction attests, CA-ers are pretty focused on the “real world”. So, we are excitedly awaiting your CA panel and paper submissions for IPrA2017.

Looking for something good? Photo by Michael Meeuwis

Looking for something good? Photo by Michael Meeuwis

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