Instant Messaging in Korean Families: Creating Family through the Interplay of Photos, Videos, and Text
Extending previous research on family interaction (e.g., Tannen, Kendall, and Gordon 2007; Gordon 2009) and online multimodal discourse (e.g., Gordon forthcoming), I use interactional sociolinguistics to analyze instant messages exchanged among members of Korean families(-in-law). I explore how family talk is formulated and fostered online through technological affordances and multimodalities. Data are drawn from 5 chatrooms of 5 Korean families(-in-law), or 17 adult participants, on KakaoTalk, an instant messaging application popular in South Korea.In their instant messaging, family members accomplish meaning-making through actions and interactions, between online and offline, and with visuals and texts. This analysis employs the notion of "entextualization" (Bauman and Briggs 1990; Jones 2009), or the process of extracting and relocating (a part of) discourse, actions, materials, and media into a new context. I suggest that this meaning-making process is fundamental to understanding how intertextuality and framing are interconnected (see Gordon 2009), especially in technology-mediated multimodal interaction. I also draw on Tannen's (1994a, 2007) theorizing on power and solidarity and Gershon’s (2010a, 2010b) concept of "media ideologies" to explore familial identity work, especially concerning intergenerational family relationships such as between in-laws and between grandparents and grandchildren, as well as between spouses who manage marital and parental bonds in the context of a long-distance marriage.First, I illuminate the prominent role of everyday photo-/video-sharing in family instant messages and demonstrate how this practice contributes to making meanings. By taking photos and videos, family members perform a form of entextualization that necessarily entails “resemiotization” (Iedema 2003); through technological affordances and multimodalities, everyday moments from life are brought online through visuals and text. I show how different trajectories of meaning-making are created depending on whether photos and videos are shared with or without captions. I characterize this process as 'continuous reframing’ (participants offer different orientations to the photos and videos, as well as the current interaction about them) and ‘enriching intertextuality' (among various technologically-enabled options, participants choose specific ways to capture, share, and communicate about everyday experiences, while also building upon previously shared visuals and texts). I demonstrate how it is accomplished through mutual participation between senders and receivers.Second, I show how family members, during everyday photo-/video-sharing, assume "footings" (Goffman 1981), or alignments, in their chats, thereby enacting various familial identities by using language in patterned ways in recurring interactional activities that include requesting photos and videos of family children, having imaginary conversation with non-present family children, and reporting on babysitting. This suggests how intergenerational family experiences are multimodally and virtually constructed in family chatrooms.Third, extending the idea that family discourse consists of ritualized linguistic patterns (what Gordon 2009 calls "extreme intertextuality") and recurring frames of family experiences, I examine instant messages exchanged, as well as everyday photos shared between members of a married couple in a long-distance relationship. I show how they create and enact their virtual married life to act as both marriage partners and parents.Broadly, my analysis highlights online chat as a site for contemporary family discourse that is coupled with technological affordances and multimodalities. This expands upon the view that family is a discursive construct, demonstrating how the interplay of photos, videos, and text contributes to creating family online. It also illustrates how traditional and contemporary perspectives on family and gender are (re)produced, along with Korea's age-centered culture and language use, online. This study contributes to our understanding of family interaction by examining family discourse in a language that is relatively understudied in this context (Korean), in relatively understudied types of family relationships (in-laws and grandparent-grandchild relationships), in a relatively uncommon family situation (long-distance marriage), and in a relatively new context of communication (instant messaging).
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Choe, Hanwool (Georgetown University, 2015)This study investigates listenership in Instant Messages among five Korean females including the researcher via KakaoTalk messenger (KakaoTalk), a free instant messaging application popular in South Korea. The goal is 1) ...