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The multimodal construction of interculturality, authenticity and authority in YouTube videos

Friday 29 April 2022, 12:00-13:30 (UK time)

The multimodal construction of interculturality, authenticity and authority in YouTube videos

Dr Jenifer Ho, City University of Hong Kong

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YouTube is increasingly used as a platform for knowledge sharing and construction. This trend is reinforced and popularised by the COVID-19 pandemic which results in an increasing number of people turning to YouTube for information and knowledge. The platform provides a space for micro-celebrities to come into contact with audience from a variety of lingua-cultural backgrounds, thus creating ample opportunities for intercultural communication. In these instances, micro-celebrities make certain aspects of their identities relevant or irrelevant through drawing on discursive and multimodal resources – performing Interculturality (Nishizaka, 1995; Zhu, 2015). Furthermore, during the pandemic, these micro-celebrities are influential not merely in terms of the way they portrait themselves aesthetically, but they also garner ‘moral credibility’ through performing their ‘authentic self’ (Tolson, 2001; Valentinsson, 2018). Thus, it is more important than ever to understand how interculturality and authenticity are constructed not only linguistically, but also multimodally, as is often the case in YouTube videos where micro-celebrities draw on the affordances of a wide range of semiotic resources for identity work.

This talk focuses on two videos created by multilingual YouTube micro-celebrities during the pandemic. By analysing one selected ‘moment’ in each video, informed by moment analysis (Li, 2011) and multimodal analysis (Kress, 2010), I demonstrate how such analyses can offer us insights into the multimodal construction of interculturality and authenticity by focusing on spontaneous and momentary actions which go beyond the linguistic mode. I further argue that the micro-celebrity’s multimodal performance of interculturality and authenticity grants him authority to be a promoter of certain cultural and health practices. The study can potentially pave way for a better understanding of the use of vernacular practices by micro-celebrities for global digital (health) communication.

 About the Speaker:

 Jenifer Ho is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, City University of Hong Kong. Her research interests lie in the areas of multimodality and translanguaging in digital platforms. She is particularly interested in recreational language learning of adults in online platforms and in the digital wild. She has published extensively in the use of YouTube videos for teaching and learning. In recent years, she has begun to explore how online videos play a role in shaping cultural identities and promoting health practices. Her work has appeared in Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Journal of Second Language Writing, Qualitative Research, and System.

MULTIMODALITY TALKS Series is a joint initiative for researchers across the world who are interested in multimodality. It aims to provide a platform for dialogue for advancing multimodal research across disciplines. Multimodality draws attention to how meaning is made through the combined use of semiotic resources such as gesture, speech, face expression, body movement and proxemics, (still and moving) image, objects, sound and music, writing, colour, layout, and the built environment. MULTIMODALITY TALKS Series is organised by The UCL Visual and Multimodal Research Forum, the University of Leeds Multimodality@Leeds and Insulander/Svärdemo Åberg at the Department of Education, Stockholm University. It is conceived of working as a tandem with the Bremen-Groningen Online Workshops on Multimodality to make the best of the online format to offer multiple chances for sharing research and stimulating discussions on multimodality worldwide.