‘London Heart or Kiss FM?’:‘Trouble’ in accounts and meta-talk of media engagements in school-based interaction

Alexandra Georgakopoulou

King's College London, UK

WS156: Interfaces between media, speech, and interaction

Recent sociolinguistic studies of media appropriations and references within classroom interaction have documented their interactional affordances and sequential management. More generally, they have stressed their performative roles and their links with speakers’ social identities (e.g. see Rampton 2007). Less is known, however, about how meta-accounts (i.e. talk about, report of) of media engagements in the classroom (and in other contexts) enmesh with daily realities, shaping both local interactions and impacting on social relations and peer-group organization.

This paper focuses on precisely such engagements (ranging from reported interactions on the MSN to text-messages being received and discussed on the spot to talk about music and TV series), which are both a routine phenomenon in the classroom interactional data under study and cover a wide range of (‘old’ and ‘new’) media and modes of engagement. More specifically, the data are part of the ESRC Identities and Social Action Project on Urban Classroom Culture and Interaction (http://www.identities.org.uk) which has employed the methods of ethnographic sociolinguistics to research the inter-animation of ethnic, techno-popular culture and educational identities in the classroom data of fourteen-year old students in a London comprehensive school. Insights from the audio-recorded data analysis are supplemented by extensive fieldwork, interviews with the participants and the teachers, playback sessions of selected key-excerpts, and a survey conducted by one of our team members, Caroline Dover (2007), on the types and frequency of references to techno-popular culture resources in the data of five focal participants.

The analysis specifically focuses on data from two female focal participants and on two discursive instances of media engagements: a) accounts (I have called these elsewhere small stories of breaking news) that report some kind of ‘trouble’ in media engagements (e.g. interactions that have gone wrong, inappropriate conduct of characters talked about with social consequences for the tellers, etc.) and b) meta-talk about media engagements that also engenders ‘trouble’ in that the participants may not know of, have access to, recognize or approve of one another’s media engagements.

I will show how both activities take us away from the often celebratory accounts of media references in young people’s interaction towards an approach that looks into the actions that such instances of trouble routinely accomplish and how they map with the participants’ positions in peer-groups, their educational identities as well as other ascribed or inhabited self-roles. I will also argue that trouble in media engagements makes relevant moral and aesthetic issues and attempt to show how these can be taken into account in the analysis.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Interfaces between media, speech, and interaction
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 04