Thu Apr 21, 2022
Quill Kukla (Georgetown University)
Don’t @ me! The Pragmatics of Technologically Mediated Speech
This paper explores the social force and pragmatic structure of an emerging new class of speech acts - including, for instance, ‘liking’, retweeting, and ‘at’-ing - ithat have only recently become possible to perform. My claim is that new technology and communication infrastructure is generating the possibility of new pragmatic forms of speaking, which can have no face to face equivalent. Standard pragmatic types of speech acts—interrogatives, promises, imperatives, and so forth—are essentially medium independent; they can be performed with one’s voice, in writing, over electronic media, in sign language, etc. But, I will try to show, other pragmatic speech act types are inherently medium dependent and technologically mediated. I will defend two theses: (1) The technologically enabled online speech acts I will explore have distinctive pragmatic structures, which are irreducible to speech act types performed over other media or in person. (2) Many of these online speech acts are socially potent: they serve to constitute and organize social space in important ways. In particular, they are used to negotiate and solidify the boundaries between group insiders and outsiders, and the norms of social engagement within groups.