Sirpa Leppänen

Intersectional (Dis)identifications on Superdiverse Social Media

Combining theories and methodologies from the study of language, gender and sexuality, sociolinguistics of globalization and superdiversity; the study of multisemioticity, and discourse-centred online ethnography my work looks at how social media are used in identification and disidentification, particularly focusing on intersections of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class, and how such activities require new forms of expertise in which the capacity to mobilize varied semiotic resources is crucial for participation.

With data drawn from different interventional, interest-driven and translocal social media genres – shreds (subtitled and edited music videos), counter-blogging (blog parodies), buffalaxing (edited and subtitled film snippets) and mashup videos (sampled and edited media content),  my work shows how in such transgressive social media practices gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class feature and intersect in ways which range from discrimination and marginalization, to disparagement humour and to new types of critique, political discourse and activism.

My research also highlights ways in which social media are now characterized by superdiversity. Firstly, social media are shown to constitute forums for activities and interactions by populations who can themselves be superdiverse. In this sense, they can resemble superdiverse urban social spaces in which complex diversity has become commonplace. Secondly, the project also shows how accounts, analyses, discussion, debates, critique and disparagement of superdiversity encountered in physical or mediated environments abound on social media, effectively foregrounding how superdiversity is emerging as a particular nexus for participation and material for further meaning-making spreading via the rhizomes provided by the Web 2.0. Thus, social media are also shown to engage with superdiversity by offering users niched discursive spaces and sets of semiotic resources with which they can strive to make sense of and evaluate their experiences relating to superdiversity. Thirdly, social media engage with superdiversity, as on them language use, discourse practice, communication, dissemination of information, and mediation of cultural practices and products increasingly feature mobility, plurality, heterogeneity, and polycentricity of semiotic resources and normativities. Social media practices are often culturally and politically transgressive and playful in nature, involving complex multi-modal processes of recrafting and recontextualization.