SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Auditor design and digital surveillance

Rodney H. Jones (Reading)

Date: 23 January 2018Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 23 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


The increased use of digital technologies has dramatically altered the way people conceptualize participation in social interaction, including what it means to be a ‘speaker’, an ‘addressee’, an ‘overhearer’, and an ‘eavesdropper’. This talk explores the degree to which traditional conceptual tools from sociolinguistics, specifically, ‘audience design’ (Bell, 1984), ‘participation frameworks’ (Goffman, 1981), and ‘interactive frames’ (Goffman, 1974) can be used to analyze interaction in digitally augmented spaces in which non-present participants (both human and non-human) may play a role in the way people design their utterances and strategize their interactions with others. Three examples of such environments are presented: cell-phone videos of citizens’ encounters with police officers, the behaviour of people who share results of Internet ‘quizzes’ on social media sites, and the new social meanings ascribed to the term ‘stalking’ by adolescent and young adult users of dating apps such as Tinder. The analysis reveals how digital media introduce into situations new challenges and possibilities for audience/auditor design and for the ongoing negotiation of context, and argues that, in more and more domains of daily life, individuals design their interactions with overhearers and eavesdroppers in mind. It ends by introducing the notion of an ‘algorithmic pragmatics’ (Jones, 2016), which focuses on the way information flows and inferential processes in social interactions are affected when they are mediated through digital technologies.

Bell, A. (1984). Language style as audience design. Language in Society, 13, 145–204.

Goffman, E. (1974). Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Goffman, E. (1981). Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell.

Jones, R. (2016) Surveillance. In A. Georgakopoulou and T. Spilloti (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Digital Communication. London: Routledge, 408-411.

About the speaker

Rodney Jones is Professor of Sociolinguistics and Head of the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading. His research interests include digitally mediated communication, interactional sociolinguistics, and surveillance. Among his recent books are Discourse and Digital Practices (Routledge, 2015) and Spoken Discourse (Bloomsbury, 2016).