Life-writing of the moment: The sharing and updating self on social media

This project allows me to consider ways in which to build upon and further systematize for the analysis of social media small stories research, a paradigm for narrative & identities analysis for everyday life storytelling. Small stories research, which I originally developed for the study of narrative conversational practices of female adolescent peer-groups pre-figured the social media engendered visibility of ‘non-canonical’ and under-represented –certainly, in interview narrative studies- narration forms: i.e. open-ended, multi-authored, transportable, snappy, with emphasis on the mundane, etc. In recent work (2012, 2013a,b, 2014a), I have begun to document what I have called ‘breaking news’ as an increasingly salient small story genre of great consequence in ordinary people’s technologically mediated everyday life, intimately linked with social media affordances (e.g. ability to share lived experience as it is happening and to update as often as necessary) and media convergence. The normativity and even requirement for the presumption of happening now stories pose new questions and challenges for narrative analysis and call for a scrutiny of certain mainstay concepts on the one hand and the development of a new analytical vocabulary on the other. This is more so in the context of the canonical assumption within autobiographical research that telling/writing the self necessitates a measure of time distance from the events and a process of reflection that is simply unavailable in the immediacy of the moment.

In the light of this, my aims in this project are to:

– chart the multi-semiotic forms (linguistic/textual, visual, auditory, etc.) that such life-writing of the moment takes on a range of social media (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter), with emergent and remediated genres (e.g. selfies, retweets, spoof videos & remixes) and, where applicable on the basis of specific (personal, political, social etc.) incidents and issues (e.g. the Eurozone crisis)

– document the kinds of subjectivities, incl. ethical and political selves, that lifewriting of the moment engenders.

This contextualized analysis is aimed at shedding light on how story ownership, entitlement and uptake are changing in the life writing of the moment and what kinds of storylines and self-projects are deemed as tellable and circulatable, where, with/by who, and how.

I specifically address the following questions:

How does the telling of stories of the moment shift across media contexts and what semiotic modalities are mobilized to do what, when & how?

How do social media engineering and practices of ‘networked audience’ engagement (e.g. Like, Follow, Share) shape ways of telling?

I have already developed two concepts, narrative stancetaking and rescripting (2014b, 2015) that help me chart the genres of life-writing of the moment: their distribution; co-authored aspects; the positions they afford for the tellers; their relations with social media enabled processes such as: context collapse, replicability, (re)localization of content.



Bamberg, M. & Georgakopoulou, A. (2008) ‘Small stories as a new perspective in narrative and identity analysis’. Special Issue of Text & Talk 28: 377-396.
Georgakopoulou, A. (2007) Small Stories, Interaction and Identities. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
—————————–(2008) ‘“On MSN with buff boys”: Self- and other-identity claims in the context of small stories’. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12: 597-626.
—————————– (2009) ‘Reflection and self-disclosure from the small stories perspective: A study of identity claims in interview and conversational data’. In Schiffrin, D., De Fina, A., & Nylund, A. (eds.), Telling Stories. Building Bridges among Language, Narrative, Identity, Interaction, Society and Culture. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 226-247.
———————–(2013a) ‘Storytelling on the go: Breaking news stories as a travelling narrative genre’. In M. Hatavara, L.-C. Hydén & M. Hyvärinen (eds.), The Travelling Concepts of Narrative. Amsterdam: Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
————————(2013b) Small stories research and social media practices: Narrative stancetaking and circulation in a Greek news story. Sociolinguistica 27: 87-100.
————————–(2014a) ‘Girlpower or girl (in) trouble?’: Identities and discourses in the media engagements of adolescents’ school-based interaction. In J. Androutsopoulos (ed.) The media and sociolinguistic change. Mouton de Gruyter.
——————————–(2014b) Small stories transposition & social media: A micro-perspective on the ‘Greek crisis’. Special Issue. Discourse & Society 25: 519-539.
———————————(20915, in press) Life/narrative of the moment. From telling a story to taking a narrative stance. In McKim, E. & Schiff, B. (ed.s), Life and narrative. OUP.

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I am Professor of Discourse Analysis & Sociolinguistics, Centre for Language, Discourse & Communication, Department of Education & Professional Studies.... read more about: Alexandra Georgakopoulou