Scholarly article on topic 'Blogs: A Resource of Online Interactions to Develop Stance-taking'

Blogs: A Resource of Online Interactions to Develop Stance-taking Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Sepideh Rahimpour

Abstract Blogs, which are shared online journals that can provide commentary on different subjects and allow users to reflect, share opinions and discuss various topics, help the bloggers build social relations with their readers and other blogger and give them an opportunity to be involved in public discussions. They allow anyone's voice to be heard and resist hierarchical modes of information, dissemination and communication. Certainly, blogs include the kind of vocabulary, and structure based on which authors can develop their own position, stance and self-presentation. This kind of representation is called stance-taking. When writers show their stances they signal a relation to others. This is a way of presenting one's own contribution to a position. The purpose of this study would be the analysis and the identification of stance-taking in blogs. The focus of the study, therefore, would be on those frequently used vocabulary in the blogs that mark stance of the writers and on the analysis of these markers in context. This study has implications for EFL learners and non-native writers to get familiar with the patterns of effective writing in academic setting in general and in educational blogs in particular.

Academic research paper on topic "Blogs: A Resource of Online Interactions to Develop Stance-taking"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1502 - 1507

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

Blogs: A Resource of Online Interactions to Develop Stance-

taking

Sepideh Rahimpour*

Department of English, Quchan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Quchan, Iran

Abstract

Blogs, which are shared online journals that can provide commentary on different subjects and allow users to reflect, share opinions and discuss various topics, help the bloggers build social relations with their readers and other blogger and give them an opportunity to be involved in public discussions. They allow anyone's voice to be heard and resist hierarchical modes of information, dissemination and communication. Certainly, blogs include the kind of vocabulary, and structure based on which authors can develop their own position, stance and self-presentation. This kind of representation is called stance-taking. When writers show their stances they signal a relation to others. This is a way of presenting one's own contribution to a position. The purpose of this study would be the analysis and the identification of stance-taking in blogs. The focus of the study, therefore, would be on those frequently used vocabulary in the blogs that mark stance of the writers and on the analysis of these markers in context. This study has implications for EFL learners and non-native writers to get familiar with the patterns of effective writing in academic setting in general and in educational blogs in particular.

© 2014TheAuthors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: blogs; social relations; stance; educational setting; corpusanalysis

1. Introduction

Blogs are the hottest growing medium of communication for businesses and individuals. Based on a blog search engine called Technorati research, there are almost 3 million blogs created every month, and bloggers create over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second! Due of the interactive nature and ability for readers to write their

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: sepidehrahimpour@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.571

reactions and comments, blogs offers a solid platform for writers and readers to interact and develop a mutual understanding of the opinions of the either party. This allows managers in organizations to get a closer look at what their employees feel or for companies to understand what their customers think of their products. Blogs are more than mere tools for communicating online; rather, they provide new possibilities for the internet as a rhetorical space.

Taking a look at different weblogs, therefore, shows that they are replacing the one-to-many voice of a mass medium with many voices (Myers, 2010). In other words, since blogs can be considered as sites where users produce as well as use the content (Myers, 2010), they have been the focus of a great deal of attention from critical discourse studies.

It can be understood that blogs help as many people express their own ideas as receive the opinions of others, and almost anyone who has the access to internet can read a blog and also write one ( Myers, 2010).

Since not all the bloggers are familiar with the conventions and patterns of writing in a blog they face with different difficulties and/or misunderstanding when they try to develop a discussion especially when they are going to show their positions in their academic blogs. This issue would be more important in academic writing since it embodies interaction between writers and readers (Hyland, 2005).Writing in this regard also represents the writer's voice or identity via employing stance markers as rhetorical devices. A range of linguistic markers have been recognized as contributing to the writers' stance and the engagement of the reader. Put succinctly, academics do not simply produce texts representing a reality, but they also construct and negotiate social relations employing language. In other words, writers select materials to represent themselves and self-and other-positioning (Jaffe, 2009). Interestingly, academic members shape the discourse communities via articles, books, emails, web logs and conferences, among which blogs are of high importance.

The purpose of this study, therefore, is to look in detail at the way writers mark their opinions and positions in academic blogs. The analysis of stance markers in academic setting has been selected in this study since the authorial stance is a problem that novice writers have (Flowerdew, 2001). For effective writing, it is essential to know about rhetorical devices and the features for the writer-reader dialogue in the text and in the blogs and particularly how the writers represent their identity in their writing. Consciousness-raising is required for EFL students and novice non-native writers about the rules and conventions governing scholarly communication.

2. Review of the related literature

The concept of stance, as Hyland (2005) argues, has been used by researchers with terminologies like "evaluation" (Hunston and Thomson, 2000), attitude (Halliday, 1994a), "epistemic modality" (Hyland, 1998), "approval" (White, 2003), "stance" (Biber, 2006; Hyland, 1999), and "metadiscourse" (Crismore, 1990; Hyland and Tse, 2004).

Generally speaking, stance is defined as "the writer's textual voice or community recognized personality" (Hyland, 2009, P.74). More obviously, the term stance refers to the strategies authors use to present themselves and express their ideas and commitments (Hyland, 2005). Researchers (e.g. Johnston, 2008 and Jaffe, 2009) reveal that how writers/speakers take up their positions in their communication. They advocate that people's position in discourse represents their position in the world. Johnston (2008) points out that "people without a voice are often people without a shaping role in the world" (P. 129). Stance expressions can convey various kinds of personal feelings and assessments, including attitudes that a speaker has about certain information, how certain they are about its veracity, how they obtained access to the information, and what perspective they are taking (Biber, 2006).

Indeed, the issue of authorial voice deals with "the expression of the writer's judgment or attitudes towards a proposition or an object" (Flowerdew, 2001, P.235). Thus the role of power, according to Johnston (2008), manifested in their voice or discourse makes human interaction possible. The power is not necessarily the

institutional power, but it is more like agency which is defined the people's flowing ability in order to shape the activity.

Interaction in academic writing involves stance meaning positioning or taking a point of view concerning the issue in the text and others having this idea. Therefore, successful academic writing depends on the writer's projection of a shared professional context. Hyland's well-established model of writer-reader interaction in academic discourse (2005) reveals that knowledge is not constructed in a social vacuum, but a disciplinary voice is realized via participating in speech communities sharing set of opinions and assumptions. The writers should be connected with these beliefs and positions which are socially determined to have effective communication in academic genre. In this regard, Hyland (2005) highlights the role of stance markers in academic interaction. Indeed, the writers anticipate their readers' interest knowledge, and interpersonal expectations. In this regard, the writer indexes linguistic forms having dialogic purpose of anticipated voices and positions of readers. He claims that "effective academic writing depends on rhetorical decisions about interpersonal intrusion and I have suggested a model which attempts to show how writers select and display community-sensitive linguistic resources to represent themselves, their positions and their readers" (Hyland, 2005, p.190).

Therefore, stance is one of the major rhetorical resources of interaction. The writers' voice or stance, according to this model, has certain features: hedges, boosters, attitude markers, and self-mentions. These devices, as Hyland (2005) argues, refer to the different ways "writers bring readers into the discourse to relate to them and anticipate their possible objections" (p. 151) and they are often employed by writers to create "a credible representation of themselves and their work by claiming solidarity with readers, evaluating their material and acknowledging alternative views in appropriate ways" (p. 74).

3. Methodology

3.1. Corpus

The focus of this study is on the writers 'discussions of academic issues in those weblogs which are in the field of education/applied linguistics. The materials to be included in the selected corpus consist of the on-line comments as well as the original posts of the bloggers. I have chosen nine English blogs written in applied linguistics and/or education by native speakers of English.

3.2. Instrumentation

The instrumentation utilized in this study is the taxonomy proposed by Hyland (2005). He divides interaction into stance and engagement. Stance id divided into four devices: hedges, boosters, attitude markers, and self-mentions. He defines hedges as those devices which show "the writer's decision to recognize alternative voices and viewpoints and so withhold complete commitment to a proposition" (p. 52). Discourse markers such as probability, might, could, etc. which show the subjectivity of a position are among hedges. Writers can also make use of boosters to express their certainty. Features such as obviously, it is clear that, definitely, etc. are among these features. Besides these devices are attitude markers. Hyland (2005) defines them as those devices that "indicate the writer's affective, rather than epistemic, attitude to propositions" (p. 53). Examples of these devices are I agree, X claims, surprisingly, etc. The last subdivision of stance markers is self-mention. They refer to the degree of author's presence in the text measured by the frequency of the first person pronouns; such as I, we, my, mine, our, etc. (Hyland, 2004).

3.3. Procedure

In the selected blogs, the bloggers post their materials daily on different topics related to applied linguistics and/or education and many commenters write their own opinions. I collected the data during a 2-month period.

Approximately 10,000 words were counted for the corpus analysis (every 1000-1200 words for each blog). The frequency of the linguistic markers of stance was carefully counted in order to analyze the English blogs in terms of rhetorical resources which realize the function of stance.

The list of keywords, based on Hyland's model, has been analyzed in order to find the stance markers. It is important to mention that these words can have many different uses besides showing stance; in other words, there would be no words that function solely to mark stance (Myers, 2010). So I tried to find those words marking the point of view of the writer.

4. Results and discussion

I have focused on the specific words written by the bloggers which mark hedges, boosters, attitude markers, and self-mentions. Using these words by the bloggers and commenters indicate their stance-taking. To find these devices I focused on some key words such as cognitive verbs, and stance adverbs.

4.1. Hedges

Writers can indicate their degree of certainty by use of these devices. One way of marking stance is the use of cognitive verbs such as think, feel, and seem and the other one is the use of expressions such as it is a rather good paper.

Here, an example would clarify the issue:

'I guess ' he intends that we do not demotivate learners in this way.

'I guess' marks a stance, and shows something the writer is not entirely certain about.

Analyzing the corpus, I found that some words have been used more frequently than the other hedges. For example, think, guess, and understand were among those frequently used devices.

The results of the analysis showed that English bloggers use hedges in their blogs related to education to mark a relation to another person or persons.

4.2. Boosters

Hyland (2005) suggests that use of the boosters by the writers show that "the writer recognizes potentially diverse positions but has chosen to narrow this diversity rather than enlarge it, confronting alternatives with a single, confident voice" (p. 52). Among the boosters used in the corpus are stance adverbs.

It is worth noting that many of the keywords can function as boosters: in fact, really, definitely, absolutely, and completely.

I would really like to see how you prove it.

The results show that English bloggers use boosters when they write in their blogs to express their certainty.

4.3. Attitude markers

Attitude markers, as the name implies, indicate the writer's attitude toward the proposition. Crismore (1990) argues that these devices develop the relationship between the writer and the reader, and provide a situation for the reader to participate in the implicit dialogue between the writer and the reader. Some examples from the corpus would clarify the issue.

'Unfortunately', learning is not the same as education.

For low-income students, price of college is 'surprisingly' high.

The results show that English bloggers and commenters can use attitude markers when they write in their blogs to make explicit their attitudes to what they are discussing.

4.4. Self-mentions

Writers use first person pronouns and possessive adjectives to project themselves in their writings. As Hyland (2005) mentions "the presence or absence of explicit author reference is generally a conscious choice by writers to adopt a particular stance and disciplinary-situated authorial identity" (p. 181). During the analysis of the corpus I found it interesting the English bloggers use self-mentions a lot to project themselves in their discussion forums. These are the examples:

'Our' students come from various walks of life, many different cultures, and many different countries.

'My' way of teaching is very demanding because 'I' teach a range of courses.

Therefore, the results indicate that in academic weblogs presenting a self is central to the writing process and English bloggers and commenters use self-mentions in their weblogs which are related to education to enable them to emphasize their own contribution to the argument.

5. Conclusion and implications

Blogs are considered as new cultural practices of online communication. They have revolutionized the way we receive information and connect with each other in online environments. Looking at blogs as rhetorical artifacts allows scholars to examine the ways in which they contribute to changing what it means to communicate online. To this end, this study analyzed some of the most salient keywords in the corpus of blogs and found that stance markers are used mainly to signal a relation to another person or persons. The results of the present study also seem to imply that there is a relationship between the different ways the writers use hedges, and self-mentions. Apparently, English writers rely more on their personal opinions more than they rely on citations, but they hedge strongly to compensate for this. This study showed that stance markers are important since they play crucial roles in mediating the relationship between what writers intend to argue and their discourse communities; these are devices for the writers to create their own identity in the text.

The results of the present study have obvious importance in increasing students' awareness of the way native speakers of English organize their writings. It should be also mentioned that the findings of this study, will help novice writers benefit not just from process-oriented practices in producing texts but also from guided investigation of how texts work.

6. Suggestions for further research

This study was just limited to the weblogs in the field of education/applied linguistics which is only one genre among a huge body of genres students require to know directly in order to be able to write practically. Studies, therefore, could also be designed on other disciplines. Furthermore, the current study did not consider the gender factor which can be an interesting issue for other researchers.

While this study has examined stance factors according to Hyland's (2005) taxonomy, other researchers can investigate their corpus by utilizing some other taxonomies. 'Engagement markers' can also be investigated besides stance markers.

References

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Flowerdew, L. (2001). The exploitation of small learner corpora in EAP materials design. In M. Ghadessy, A. Henry & R. L. Roseberry (Eds.),

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