Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

FS 2018
Center for the Study of Language and Society

Mommybloggers upload the park. Instagramming as digital semiotic landscape-making

Dienstag, 05.11.2019, 16:15 Uhr

Das Forum Language and Society ist eine Reihe von Gastvorträgen zu Themen der Soziolinguistik. Doktorierende der GSAH können sich die Teilnahme als Zuhörende mit 0,25 ECTS pro Vortrag anrechnen lassen. MA Studierende der Soziolinguistik können sich nach Teilnahme an 6 Vorträgen 1 ECTS anrechnen lassen.

Veranstaltende: Forum Language and Society
Redner, Rednerin: Martin Paviour-Smith (Massey University)
Datum: 05.11.2019
Uhrzeit: 16:15 - 17:45 Uhr
Ort: F005
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Merkmale: Öffentlich

What are people doing when they upload and hashtag images of places to Instagram? Taking Jaworski and Thurlow’s (2010, p2) definition of a semiotic landscape, ‘any (public) space with visible inscription made through deliberate human intervention and meaning making’ as a starting point, we can describe the practice of uploading and tagging of public spaces as the creation of personal digital semiotic landscapes. To explore this insight and to begin to understand the role that #locations play for Instagrammers, a dataset of a year’s worth of uploads of images and videos of Signal de Bougy, a park in Vaud, was created. 

Language choice has been a major focus for traditional offline linguistic landscape research and like the signs in the park, the hashtags in the dataset are highly multilingual. Swiss national languages are dominated by the primary code on Instagram, English. The languages of the hashtags also reveal that posters are more likely to be expat Swiss residents and tourists rather than locals with Swiss cultural origins. 

Research into the functions of hashtags have mainly been explored on Twitter where they originated (see for example, Zappevigna, 2015). This research follows the strategies Instagram users have developed for hashtags which overlap with those of Twitter in classifying content, amplifying audience and denoting affect. Different to Twitter, however, on Instagram, hashtags are also used to construct skeleton narratives. Georgakopoulu (2016) has proposed that the Facebook selfie is a form of small story which presents the poster’s identity in a certain context in a certain moment. I argue that Instagram narratives constructed out of hashtags are there to flesh out an entire narrative timespace of which the actual uploaded image is a momentary slice. Some of these hashtag narratives depict sequences of events, others - create an itinerary through space and time. In either case, #locations are not simply scene-setting but can stand for events that Instagrammers wish to foreground.

The digital Signal de Bougy on Instagram reveals a mass of images, hashtags and identities. Hashtags marking place are implicated in the making of meaning not only for the creation of digital semiotic landscapes but also help us understand what people do in and how they make meaning out of the spaces they experience.



Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. (2016) From narrating the self to posting self(ies): a small stories approach to selfies. Open Linguistics 2, 300-316. 

Jaworksi, Adam & Thurlow, Crispin. (2010). Semiotic landscapes: Language, Image, Space.New York, Continuum International. 

Zappavigna, Michelle. (2015). Searchable talk: The linguistic functions of hashtags. Social Semiotics25(3), 274-291.