Carnivalization and monologization in the corporate Facebook genre

Ella Lillqvist, Leena Louhiala-Salminen, Anne Kankaanranta
Aalto University School of Business, Department of Communication
ella.lillqvist _arvaa_ aalto.fi, anne.kankaanranta _arvaa_ aalto.fi

Recent developments in communication technologies have led scholars in various fields to claim that the so-called social media radically change the organization–stakeholder relationship, “empowering” consumers and enabling “co-creation” and “dialogue”. We wish to look at the issue critically and examine whether the discursive practices of company-consumer interaction on one of the most popular of these media, Facebook, can really be described as dialogue.

Approaching corporate Facebook pages as a genre, we draw from Bakhtin (e.g. 1984) who argued that different genres have different potential for dialogism and multi-voicedness. We therefore ask:

1) Are there carnivalistic features that might affect speaker/hearer roles and power distribution in this corporate communication genre?
2) What are the inherent possibilities for the presence of multiple voices?

We address these questions using a) in-depth, semi-structured interviews with corporate Facebook representatives and b) text data collected directly from corresponding corporate Facebook pages. Our analytical framework combines elements from Bakhtin’s theory and the North-American genre theory that views genre as social action (Miller, 1984).

Our analysis reveals dialogical and monologizing discursive dynamics in organizations’ interactions with their stakeholders and discusses how the discursive power of companies is embedded in generic conventions and the particular features of a medium designed to please companies. Certain carnivalistic features are present but counteracted by remnants of antecedent corporate communication genres and their aims to control stakeholder relations and minimize disagreement. We suggest that awareness and acknowledgement of the carnivalistic frame might make a genuine dialogue possible.

 

Keywords: genre, dialogue, corporate communication

 

Lähteet

Bakhtin, Mikhail 1984. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics.

Miller, C. R. 1984. Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 151–167.

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