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Anna-Malin Karlsson (Sweden)

 

A closely related piece of research is that of Anna-Malin Karlsson[i], who since this volume was published was awarded her doctoral degree (March 2002) at the Department of Scandinavian Languages, at the University of Stockholm, Sweden. Her current research concerns literacy practices in working life, with a special focus on occupations not traditionally considered to be dependent on writing. She has previously taught university courses in general and applied linguistics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, Swedish and text analysis. She has also worked as a freelance reporter for the Swedish language children's magazine Kamratposten, and published non-fiction books for children with the publishers Rabén and Sjögren. Her PhD thesis investigates personal homepages made by young people who are, or have been, frequent Internet chatters. Her aim is to develop a description of the various writing strategies used in the construction of personal home pages by this specific group of (youthful) authors as a set of modern literacy practices, and to relate these practices to their wider social and multimodal context. An important part of her study is an attempt to understand how the authors themselves characterise and categorise their own writing and text practices.

 

In her contribution To Write A Page: Concepts And Practices Of Home-Page Use, Anna-Malin presents some of her more recent research materials, going on to use these as background to allow her to foreground a theoretical discussion of the twin notions of text and writing. There is a widespread notion in our western cultures that real writing should be of a certain shape and amount, and that real text should be elevated above that which is ordinary and commonplace. The basic assumptions behind her work are that writing is a socially and semiotically situated resource for visual meaning making, while text, referring to a meaningful whole, is an interactionally and socially defined multimodal unit. For the chatters in her study, homepage writing was first and foremost a form of identity work: homepages are used by their authors to represent themselves to other members of their online community, and thus function as tools for social interaction.

 

In this particular discourse community the term ‘writing’ is used to denote both the composing of sections of visual text and the creation and development of whole web pages themselves. Writing is considered something ‘important, but difficult’, but there are still few explicit norms in the community that might guide this kind of writing practices. Homepage writing is something everyone wants to do well, but the quality norms for this practice are still out of reach of everyday language, in spite of their being known by all. While writing is difficult to speak about, the term ‘text’ is often used by homepage writers, and seems to possess a high cultural relevance in this community, with come quite specific cultural conventions attached to it. In use, it primarily connotes visual features of the homepage, and is thus construed in terms of form or shape on the page. Both terms refer to ‘writing’ as it is normally construed, but they focus on two different modalities. Form cannot, in other words, be separated from content. The role of writing must, she concludes, be considered to encompass not only the use of verbal language, but also the production of visually encoded meanings in text.

 



[i] Anna-Malin Karlsson’s faculty homepage is at: http://www.nordiska.su.se/personal/karlsson-a-m/eng/index.htm , and she may be contacted by e-mail at: Anna-Malin.Karlsson@nordiska.su.se

 


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