Language Performance

I’m struggling with what to write about this week. Diversity and inclusion have been on my mind. So many individuals I am connected with through social media post about these topics. And I don’t understand why we humans share unsolicited advice or mini lessons about these topics via the online platform.

I turned to some TEDTalks for a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. These two videos resonated with me:

I really like the questions of identity, calling, and service that Dr. Marylin Sanders asks at the end of her talk.

Who am I?
What is my work?
How will I contribute?

I also really like this idea of blind spots that Helen Turnbull describes in her talk.

These things are reflective. Each person should ask him/her/themselves those questions. Each person should check his/her/their blind spots. To be self-aware of your own thoughts, values, and privilege is crucial to the work of social justice.

I scroll through Facebook, Twitter and instagram (photo challenges and descriptions) only to discover competitions to see who is the most inclusive or who is the most aware of diversity. Just because you post about BLM does not mean you are the authority on the topic. Just because I don’t post about BLM does not mean I don’t know what it is.

I am perturbed. The things I read do not mirror the behaviors and language performances of the individuals in real life. I look to social media to relish the human experience and connect, not to brag or compete. If these people were constantly bragging and competing about their knowledge and awareness in person, then I would be very turned off by them.

THIS ARTICLE summarizes my thoughts on this matter.

“I’m finding that the more I learn about people’s public persona, the less I want to know them privately.”

Humans will always exist with language and culture. Within that existence, they will acquire communicative competence, the knowledge of shared norms appropriateness used in one’s culture or reality through language. When humans enter the world, we’re not fully formed. I am not born Vicki Gerentes. Rather, I create Vicki Gerentes and the Vicki-ness that accompanies the name. Thus, I perform myself with the rules and scripts of Vicki. Those performances help me perform myself as a unique entity. When I do not perform Vicki, others do not feel the sameness of Vicki; they sense something is wrong or different about me. This feeling is directly applicable to that of a ritualistic moment in language. If the performance of the ritual, the utterances, or the scriptedness is different, then the performative is not there. Essentially, if I do not perform the Vicki-ness of Vicki, and if the scriptedness of a ritual does not follow its norms and conditions, then the performance is inappropriate.

What does that rant really mean? Someone who posts about racism on Facebook, but has nothing to say in person is not someone I want to know better. If we utilize language in one way online and perform ourselves another way in person, then do we really have a grasp on our identities?

When we do things in, through, and by language we are performing certain acts. By no means do I do social media right. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way. I do like to believe that the way I choose to direct my posting energy online to portray Vicki parallels the Vicki you know in real life.

Perhaps this post is more about how identities play into the way in which we perform ourselves. How do language and culture shape our identities? How do language and culture shape the work that we do? How do language and culture influence they way in which we will contribute? How do language and culture create our blind spots? How do our identities change the way in which we use language to engage in dialogue online?
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