Séminaire CIVIS-MFO “Social Media Discourse Analysis”


Thursday 09 November 2023    
16h00 - 18h00

Conférence de Erin McInerney (Université de Strasbourg / University of Glasgow)


Playing Parisian: The discursive construction of self and place at Instagram’s @CafédeFlore

Faculté ALLSH – Salle de colloques 1 – Bâtiment T1 Pôle multimédia
and online conference with Zoom

This paper weaves together the thematic dimensions of identity, online space and physical place in a study conducted at the “Café de Flore” Instagram geotag. Through a close reading of 415 posts gathered from the geotag in 2022, I consider how Instagram users make use of the platform’s networked affordances to produce complex, multimodal texts and how these texts contribute to the discursive construction of the café’s image on- and offline. Simultaneously, I explore how identity is enacted through an individual’s presence, embodied performances and mediated practices at the café and through the subsequent remediated representations of these experiences on Instagram (Thurlow & Jaworski, 2011; Lyons, 2019). Borrowing theories from the sociolinguistic and socio-semiotic traditions, analysis of these data was conducted using constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2014) and Multimodal Discourse Analysis (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001; Kress, 2010) with an emphasis on (Online) Linguistic Landscape (Ivkovich and Lotherington, 2009; Lyons, 2019; Maly & Blommaert, 2019; Lefebvre 1974; Androutsopoulos, 2023). Semiotically and linguistically, findings suggest that Instagram users construct their experiences at Café de Flore as overtly Parisian and that representations of “Parisian” identity at this geotag are entrenched in long-standing mythologies about the city and its people. By co-opting the prestige of the café and the lore of its history for their photos, videos and captions, Instagram users position themselves as knowledgeable, multilingual and on-trend ‘cultural omnivores’ for their online publics (Mapes, 2021; boyd, 2010; Bourdieu, 1984). The discursive construction of the café then follows suit: it is carved out by users as a quintessentially Parisian destination which retains a “local” cachet despite its widely mediatized online presence. However, much of this discursive construction is manipulated, (re)-oriented and diffused by the Café itself, which, through its presence on the platform, succeeds in propagating an elite narrative that ensures an enticing online presence and steady offline profits. Together, these data point to the increasing “platformization” of the spaces we inhabit and of the lives we live within them (Nieborg & Poell, 2018). As the algorithms of highly-governed platforms such as Instagram sort and arrange our “public” discourse, this corpus ultimately invites the reader to consider how much of a say one truly has in the discursive construction of place online.


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Blommaert, J., & Maly, I. (2019). Invisible Lines in the Online-Offline Linguistic Landscape (Working Paper 223; Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies).

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste (R. Nice, Trans.; 11. print). Harvard Univ. Press.

boyd, danah m. (2010). Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self (0 ed., pp. 47–66). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203876527-8

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theoryhttp://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/878133162.html

Ivkovic, D., & Lotherington, H. (2009). Multilingualism in cyberspace: Conceptualising the virtual linguistic landscape. International Journal of Multilingualism6(1), 17–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/14790710802582436

Kress, G. (2010). Multimodal discourse analysis. In The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203809068.ch3

Kress, G. R., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. Arnold ; Oxford University Press.

Lefebvre, H. (1974). La production de l’espace. L Homme et la société31(1), 15–32. https://doi.org/10.3406/homso.1974.1855

Lyons, K. (2019). Let’s get phygital: Seeing through the ‘filtered’ landscapes of Instagram. Linguistic Landscape. An International Journal5(2), 179–197. https://doi.org/10.1075/ll.18025.lyo

Mapes, G. (2021). Elite authenticity: Remaking distinction in food discourse. Oxford University Press.

Thurlow, C., & Jaworski, A. (2011). Banal Globalization? Embodied Actions and Mediated Practices in Tourists’ Online Photo Sharing. In C. Thurlow & K. Mroczek (Eds.), Digital Discourse: Language in the New Media. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199795437.001.0001

Nieborg, D. B., & Poell, T. (2018). The platformization of cultural production: Theorizing the contingent cultural commodity. New Media & Society20(11), 4275–4292. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818769694

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