Already the project is having an impact by engaging people on the impact, place, and social dimension of language in their lives. These people, as members of immaterial networks of speakers, and users of social media, then become participants in the project, that extend its meaning beyond the narrower group of key informants described through the video. As they share their personal points of connection with the social stories of language that that project explores, they bring greater meaning to this work, by fulfilling its goal of public engagement.
Originally, I was concerned with finding a way to archive my research in a palatable and relevant format, so that I could optimize its impact on the people who mattered the most--the participants. While in the field--language classrooms in Amman, Jordan in 2014--I was struck midway through my fieldwork by the looming possibility that I would eventually distill my gathered details in a well-synthesized paper that would not be accessible to the students, teachers, and friends whose lives I endeavored to describe.
The hashtag, particularly as it intersects with Black Twitter, "...chronicles, publicizes, and engenders networks on grassroots activism."
- Frederick Staidum, Jr. (Muhlenberg College, English and Africana Studies)
Nov. 6, 2014 in a guest lecture in LING25, Intro to Sociolinguistics at Swarthmore College
It was after inviting a friend of mine, Frederick Staidum, Jr., to speak with my sociolinguistics class on the discursive dimensions of the Twitter hashtag, that I began to gather further insight into my own work. I connect the contribution of #languagestory as project and hashtag to the need for greater accessibility in research, and my connected interests in public engagement and participant-centered research.
Accessibility is big issue in anthropological and social research. If and when our articles eventually get published, then they may be only then be accessible behind a journal's paywall (if available online). And there's also the potential for our discipline-specific jargon to obscure the details of our research away from interdisciplinary forums and public conversations.
So What to Do?
I took notice of the way that hashtags were archiving conversations on culture. Search #culture or #anthropology on Twitter, and a lot pops up. However, when searching #language, I was unable to locate
What is public ethnography? The editors of the journal Qualitative Research answers with a pretty straightforward response:
"Simply put, public ethnography is ethnographic research strategically intended for a public audience." -- Qualitative Research 13 (4), p. 391-401 (2013)
They continue, acknowledging the potential for ethnography to better communicate with the public: