Self-promotion as semiotic behavior : The mediation of personhood in light of Finnish online dating advertisements

by Tomi Visakko

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2015
Keywords: lingvistiikka; antropologia
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2067246
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/156288


The study examines the mediation and evaluation of personhood in light of Finnish online dating advertisements. The main focus is on the performance and interpretation of what has been called self-promotion, or the idealization of the self in relation to others. The study operates with concepts originating from discourse studies and anthropology under the overarching framework of pragmatism-based semiotic anthropology. The online dating advertisement genre is approached as a cultural instrument of personhood and intersubjective interaction in which writers step into a controlled performance of a promotional persona in order to instigate social relations (only) with desirable and ideal others. The primary data consists of 111 Finnish-language online dating advertisements collected from two online dating services in 2007. In addition, a questionnaire was held for a group of university students to elicit examples of actual interpretations. A third set of data consists of cultural metadiscourses that reflect on online dating advertisements as a type of interaction (online dating guidebooks, Internet discussions and articles, a segment of a TV program). Such backstage discourses illuminate the kinds of reflexive metapractices and interpretive assumptions that do not usually come up explicitly in actual advertisement-based interactions. The study shows that stereotypic cultural understandings of self-promotion often focus on specific kinds of evaluative stances and their reliability or appropriateness, whereas many actually occurring phenomena are entirely overlooked. Such biased stereotypes may be one reason for the fact that evaluative stancetaking seems to be an expected but often problematic act in online dating advertisements. The study also illuminates the non-narrative organization of personhood, selfhood, and biography, as taxonomic and hierarchical structures of theoretical representations are one of the most salient textual patterns in the data. More generally, the study draws attention to the importance of the indexical patterning of text-artifacts. Textual patterning at all layers, from macrostructures to orthography, becomes interpreted as signs of personhood contributing, for instance, to particular views of subjectivity, a level of meaning often overlooked in studies of online communication. Moreover, the study stresses the importance of reflexive models and ideologies of interaction. For instance, the nature of online dating advertisements as an intersubjective encounter can be understood in almost entirely opposite ways by different interpreters (e.g., as distant versus intimate, or authentic versus inauthentic ). Tutkimukseni käsittelee kielitieteellisestä ja antropologisesta näkökulmasta sitä, miten suomenkielisissä verkon deitti-ilmoituksissa välittyy käsityksiä henkilöistä. Päähuomion kohteena on itsepromootioksi tai itsensä markkinoinniksi kutsuttu ilmiö eli se, miten itseä idealisoidaan suhteessa toisiin. Deitti-ilmoitusten genreä lähestytään tutkimuksessa kulttuurisena…