Multimodal Creativity and Identities of Expertise in the Digital Ecology of a <i>World of Warcraft</i> Guild

Lisa Newon

in Digital Discourse

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199795437
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919321 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics

Multimodal Creativity and Identities of Expertise in the Digital Ecology of a World of Warcraft Guild

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This chapter considers how speakers and hearers in an online MMORPG community adapt to their semiotically restricted ecology for performing “identities of expertise.” Building on Eckert and Rickford's (2001) discussion of the practice-based nature of style, the data shows the ways in which members of a World of Warcraft guild linguistically and symbolically index different subgroups of game experience within the group. These expert styles are ways of performing authority and authenticity that correspond to community membership. Based on fifteen months of participant-observation and sixty hours of recorded voice conversations, the research illuminates the discursive complexity and creativity of interaction in the guild. Multimodal identity work occurs through overlapping, mutually elaborating semiotic tools, used for both pragmatic and stylistic effect. The multimodal resources discussed include voice chat, written communication, avatar gestures, and the built environment.

Keywords: World of Warcraft; MMORPG; style; community of practice; expert identities; discourse ethnography; participant observation; multimodality; pragmatic effect

Chapter.  7648 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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