Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

Communicating across online and offline spaces: a mobile-supported business model for migrant micro-entrepreneurs  Seminar

17:00 - 18:30
7 December 2016
Lecture Theatre C Building 65 Avenue Campus SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Ying Wang at .

Event details

Part of the annual seminar series for the Centre for Global Englishes (CGE).

In this talk, I draw on data from a large ethnographic project to explore the ways in which migrant small-business owners exploit mobile phone messaging apps to do business, establish and maintain informal support networks, and perform identities as entrepreneurs of a particular heritage background. The project is the AHRC-funded, four-year ‘Translation and Translanguaging: investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cites’ (PI: Angela Creese, University of Birmingham). Key participants are observed, recorded and interviewed at work and home, a well-established ethnographic approach which is innovatively augmented by the parallel collection of social media data.

My talk focuses on the social media use of two entrepreneurial couples: Chinese butchers in Birmingham and Polish shop-owners in London. Analysis of their SMS, WeChat and Viber messages, informed by the interview and interactional data collected at work and home, shows that mobile messaging apps are facilitating the emergence of a new business model characterised by dynamic configurations of time and space. I detail how the mobile phone serves as a gateway to physical contexts such as the shop whilst also facilitating asynchronous communication which we describe as a ‘virtual noticeboard’. I also explore how the mobile makes possible the creation of a support network which stretches from the surrounding UK city to the migrants’ home countries, and how the migrants draw on different timescales – immediate concerns and shared cultural histories – in managing these relationships. In documenting this new model, I explore the ways in which the entrepreneurs construct, negotiate and exploit multiple layers of flexible and selective ‘timespaces’, transgressing traditional boundaries of time and space and creating new intersections between virtual and physical space as they fulfil everyday functions.



Speaker information

Dr Caroline Tagg, The Open University. My research interests are in language and social media, including multilingualism, audience design, and online language play, with a focus on text messaging (and, more recently WhatsApp) and Facebook. I am currently working on the AHRC-funded research project headed by Professor Angela Creese, 'Translation and Translanguaging' in which I am responsible for coordinating the collection and analysis of social media data. I have authored two books (The Discourse of Text Messaging, Continuum 2012; and Exploring Digital Communication, Routledge 2015) and I have co-edited a further two books (The Politics of English, with Ann Hewings, Routledge 2012; and The Language of Social Media, with Philip Seargeant, Palgrave 2014).

Privacy Settings