Newcastle Critical Discourse Group

Current Programme

Semester 1 2019-20

16 October 2019 16:30-18:00 (Armstrong G.11)

Dr Sumin Zhao, The University of Edinburgh

Social media & the curatorial self: Towards the CDA of the everyday

In the past four years, I have been working on a collaborative project with Michele Zappavigna, looking at the role social photography play in social media discourses. We have especially focused on photographic genres prevalent on social media that are connected to what is known in the folklore as the selfie. Central to our project is the idea that selfies enact intersubjectivity (Zhao & Zappavigna, 2018a). On the one hand, it draws on a unique combination of visual resources for representing the photographer’s perspective, and on the other, it relies on the affordances of social media platforms for sharing and negotiating subjective/intersubjective stances (Zhao & Zappavigna, 2018b). We looked at the functions of different types of “selfies” across a range of context and platforms, such as Instagram mommy blogging (Zappavigna & Zhao, 2017) and Tumblr digital scrapbooks (Zhao & Zappavigna, 2018c). In this talk, I attempt to re-image our project through the critical lens of Henri Lefebvre, as articulated in Critique of Everyday Life (1991). I will show how the prosaic act of selfie-taking holds the key to understanding how digital capitalism is produced in the everyday and how we participate in this production through our everyday digital and social media practices. 


Zappavigna, M., & Zhao, S. (2017). Selfies in ‘mommyblogging’: An emerging visual genre. Discourse, Context & Media20, 239-247.

Zappavigna, M., & Zhao, S. (2020). Selfies and recontextualisation: Still life self-imaging in social media. In M. Miles, & E. Welch (Eds.), Photography and its Publics  (pp. 207-227). London: Bloomsbury

Zhao, S., & Zappavigna, M. (2018a). Beyond the self: Intersubjectivity and the social semiotic interpretation of the selfie. New Media and Society20(5), 1735– 1754. 

Zhao, S., & Zappavigna, M. (2018b). The interplay of (semiotic) technologies and genre: The case of the selfie. Social Semiotics28(5), 665-682. 

Zhao, S., & Zappavigna, M. (2018c). Digital Scrapbooks, everyday aesthetics and the curatorial self: Social photography in female visual blogging. In E. S. Tønnessen, & F. Forsgren (Eds.), Multimodality and Aesthetics (1 ed., pp. 218-235). United Kingdom: Routledge. 

13 November 2019 16:00-18:00 (Armstrong 3.39)

Dr Altman Peng, Newcastle University

Neoliberal feminism and manhood in post-reform China: A critical analysis of Mimeng’s discourse strategy in WeChat posting

A large body of literature has explored the interplay between neoliberal feminism and womanhood. However, little existing scholarship has tackled the impact of neoliberal feminism on women’s perception of manhood. This article presents a case study of Mimeng, an iconic Key Opinion Leader (KOL) using social media, such as WeChat, to engage with Chinese women. I employ a critical discourse analysis (CDA) method to investigate how Mimeng uses a neoliberal feminist discourse in composing posts for her WeChat account. One notable feature of Mimeng’s discourse that I identify is her attempt to construct a feminized male ideal. This discourse strategy reveals a commercial objectification of men in order to attract women followers, amid the increase of Chinese women’s consumer power. Yet, such a discourse places an emphasis on refining a woman’s capacity for housetraining her partner or husband, which is a motive embedded in the agenda of Chinese neoliberal feminism. The outcomes of the research shed light on the revival of patriarchal values in contemporary China and beyond.

Semester 2 2019-20

29 January 2020 16:00-18:00 (Armstrong G.11)

Dr Jai Mackenzie, The University of Nottingham 

‘Without them I wouldn’t have survived’: Parenting with connection as a single adopter

The Marginalised Families Online project explores the role digital media can play in the lives of diverse UK families. This presentation will outline the project’s rationale and methodology, before introducing one aspect of its developing findings: how single adopters draw on a range of social, personal and digital resources to support and sustain their family and parenting practices. Nine parents were involved in this qualitative study, including men and women who used adoption, donor conception, surrogacy or co-parenting arrangements, either solo or as part of a same-sex couple, to bring children in to their lives. Each individual (no partners were directly involved in the research) took part in three interviews over eleven months and shared selections of their digital interactions from a range of contexts, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Through grounded theory analysis of three parents’ interviews and digital media, I will show how they engage in parenting with connection, building a robust network (variously described as a web, tribe, community or village) to support and sustain their family and parenting practices. All of these parents have adopted children with special (physical and/or learning) needs, all disrupt the dominant family model of the mother, father and (biological) child, and have all faced challenges to both bring children in to their lives and raise them. The connection, affiliation and extra-ordinary support they gain from these networks both presents a new challenge to the heteronormative model of the nuclear family, and a recasting of extended family and close-knit community models, largely facilitated by digital technologies.

12 February 2020 16:00-18:00 (Armstrong 3.41)

Prof. Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, Swansea University

Doing cyber-trust outside/on the fringes of the law: A Discourse Analysis Approach

In this presentation I explore how individuals and groups seek to generate trust in digital environments that operate either extra-judicially or on the fringes of the law. Two case studies are selected to this end: online violent extremism and online child sexual grooming. Whilst clearly different in terms of the activities performed, both case studies centrally involve efforts to generate cyber-trust discursively (visually, textually). Extremist groups strategically mobilise online a range of discursive topoi, rhetorical styles and imagery in order to inculcate a deceptive sense of safety and trust in the groups’ values, while demonising their perceived enemies and blaming them for causing societal chaos (Brindle 2016; Wodak 2015). In the case of online sexual grooming, predators invest considerable communicative effort in projecting self-identities as trustworthy adults (for they do not necessarily pretend to be minors), who ‘genuinely care’ about the children they prey on (Lorenzo-Dus et al 2016; 2019; Chiang and Grant 2018). 

In addition to presenting key results of these case studies, during my talk I will reflect upon the challenges and opportunities of integrating, on the one hand, quantitative and qualitative discourse analytic methods with those used in other disciplines (specifically, Criminology, Public Policy and Computer Science/Machine Learning) and, on the other, academic results relevant to stakeholder needs.



Chiang, E. & Grant, T.D. (2018). Deceptive identity performance: Offender moves and multiple personas in online child abuse conversations.  Applied Linguistics DOI:10.1093/applin/amy007

Hoggs, M. (2014) From uncertainty to extremism: social categorisation and identity processes. Current Directions in Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0963721414540168

Lorenzo-Dus, N. Kinzel, A. and Di Cristofaro (2019) The communicative modus operandi on online child sexual groomers – recurring patterns in their language use, Journal of Pragmatics (in press)

Lorenzo-Dus, N., Izura, C. & Perez-Tattam, R. (2016). Understanding grooming discourse in computer mediated environments. Discourse, Context & Media. DOI:10.1016/j.dcm.2016.02.004

Wodak, R (2015) The politics of fear: What right-wing populist discourses mean. London: SAGE Publications.


Nuria Lorenzo-Dus is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Swansea University, where she also serves as Dean of Postgraduate Research and leads the Developing Resilience against Online Grooming Research Project. She is the author of several books and over seventy articles and book chapters on media discourse analysis. Her research expertise lies at the intersection of Discourse Analysis and Criminology. Relevant funded projects she (co-) leads include social media use by right-wing extremist and jihadi groups, construction of trust and community in crypto-drug markets, and online groomers’ communicative profiling. Nuria has also recently worked on a Leverhulme Trust project titled ‘Exploring the language barrier to engagement in youth justice assessment interview practice.’

18 March 2020 16:00-18:00 (Armstrong 3.39)

Dr Eleonora Esposito, Navarra University

The Visual Semiotics of Misogyny in the Era of Digital Post-Truth: Female Leaders in the Viewfinder

In this presentation, I share some epistemological considerations in relation to digital media, cyberviolence and critique grounded in the emerging results of WONT-HATE, a project funded by the European Commission (H2020-MSCA-IF-2017). The project investigates phenomena of online misogyny (such as gender-based hate speech, rape threats and image-based sexual harassment) against highly visible, political female figures in Europe. More specifically, it maps the multimodal discursive strategies of online misogyny by collecting and analysing a corpus of user-generated content from selected social media platforms (Twitter and Youtube), with particular reference to three different linguistic landscapes and political cultures in Europe, namely Italy, Spain, and the U.K.

In particular, this presentation focuses on the visual semiotics of misogyny and the role played by image-based user-generated content in the spread of hostility in the digital sphere. Starting from visuality as a key digital meaning-making resource, my research underpins the relevance of a semiotic approach to social media data, paired with a broad definition of text as “any instance of communication in any combination of modes” (Kress 2003:48). In the same vein, it accounts for the long-standing, fetishized attention for women’s (naked) body and overall physical appearance, as established strategies of sexism and objectification (Nussbaum 2010) in traditional and digital media alike. This presentation mainly illustrates two main strategies of digital visual misogyny (image manipulation and false identity attribution) with examples from Italy and Spain.

This presentation expands on the problematization of gender-based hostility as a digital discursive practice surveyed in KhosraviNik and Esposito (2018), to further delve into the inductive conceptualization of the phenomenon at the intersection of digital media scholarship, multimodal discourse theorisation and critical feminist explication. By the means of a Social Media Critical Discourse Studies (SM-CDS) approach (KhrosaviNik 2017), digital visual misogyny is explored, critiqued and contextualised as contributing to the (digital) normalisation of pre-existing and emerging hierarchical and gendered social structures and norms (Butler 2009).


Butler, J. (2009). Performativity, precarity and sexual politics. Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana 4(3): i–xiii.

KhosraviNik, M. and Esposito, E. (2018). Online hate, digital discourse and critique: Exploring digitally-mediated discursive practices of gender-based hostility. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 14 (1): 45-68.

KhosraviNik, M. (2017). Social Media Critical Discourse Studies (SM‐CDS). In Flowerdew, J. and Richardson, J. (eds.), Handbook of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge, pp. 583–596.

Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the New Media Age. London: Routledge.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2010). Objectification and Internet Misogyny. In: S. Levmore, & M. C. Nussbaum (Eds.) The Offensive Internet. Harvard University Press, pp. 68-87.


Dr. Eleonora Esposito is Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra (Spain). Her research interests are in the field of Language, Politics, Gender and Society in the European Union and in the Anglophone Caribbean, investigated in the light of a multimodal critical discursive approach. In her EU-funded project she is exploring new theoretical perspectives and integrated methodologies for the critical investigation of Social Media Discourses, with a specific focus on digital hostility and misogyny.