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Part II
The Construction of Community
5 on Social Media

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CoffeeTweets: bonding around the
6 bean on Twitter
8 Michele Zappavigna
14 1 Introduction
16 This chapter explores how we use social media to communicate our
17 experience of the world and bond with others by forming communi-
18 ties of shared values. Microblogging services such as Twitter and Weibo
19 are a form of social media allowing users to publish streams of length-
20 delimited posts to internet-mediated audiences. As such they afford new
21 kinds of interpersonal interaction via the conversation-like exchanges
22 that occur (Honeycutt & Herring, 2009). An example of a length-
23 delimited post (hereafter micropost) is the following. It contains one of
24 the most common patterns in microblogging, an expression of thanks
25 for personal endorsement:
27 @Tim I love #coffee too
29 This post is addressed to Tim using the @ symbol before the name, a
30 construction which can also function as a reference to the person (e.g.
31 @Tim makes great coffee), and contains a hashtag, the # symbol, which
32 acts as a form of metadata labelling the topic of the post so that it can
33 be found by others. This chapter will consider microposts such as this
34 in terms of how they illuminate the way microblogging as a practice
35 creates alignments around shared quotidian experiences by conferring
36 upon the private realm of daily experience a public audience. The kind
37 of personal expression of the everyday that we see in microposts has
38 never been subject to real-time mass dissemination in the way that
39 we are currently witnessing on Twitter. This chapter focuses on one
40 such personal domain, coffeetalk, that is, discourse relating to coffee
41 as consumed in everyday life.1 I will consider this discourse from two

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140 Zappavigna

1 simultaneous perspectives: affiliation (personae aligning into commu-

2 nities of value) and identity (personae enacting particular evaluative
3 dispositions).
4 Alongside a multitude of other choices in fashion and taste, how you
5 take your coffee is part of how you construe your social identity and
6 align with others. Indeed some marketers claim that Coffee is the easi-
7 est way to figure out who is a member of your tribe (Bosman, 2006).
8 It is a tribe that likes to talk: the beverage has a semiotic history that has
9 long associated coffee with communal spaces and egalitarian conversa-
10 tional practices. European coffeehouses of the seventeenth century were
11 sites where commoners and aristocrats alike could meet and socialize
12 without regard to rank (Gaudio, 2003, p. 670). This early association of
13 coffee with conversation has continued into contemporary times where
14 Lets get a coffee has come to stand for Lets have a chat usually as
15 an ostensibly private, casual interaction in a public, institutional
16 venue that is privately owned (Gaudio, 2003, p. 672).
17 With the development of social media there has been additional blur-
18 ring of the public and private realms with people making reference to
19 their coffee consumption while chatting via microblogging services.
20 For example, on Twitter, the private morning coffee has become a
21 public ritual displayed to a potentially vast ambient, internet-mediated
22 audience:
24 enjoying my morning cup of coffee yum
25 Oh how I love coffee =) first thing in the morning
27 Microposts such as the above regularly announce that the microblogger
28 has consumed their morning cup of java and/or declare the users love
29 of coffee. Just as consuming a cup of coffee in a coffeehouse involves
30 interpersonal and social dimensions beyond the experiential (i.e.
31 beyond the act of drinking), posting about coffee is much more than
32 informational: it allows people to build community. This chapter will
33 focus on this interpersonal dimension of microblogging, specifically
34 on rallying affiliation (Knight, 2010) in microposts celebrating shared
35 enjoyment of coffee. I begin by looking at the nature of communica-
36 tion and affiliation on a microblogging site, Twitter. I then outline the
37 model used for analysis of the coffee tweets Martin and Whites (2005)
38 Appraisal theory which focuses on the evaluative devices used by lan-
39 guage users in aligning with other users and texts. My analysis shows
40 how couplings of experiential and evaluative meanings in discourse
41 work to align personae around shared values.

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 141

1 2 The language of micro-blogging

3 Exploring affiliation in microblogging requires understanding how
4 language is being used via this channel to enact communal bonds.
5 Descriptions of microblogging usually imply that it is a form of conver-
6 sation involving some kind of conversational exchange (Honeycutt &
7 Herring, 2009). It is variously described as lightweight chat (Starbird et al.,
8 2010, p. 242), as prompting opportunistic conversations (Zhao & Rosson,
9 2009, p. 251), as a specific social dialect, in which individual users are
10 clearly singled out and engaged in a conversation (Grosseck & Holotescu,
11 2009) and as constituted by dialogue acts (Ritter, Cherry & Dolan, 2010,
12 p. 172). Microblogging is clearly a highly social activity involving com-
13 municative practices in which conversational reciprocity is central. For
14 example, the most common 3-gram (3-word pattern) in HERMES, a 100
15 million word corpus of microposts, was the interpersonal pattern, THANKS
16 FOR THE, with users thanking each other for retweeting or mentioning
17 them (Zappavigna, 2012).
18 Some studies have suggested that microblogging has a largely phatic
19 function. Malinowski introduced the notion of phatic communion
20 as a way of describing communication in the service of establishing or
21 solidifying bonds of companionship rather than serving any purpose
22 of communicating ideas (2004 [1948], p. 250). If conceived in this
23 way, microblogging functions as what Makice (2009), using a computer
24 metaphor, calls linguistic ping.2 Just as a computer on a network can
25 be pinged, we may think of microbloggers declaring to their audience,
26 Im still here!. Thus we might interpret a micropost announcing in the
27 authors first tweet of the day that they have just consumed a great cup
28 of coffee as telling their networked audience that they have just come
29 online for the day. This notion may be extrapolated to relationships
30 formed via social media as part of an overall phatic media culture,
31 where content is not king, but keeping in touch is and where the
32 text message, the short call, the brief email, the short blog update or
33 comment, becomes part of a mediated phatic sociability necessary to
34 maintain a connected presence in an ever expanding social network
35 (Miller, 2008, p. 395). The extent of this function across microblog-
36 ging platforms is likely to vary since, for example, status updating on
37 Facebook, within a semi-private network of peers, encourages different
38 forms of expression to the more public networking seen with Twitter
39 (Page, 2012).
40 The affiliation in operation in microblogging may thus be seen
41 as ambient in the sense that microbloggers as individuals do not

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142 Zappavigna

1 necessarily have to interact directly in order to align around a com-

2 mon value. Instead they may signal their alignments indirectly by
3 displaying particular patterns of evaluation, or they can do so directly
4 through resources such as hashtags (e.g. #coffee) that are used to sig-
5 nal the evaluative target of a post (see below for detailed discussion).
6 Language is resplendent with resources for negotiating community such
7 as naming practices, slang and all kinds of variation across phonology,
8 grammar and semantics that characterize different personae and groups
9 (Martin, 2010). However, the language used in social media, particu-
10 larly microblogging, is under significant interpersonal pressure since
11 users are faced with expressing highly interpersonal meanings in a very
12 constrained context. Microblogging posts are limited to 140 characters
13 and they are posted in a fast-moving environment in which posts can
14 easily be missed by an intended audience. Users therefore have to draw
15 on existing resources in new ways, or develop new resources such as
16 the hashtag. In addition, meanings that might otherwise be expressed
17 paralinguistically must be expressed via other means, such as through
18 the use of punctuation or capitals.3
20 3 Ambient affiliation
22 This chapter draws on work from systemic functional linguistics in con-
23 sidering how associations between interpersonal and ideational4 mean-
24 ings operate to negotiate values in discourse and enact social bonds. The
25 perspective relies upon a social semiotic lens on language as a resource
26 for making meaning (Halliday, 1978). The social semiotic perspective
27 means that I am interested in alignments construed in discourse as a
28 way of understanding communities of socially constructed personae,
29 rather than in how we might group individuals (for example, grouping
30 microbloggers on criteria such as geographic location). In other words,
31 I am interested in persons and personalities communing in discourse
32 (Martin, 2009, p. 563) rather than individuals interacting in groups.
33 To adequately account for the particular semantic domain consid-
34 ered in this chapter (coffee), the theory used must also acknowledge
35 the semiotic power of bonding icons (Stenglin, 2004) as devices for
36 unification. The concept of iconization, as understood in this context,
37 is a semiotic process whereby interpersonal meaning is condensed and
38 ideational meaning discharged. In other words, it foregrounds the
39 interpersonal (coffee as solidifying relationships) and backgrounds the
40 ideational (coffee as a beverage). Posts about coffee are not just relaying
41 ideational content, they are proposing interactive bonds. Consider, for

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 143

1 example, the following micropost, most likely a first post of the morn-
2 ing for this user:
4 Got my morning cup of #coffee, ready to start my day off!
6 Rather than simply informing other users that the microblogger has
7 consumed a cup of coffee, the main function of this post is to pro-
8 pose a bond. It can be seen as inviting its audience to align around
9 the bond of enjoying a morning coffee and invokes related associa-
10 tions of coffee with promoting productivity and wakefulness. Due to
11 the powerful cultural impact of iconization, these apparently positive
12 properties of caffeine have great influence on the daily practices of
13 many people. This semiotic influence results from the heady associa-
14 tion between coffee, conversation and companionship encountered in
15 the coffee-houses (Ellis, 2004) more than on any psychopharmaceuti-
16 cal reality.
18 4 Evaluative language in ambient affiliation
20 Evaluation is a domain of interpersonal meaning where language is
21 used to express attitudes and to adopt stances about other texts. This
22 section explains Appraisal theory (Martin & White, 2005), the model
23 used to analyse evaluative language in the microposts considered in this
24 chapter. Evaluation is an important resource for construing solidarity:
26 Feelings are meanings we commune with, since we do not say what
27 we feel unless we expect the person we are talking with to sympa-
28 thize or empathize with us. We express feelings in order to share
29 them ... to build relationships; where we misjudge the situation and
30 get rebuffed, then a sense of alienation sets in. (Martin, 2002, p. 196)
32 For example consider the following micropost that offers a highly emo-
33 tional expression in relation to coffee:
35 7:00 in morning. No sleep all coffee lol I live it love it ! Yea boy!
37 This post is typical of the highly evaluative style that the channel
38 encourages (Zappavigna, 2012). The widespread tendency towards
39 using evaluative language in microblogging means that it has become
40 an interesting data source for exploring collective emotive trends, often
41 using some form of automated sentiment analysis (natural language

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144 Zappavigna

1 processing methods used in computer science to automatically detect

2 evaluative language in texts) to investigate public reaction to world
3 events (Gruzd, Doiron & Mai, 2011; Thelwall, Buckley & Paltoglou,
4 2011). Applications of sentiment detection using social media include
5 prediction of the stock market based on Twitter mood (Bollen, Mao &
6 Xiao-Jun, 2011).
7 Appraisal theory models choices in evaluative meaning using system
8 networks. System networks are networks of interrelated options that
9 are organized paradigmatically, in terms of what could go instead of
10 what, rather than syntagmatically in terms of structure (Halliday &
11 Matthiessen, 2004, p. 22). They are an alternative to modelling lan-
12 guage as a catalogue of structures. This kind of systemic orientation
13 to meaning arose out of the Firthian tradition in linguistics which
14 asserted the need for a distinction between structure and system, that
15 is, between syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations in language (Firth,
16 1957).5 Figure 6.1 provides examples of each region of appraisal as a
17 system network,6 following Martin and White (2005). The network
18 specifies attitude,7 the way in which we construe evaluative orienta-
19 tion in discourse, as a choice between affect (expressing emotion),
20 JUDGEMENT (assessing behaviour) and appreciation (estimating value).
21 The orientation is modified by the way the text either excludes or
22 includes other voices via the engagement system through the choice
23 between monoglossia and heteroglossia. In addition, the evaluation
24 may be upscaled or diminished via GRADUATION systems. The examples
25 in the network shown in the boxes are tweets from the Obama Win
26 Corpus, a corpus of tweets about Obama collected in the 24 hours after
27 he won the 2008 US presidential elections (Zappavigna, 2011). Each
28 example illustrates a type of appraisal and the network may be further
29 specified to greater levels of delicacy depending on the kind of analysis
30 for which it is being used.
31 Depending on the target and source of the evaluation, lexis such as
32 good can work within any of the attitude systems. Consider judge-
33 ment working along moral parameters targeted at behaviour in the fol-
34 lowing tweet:
36 Thank god is the weekend, time off for good behaviour
38 and affect construing emotion:
40 I feel really good, finally reached the 1,000 followers who wanted
41 both!!

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 145

1 affect
I dont like Obama.
TYPE judgement
3 Frustrated at the improper use of the word enormity.
4 appreciation
5 It felt like I was emerging into a new and better world.
I dont like Obama.
7 invoked
Ya smell what Barack is cookin?
8 ATTITUDE- positive-attitude
9 POLARITY I like Obama.
10 negative-attitude
I dont like Obama.
11 APPRAISAL mono-glossic
ENGAGEMENT Seattle is the greatest.
13 RT: @username1 @username2 yes, the world ...
14 is saved, Obama is like Flash Gordon who
saved everyone of us
16 GRADUATION User was pretty excited about
17 #Obama
18 ... and now its time to see exactly
what Obama can do.
Figure 6.1 The Appraisal system adapted from Martin & White (2005)
23 or appreciation expressing an aesthetic assessment about an entity:
25 Got to have some best friend time tonight, pack a few boxes and
26 drink some good wine. Going to bed content.
28 The model of evaluative language briefly outlined here offers a useful
29 way of analysing the kinds of emotions and stances that are adopted
30 in microposts; however, this is only half of the picture and we need to
31 consider how such evaluation is used to construe values about the world
32 that we then share with one another. This is the topic of the next section.
34 5 Affiliation and coupling
36 While Appraisal theory provides a way of modelling how evaluative
37 language functions, understanding how we align around shared values
38 means that we need to model how we adopt stances about particular
39 things. How do evaluative meanings associate themselves with par-
40 ticular ideation in our discourse and how does this result in producing
41 particular configurations of social bonds? In adopting a social-semiotic

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146 Zappavigna

1 approach to this question, this chapter considers how interpersonal

2 meaning co-patterns with ideational meaning in microposts. The theo-
3 retical basis of this approach is the concept of coupling introduced
4 by Martin (2000) and taken up by Zhao (2010, 2011) and Zappavigna,
5 Dwyer and Martin (2008) for looking at textual relations:
7 Coupling concerns the temporal relation of with: variable x comes
8 with variable y. To put it another way, it is the relation formed
9 between two semiotic elements at one given point in time within the
10 logogenetic timeframe. Coupling can be formed between metafunc-
11 tional variables (e.g. ideational and interpersonal), between different
12 semiotic resources (e.g. image and verbiage) and across strata (e.g.
13 semantics and phonology). (Zhao, 2011, p. 144)
15 Zhao (2011) argues that cultures incline toward stable coupling pat-
16 terns when viewed from the perspective of a particular timeframe (e.g.
17 a historical perspective). This modelling perspective is akin to Bakhtins
18 (1986) work on speech genres as stable patterns of utterance.
19 In a similar vein, Knights (2010) model of affiliation, developed
20 through analysis of conversational humour, describes communal iden-
21 tity as discursively negotiated in text in terms of coupling (Knight,
22 2010, p. 43). The model considers how communities form as people
23 rally around, defer or reject different values construed in language
24 (Knight, 2008). According to Knight, we discursively negotiate our
25 communal identities through bonds that we can share, and these bonds
26 make up the value sets of our communities and culture, but they are
27 not stable and fixed (Knight, 2010, p. 43). Put simply, in order to adopt
28 an evaluative stance, around which we might affiliate (or not), we must
29 construe attitudes about ideation (people, places, things etc.). For exam-
30 ple, the following micropost construes an aesthetic assessment of coffee
31 made in a particular establishment:
33 @user They have fantastic coffee as well!!
35 The coupling involved may be indicated as shown below, where reaction
36 is a kind of appreciation involving an aesthetic response to something:
38 [ideation: coffee / evaluation: appreciation: reaction]
40 This is the convention that will be adopted throughout the chapter,
41 with the square brackets signalling that the contents are part of the
particular coupling of meaning. These associations that build up

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 147

1 between patterns of evaluation and patterns of ideation offer a kind

2 of bottom-up approach to defining communities of shared feelings, a
3 tendency that I will refer to as their coupling disposition.
5 6 The Coffeetweets corpus
7 The microposts included in the Coffeetweets corpus were extracted
8 from Twitter, the dominant microblogging service currently in opera-
9 tion. Twitter allows users to post messages of 140 characters or less to
10 the general internet or to a set of users who subscribe to a users mes-
11 sage stream, known collectively as followers (see Page, this volume).
12 These microposts are referred to as tweets and are presented to the
13 user in reverse chronological order as an unfolding feed of content.
14 The content is public and searchable unless the user actively makes
15 their account private. Tweets may be accessed, sent and received via a
16 variety of methods such as the web, email, SMS, and third party clients,
17 often running on mobile devices. A tweet may also incorporate links to
18 micromedia (small-scale multimedia) and shortened aliases of longer
19 hyperlinks intended to conserve characters within the constrained tex-
20 tual environment, for example:
22 I checked in at Starbucks Coffee (200 Running Hill Rd) on #Yelp
25 The hyperlink in this tweet points to the complete web address (www.
26 that the microblogger has used
27 to check-in, a common social media activity where users indicate their
28 real-time geographic location, usually by updating this information via
29 a third party service on their smartphone.
30 The Coffeetweets corpus was derived from HERMES, a 100 million
31 word corpus of tweets (approximately 7 million tweets) (see Zappavigna,
32 2012, for a corpus-based analysis of this larger corpus). HERMES was col-
33 lected using the Twitter Streaming Application Programming Interface
34 (API)8 and filtering for English tweets. It contains randomized tweets
35 based on the algorithm used by Twitter for sampling. The Coffeetalk
36 subcorpus included all tweets containing the string coffee.
37 The ranked frequency wordlist for the corpus shows a number of
38 items, also seen in HERMES, indicative of the interactivity of Twitter
39 that was flagged at the beginning of this chapter:
41 @: the at character is usually used to address a tweet to another user.
(N=1, freq.= 8922)

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148 Zappavigna

1 #: the hash character is used to mark a hashtag, typically to indicate

2 the topic of a tweet. (N=13, freq.= 2351)
3 RT: two characters that refer to a retweet, the act of republishing
4 another tweet within your own tweet. (N=19, freq.=1850)
6 It is interesting that these three items, which are dependent on the
7 mode of communication (we would not expect these in a corpus con-
8 taining communication via other CMC channels), are also items that
9 work in the service of interactivity. It seems that users have worked
10 creatively and collaboratively to create additional resources that allow
11 them to more effectively commune in the constrained environment.
12 All of these items are examples of resources for bringing voices from
13 other texts into a tweet, working in cooperation with ENGAGEMENT
14 resources in the discourse semantics. As we will see later, the #coffee
15 hashtag plays an important role in aligning users into communities of
16 shared values about coffee.
18 7 Rallying affiliation: bonding around the bean
20 We will now focus upon a particular affiliation strategy, rallying affilia-
21 tion (Knight, 2010). This strategy involves communing around a shared
22 bond by negotiating couplings of evaluation and ideation in discourse.
23 Rallying affiliation was very common within the Coffeetweets corpus
24 with many posts deploying coffee as an icon around which to unite
25 through accumulating APPRECIATION, for example:
27 Damn, thats good coffee, @User. I suggest you get some and put it
28 in you.
30 These might be described as tweets displaying couplings of the follow-
31 ing kind:
33 [ideation: coffee / evaluation: positive appreciation: positive reaction]
35 These posts positively appreciated coffee with reference to its aesthetic
36 dimensions. They were complemented by posts aligning users around
37 AFFECT resulting from pleasure in drinking coffee, characterized by cou-
38 plings of [ideation: coffee / evaluation: affect: happiness/satisfaction/
39 desire]. For example:
41 coffee and cigarettes, love it!

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 149

1 Judgement was generally infrequent in the corpus and was more likely
2 to be used for condemning than rallying:
4 @Starbucks bought 65 perccent of their coffee from ethically traded
5 sources. That number is too low for me! Make it 100!
7 In terms of GRADUATION,9 there was a clear pattern toward upscaling
8 ATTITUDE via the intensifying lexis, for example:
10 coffee is SO good!
11 Illy coffee might be the best coffee on earf. Of all times.
12 @User I try really hard to only have really great coffees, I research a lot.
14 Since HERMES and the Coffetweets corpus are composed of randomized
15 posts it is not possible to consider the exchange structure of interactions
16 about coffee. However, because instances of rallying affiliation abound
17 on Twitter it was relatively straightforward to retrieve a relevant example
18 via the services search interface. The exchange shown in Table 6.1 is of
19 an interaction that unfolded following a good coffee bond proposed in
20 the first tweet (1). The indents in the first column indicate a direct reply
21 to a post via an @mention (directing tweet at a user with their username
22 preceded by the @ symbol) and the unfolding of rows represents the
23 sequencing of posts in time. The posts which follow the initial bond
24 proposal (212) involve instances of accumulating positive appreciation
25 targeted at coffee (evaluation shown in bold). The couplings in these
26 posts (shown in the second column in Table 6.1) are complemented by
27 markers of solidarity such as smiley emoticons and inscribed agreement
28 (e.g. AMEN!, AGREED!!!!). This attitudinal communion is enhanced by
29 the tendency toward upscaled GRADUATION realised both lexically and
30 orthographically (via repetition of exclamation marks and caps font). The
31 users are rallying around the values that they share about coffee, forming
32 a small ambient community. In the section which follows we will consider
33 the increase in scope of such affiliation when it is marked with a hashtag.
35 8 Rallying via hashtagging
37 While the Coffeetweets corpus does not preserve conversational links
38 between tweets, the semiotic alignments enacted are nevertheless
39 apparent. Many posts contain a typographic convention deployed by
40 users to indicate that their tweet is associated with other tweets on
41 the same notional topic. This convention is known as the hashtag.

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150 Zappavigna

1 Table 6.1 Couplings involved in rallying affiliation in a twitter interaction

Tweet Coupling
4 1 Have I mentioned that coffee is [ideation: coffee /evaluation:
sooo good!? positive reaction]
6 2 @User1 agreed,, Im enjoying my [ideation: cup (of coffee) /
cup right now.. mmmm caffine evaluation: positive reaction]
[ideation: caffeine / evaluation
3 Not into coffee, but give me a [ideation: coffee / evaluation:
9 vat of tea in the mornings and invoked negative reaction]
10 Im a happy [ideation: microblogger /
11 evaluation: happiness]
12 4 gal! @User1 have I mentioned [ideation: coffee / positive
13 that coffee is sooo good!? reaction]
14 5 @User1 just about to make my [ideation: time of morning /
15 second cup before waking DD, evaluation: positive reaction]
I heart this time of morning:)
17 6 @User1 cafe mocha is my [ideation: caf mocha / evaluation:
weakness! negative judgement invoking
positive reaction]
7 @User1 amen. coffee should be [ideation: coffee / evaluation:
20 the 5th major food group. invoked positive valuation]
8 @User2 Its number one on [ideation: coffee / evaluation:
22 my list!;) positive valuation]
23 9 @User1 AMEN!
10 @User 1Amen to that! Cup
25 # 2 for me now:)
26 11 @User1 oh i love coffee... [ideation: coffee / evaluation:
27 positive affect]
28 12 @User1 AGREED!!!! And pouring
29 another cup right now!:)
32 Hashtags are a form of conversational tagging that emerged through
33 community use on Twitter (Huang, Thornton & Efthimiadis, 2010).
34 They are a form of social tagging or folksonomy (Vander Wal, 2007)
35 that may derive from internet relay chat (IRC) conventions for naming
36 channels (#channelname). The # character marks the label that a user
37 has assigned to a tweet. For example, #coffee in the following post indi-
38 cates that the tweet is about coffee:
40 I hate being twired where I am awake because of stimulants, but
41 actually tired. #coffee #sleep

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 151

1 The label means that that other users interested in coffee can find the
2 post even though this lexical item does not occur in the body of the
3 tweet. They may do this by searching for the tag via the search interface
4 that Twitter provides, or, if they are likely to have an ongoing interest
5 in the tag, they may elect to subscribe to a feed of tweets containing
6 this tag: a process known as following the tag. In this way hashtagging
7 increases the interactivity of microposts by rendering them a form of
8 searchable talk (Zappavigna, 2011). The three most common hashtags
9 in the Coffeetweets corpus are shown in Table 6.2.
10 Hashtags can thus function to coordinate mass expression of value
11 by focusing rallying affiliation around a particular ideational target (e.g.
12 #coffee) and aligning users into overlapping communities of attitudi-
13 nal rapport (Martin, 2004, p. 323). They typically function as a way
14 of marking the ideational component of a coupling in a tweet for
15 example the following post construes the coupling [ideation: coffee/
16 evaluation: affect: happiness] (evaluation shown in bold):
18 I love #coffee
20 Here the hashtag marks coffee as the ideational centre10 of the potential
21 affiliation. In this way hashtags indicate the ideation around which
22 other users (adopting this hashtag) might rally.
23 Posts containing similar hashtags can be seen to form ambient com-
24 munities of value, that is, particular orientations toward a particular idea-
25 tion. The general idea is shown in Figure 6.2 where tweets marked #coffee
26 form an ambient affiliative network populated by couplings about coffee,
29 Table 6.2 The most frequent hashtags in tweets containing COFFEE
30 Freq. hashtag Example Function
141 #coffee Good morning, Twitterverse! Indicates coffee as the
Todays as good day.... Enjoy in ideational focus of the
33 the morning a delicious #coffee post.
109 #fb Peanut butter, with honey & Used by third party
35 sliced banana on toast with application to
36 coffee. Quickie breakfast of automatically import
37 champions=p #fb the post into Facebook.
38 56 #ff #FOLLOW @Usert! She is soo Indicates the post is part
39 insightful and loves coffee!: of the Follow Friday (FF)
D #FF #F4F meme where microbloggers
promote other users.

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152 Zappavigna

2 #tea
4 Search
window #coffee
5 +
7 +
8 Tweet
9 +
10 #coffee
11 +
12 ideation
evaluation ambient affiliative
18 coupling network
20 Figure 6.2 Tweets marked with the hashtag #coffee forming an ambient affiliative
21 network
23 distinct from those for example about #tea. The + symbol is used in this
24 figure to suggest a kind of semiotic charging: by adding the hashtag to an
25 instance of ideation we make it more available to be evaluated.
27 9 Coffee bonds and identity
29 Since patterns of coupling align personae into communities (Martin,
30 in press), the kind of ambient communities characterized by rallying
31 affiliation that have been suggested in this chapter may be approached
32 from the perspective of identity. The general tendencies in the patterns
33 of coupling seen in the Coffeetweets corpus suggest two broad identities
34 enacted in relation to coffee. These identities may be compared in terms
35 of their coupling disposition. The first is a Coffee Connoisseur who
36 generates aesthetic assessments via appreciation regarding the qual-
37 ity of the coffee they are drinking. The coupling pattern typifying this
38 identity is [ideation: coffee/ evaluation: appreciation: positive reaction]:
40 @User thanks very much, Im looking forward to tasting all the amaz-
41 ing coffees we have coming in through the Synesso, and Aurelia.

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 153

1 The sun is shining. I am off to Donington Market to stock up on rare

2 and exotic coffee blends.
4 Ditto! RT @User: Just had an Allagash Black. Fantastic! Notes of
5 roasted coffee, chocolate, and fruity Belgian yeast.
7 Agnate identities include wine and chocolate connoisseurs and the more
8 generalized foodie, or more ideologically charged food snob. The Coffee
9 Connoisseur personae also tend to construe couplings such as [ideation:
10 life/ evaluation: appreciation: reaction] that contribute to a fine life
11 bond, with the positive prosody targeted at coffee seeming to have spilled
12 over into other aspects of daily life. For instance this might involve posi-
13 tive appreciation of the day to come (appreciation in bold):
15 What a beautiful day!! Sun is shining (first time in weeks!), coffee
16 tastes so good and pancakes for breakfast:) I couldnt be happier! <3
18 Back in Milwaukee, I so love it here..great coffee, lovely people,
19 great shopping...this is gonna be a wonderful day:)
21 The other identity prevalent in the corpus is a more humble Coffee
22 Addict addicted to consuming coffee in order to survive the day. This
23 persona tends toward construing affect:
25 Did I ever tell you I HATE mornings? Wish I could wake up and have
26 a cup of coffee before the chaos started!
28 *leans my hot head on the cold counter, watching the coffee pot fill
29 and groaning at the thought of another long day*
31 In these examples the iconized coffee bond works with another com-
32 mon bond, a hard life bond relating to the negative affect engendered
33 by lifes minor irritations. This latter bond is very common in micropo-
34 sts about everyday experiences (see Zappavigna, 2012, for examples of
35 this bond in relation to the Fail meme).
36 The complaints made by the Coffee Addict persona are symptomatic
37 of a shift in social relations where microblogging has afforded users
38 previously unavailable opportunities to complain about the details of
39 their lives to a large audience. Complaining itself can invoke solidarity
40 via the potential for evoking commiseration in relation to shared irrita-
41 tions. For example, consider the common bond shared by the following

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154 Zappavigna

1 tweets inscribed in the hashtag #needcoffee [ideation: microblogger/

2 evaluation: affect: desire]:
4 I hate waking up at 6am everyday. Ughh #needcoffee
6 Im so out of it this morning. #needcoffee or #moresleep
I want to fast forward to 3:30, to where Im laying in bed, taking a
nap. #needcoffee
10 Getting out of bed can be so difficult some days...its one of those
11 days #needcoffee
13 I feel like a zombie. #ineedcoffee
15 Well that was a fun morning commute..gggrrrr #INeedCoffee
17 Related n-grams included, I NEED COFFEE (n=10) and, NEED MORE
18 COFFEE (n=41), for example:
20 Whyy am I soo tired this morning?:/ Ugg I need coffee!!
Snow again this morning. 2 kids with fevers. Flat tire. Shivering dog.
I think I need more coffee.
24 These types of posts typically express frustration at minor concerns such
25 as lack of sleep the night before or how early in the morning the Coffee
26 Addict has gotten out of bed. This kind of pattern was also seen more
27 generally in the HERMES corpus where common semantic domains of
28 complaint were work, school and sleep, often within a single tweet:
30 18 hours of no sleep. I have to go to work and i`m still going out
31 tonight. FAIL!
33 Thinking synoptically about these identities we might map them onto
34 two axes:11 an ideational dimension along the vertical axis and an
35 interpersonal dimension along the horizontal axis (Figure 6.3). In the
36 upper right quadrant is the Coffee Connoisseur who tends to present a
37 good coffee bond with the couplings involving appreciation and also
38 the fine life bond instantiated as positive appreciations of daily life.
39 In the lower left quadrant is the Coffee Addict persona characterized
40 by proposals of the need coffee and hard life bonds, both of which
41 are instantiated by couplings involving negative affect. The dotted lines

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 155

1 coffee
4 Good coffee
6 Coffee
7 connoisseur
10 Fine life
11 affect appreciation
Need coffee
17 Addict
20 Hard life
22 life
Figure 6.3 Bonding tendencies of two coffee-related personae
25 between the bonds indicate that they form part of a bond complex in
26 the sense that they are typically co-construed by these personae.
27 This topological perspective affords us a view of the polarization of
28 these two subject positions in terms of their differing coupling dispo-
29 sitions. We may think about these identities more relationally along
30 a cline of affiliating personae (Martin, in press) subclassified by the
31 range of bond complexes they tend to enact.
32 While the particularities of the organizing principles that might
33 describe how personae align and de-align as we engage in social life
34 remain elusive, the impact they have on our lives is intuitively appar-
35 ent. This impact is humorously depicted in a cartoon picture of a
36 grumpy-looking cat, replicated across the internet, which reads Before
37 my morning coffee ... I might as well be a dog. The simple humour
38 readily underlines how patterns of alignment, such as rallying around
39 morning coffee, are intimately involved in both the construction of
40 identity and group boundaries. As Martin (in press) notes, Personae are
41 only ever personae as affiliating members of a group.

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156 Zappavigna

1 10 Conclusion
3 Social media such as microblogging allow us to connect with common
4 travellers who share our values. With mobile computing and using
5 resources such as smartphones to access social media, we can share
6 experiences online relatively seamlessly at the same time as engaging in
7 our daily activities. Social media render online interaction searchable
8 in a way and to an extent that has never been seen in history. It is now
9 possible, using metadata such as hashtags, to find the values people are
10 sharing about both daily minutiae (e.g. what someone feels about their
11 morning coffee) and about important world events. This means that we
12 can track the kinds of communities that form as people rally around
13 shared concerns.
14 This chapter has explored rallying affiliation in microblogging in order
15 to explore how such communities form. I have considered the kinds of
16 bonds that are negotiated when microbloggers post coffeetweets. The per-
17 spective on how these bonds are enacted in discourse involves considering
18 how couplings of ideation and evaluation work to align personae around
19 shared values. I have also shown how hashtagging operates to allow ambi-
20 ent affiliation around common ideational targets. This is a novel gaze on
21 community, with the organizing principle of affiliation being an emer-
22 gent bonding around searchable topics rather than direct interaction.
23 Affiliation is about more than connecting; it is about negotiating
24 meanings within genres of language use. Thinking about affiliation
25 and microblogging in this way overcomes some of the problems that
26 researchers have recognized regarding defining what constitutes a vir-
27 tual community. By analysing how people use language to share values,
28 and considering their language from a functional perspective, we have
29 a way of viewing community in unfolding discourse semantics rather
30 than solely approaching community via less subtle variables such as
31 geographic location or links between profiles. Indeed, some studies
32 suggest that reciprocity in the following relationship on Twitter is not
33 prevalent (Kwak et al., 2010) and that the follow relation itself does not
34 necessarily imply direct interaction between people. They argue instead
35 that we need to find the hidden social network; the one that matters
36 when trying to rely on word of mouth to spread an idea, a belief, or
37 a trend (Bernardo, Romero & Wu, 2008). I argue here that the hid-
38 den network is a semiotic network of bonds and bond complexes. The
39 analysis of rallying affiliation undertaken in this chapter is a small step
40 towards understanding the linguistic strategies available to personae in
41 electronic discourse for construing community.

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Bonding around the bean on Twitter 157

1 Notes
1. That is, both the social media equivalent of casual conversation over coffee
and more general discourse about coffee produced by coffee drinkers and
4 their associates.
5 2. Ping in networking refers to a way of detecting if there is a valid commu-
6 nication path between two or more computers: one computer sends out a
7 message and the other replies with an identical copy.
3. However the medium does afford new meaning potential not possible in
face- to-face communication and it is possibly not very productive to continue
9 thinking of online communication as the poor cousin of spoken discourse.
10 4. It should also be noted at this point that the distinction being made between
11 an ideational focus on information and an interpersonal emphasis on
12 social connection should not be conceived in binary terms since language
makes multiple kinds of meaning simultaneously. Within systemic func-
tional linguistics this concurrent meaning potential is referred to as the
14 metafunctions of language: an ideational function of enacting experience,
15 an interpersonal function of negotiating relationships, and a textual func-
16 tion of organizing information (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). A functional
17 account of language aims to take into account these three dimensions when
approaching any instance of meaning.
5. These ideas originate in Hjelmslevs (1961 [1943]) conception of paradig-
19 matic relations, in turn influenced by Saussures (1983 [1916]) distinction
20 between syntagmatic and associative relations.
21 6. The network adopts the convention whereby capitalized labels above the
22 arrows indicate different systems of meaning, and the lower-case labels at
the end of each path mark indicate features within systems. A square bracket
represents a choice between two options in a system (an or relation), while
24 a brace represents simultaneous choices (an and relation).
25 7. Appraisal terminology is shown in small caps to differentiate it from com-
26 monplace terms.
27 8. The API is the language that software tools use to communicate with
Twitters backend database.
9. For a study in graduation systems see Hood (2010).
29 10. Examples with evaluation or evaluation and ideation coupled together were
30 possible as hashtags but were usually deployed for humorous affect given
31 the relative absurdity of anyone searching for a tag such as #ilovecoffee or
32 #awesome.
11. For examples of this kind of topological modelling of personae in another
domain, see Martin, Zappavigna and Dwyer (in press), inspired by work in
34 Legitimation Code Theory (Maton, forthcoming).
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