Wrapping it all up… What does it all mean?

            People used to read newspapers in coffee shops and comment with friends about the daily stories.  Now newspapers are becoming fewer and fewer and online forums are expanding at a rapid pass with comments regarding the daily news.  The Post-Standard is a Syracuse-based newspaper that is no exception to this rule.  Syracuse.com offers readers the daily articles with the option to comment by creating a username that can be anything (related or not related to one’s own name).  According to Gee, Syracuse.com is an affinity space for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, there are multiple generators, both those who write the articles and those who write the comments.  One can choose to examine the actual content of the article or the comments that interact with the article.  Finally, there are various portals to become involved with this space.  Some may choose to go to Syracuse.com and search for a particular article this way, others can “share” articles and one can get to an article through Facebook, lastly, one can pick up a hardcopy of the paper and read through the articles that way (Gee, p.80-81).

            Gee defines affinity spaces in his piece titled Situated Language and Learning. According to Gee, affinity spaces are defined by their generators, the content supplied by the generator, the interaction with the content, and the portals used to access the space.  These criteria consistently pertain to the articles found on Syracuse.com.  

            An interesting aspect of Syracuse.com is the anonymity of the readers and the comment writers.  I found a particular article where one of the commenters claimed to be one of the people arrested in the actual story.  This particular article was titled, “Six accused of throwing trash, corn cobs, cans at Onondaga County sheriff’s patrol car.”  The individual who had been arrested got on Syracuse.com as a means to defend himself and offer his side of the story.  He clearly felt mis-represented in the story and concluded that the only way his voice would be heard would be by commenting on the story himself.  The accused took to the site to offer his perspective on the same set of affairs that the journalist had already put into words.  Gee would refer to this technique as “perspective-taking” (p. 53).  The journalist provided one view (most likely supplied to her by the law enforcement involved in the particular case).  This particular article brought about many comments in the couple days after it was published.  Many other individuals (not involved in the case) announced their opinion and perspective on the situation.

            Opinions and Points of view run rampant on Syracuse.com.  Gee discusses the significance of decoding and one’s identity when it comes to words.  “Neither sounds nor letters themselves have any meaning” (p. 46).  A certain article about Black Friday was posted and a commenter was a retail employee who had just found out that they had to work on Thanksgiving.  This individual was clearly disgruntled and had an obvious attitude in their post.  The words in the comment immediately gained meaning based on the purpose of the comment in connection with our own past experiences.  Many individuals who read the comment would equate Thanksgiving with their own personal memories and most likely empathized with the commenter, considering how they would feel if they had to work on Thanksgiving.  Another commenter responded to this initial comment and basically alluded to the initial commenter as being weak and needing to do something about their current situation rather than just complaining.  Due to the anonymity of the site, it is important to remember that we don’t know almost anything about the commenters.  Without this knowledge and the ability to understand where the particular commenter is coming from (their background and prior experiences), we do not and cannot completely comprehend the full meaning behind each comment. 

            In regards to grammar and spelling on Syracuse.com, watch your back!  The “language cops” are on patrol and will strike at any moment!  I found various instances where people misspelled words or used incorrect grammar, and then were chastised for it by fellow commenters.  Andrews touches on the importance of spelling in a sociological perspective stating that, “spelling certainly does count” (p. 155).  He goes on to mention how we are judged by our writing and that it is seen as the highest value of language in America. 

            In my blog I also touched on the ways that becauseisaidiwould.com relates to Gee and Andrews and the important role language plays on that media forum.  I found it very interesting that people would take the time to make a promise and then post it on a site.  Why was this necessary and how did the presentation and language of their promise play a role?

            First and foremost, there was a girl who promised not to text or Facebook while driving.  This was ironic because she posted her promise on the “becauseisaidiwould” Facebook page. Gee said, ““…language is tied to people’s experiences of situated action in the material and social world” (p. 49).  To this girl, her promise had to be made public.  This was of course based on her prior experiences and familiarity with the social media outlet “Facebook,” but also a means of making a promise and having others hold her accountable for it.  Or was she posting it on this site to get feedback?  The role language plays can bring her together with others who are on her side and want to help her fulfill her promise.  It can also break apart relationships or set her up for harsh criticism based on her promise.  Had she not been so familiar with Facebook, she would have never made this promise to begin with!

            “Meaning is not about definitions, it is about simulations of experience” (Gee, p. 51).  What is a promise?  How is the word “promise” defined?  Must it be spoken aloud to make it a legitimate promise?  Why do some feel that it’s necessary to post their promises to the world? I believe they post their promises to give them meaning.  The promise is no longer just theirs.  Others can now view, comment, and support the promise, if they so choose.  Other individuals can now hold the promise maker to some accountability.  Giving a whole new meaning to promises and what they mean.

            Language is a powerful tool and the ability to combine it with social media and networking, as well as news outlets, can connect individuals worldwide.  It may not always promote the most positive interaction, but it is interaction nevertheless and one’s opinions are expressed solely through the language they choose.  Commenters are unable to show their facial expressions.  They can’t use hand gestures.  They have words.  They have language.  If they are capable of using it well enough, we already can see the “hand gestures” and the “facial expressions” that would be occurring while the comments were being made.  I sometimes wonder why news outlets allow comments?  Commenting gives people a voice.  People want to be heard.




Andrews, L. Language exploration and awareness. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006.




Gee, J. P. Situated language and learning. New York: Routledge, 2007.


My Blog: https://lep2.wordpress.com/





Grammar and Social Media

Grammar and Social Media


I found this comment to be particularly insightful.  You can notice the obvious misspellings.  What was interesting to me was that another commenter took the time to refer to the dictionary and critique the initial commenter.  “tollie59” would definitely be part of the group known as “language cops” described by Andrews on page 34.  Should this informal form of “publishing” something online be subjected to critique?  Can we still get the meaning of this person’s comment?  How about how tollie chose not to use a comma before using quotations?  Should he/she be critiqued for that?  Social media seems to allow for varying degrees of spelling errors and grammar mistakes, but to what point?

Andrews touches on the sociological point that “spelling certainly does count!” (p.155).  He mentions how American culture “places a higher value on written language than any other form.”  Is it possible that because this individual misspelled words, their comment would not be favored as highly?  They would be seen as less-educated?  This definitely appears to be the case.  

Affinity Spaces: journalistic, comments, promises

How to prove one is an affinity space, according to Gee….


Syracuse.com: Affinity Space

     -generator: journalist or comment writers (readers of the articles)

     -content: the article itself

     -interaction with the content: comments made referring to the article

     -portals: internet (syracuse.com), newspaper (The Post-Standard)


….because I said I would: Affinity Space

     -generator: the promise-maker

     -content: the promise and/or description of the promise

     -interaction with the content: comments and input

     -portals: becauseIsaidIwould.com, youtube.com (contains videos also posted on the actual site), promise cards.

Syracuse.com: ‘What Would I Say?’ app will generate a Facebook status so you don’t have to



As I was scanning Syracuse.com, I found this article that was posted today.  A new app has been created that will essentially post status updates for Facebook users so that users do not have to worry about spending the time to post up-to-date statuses.  Is our language so tied to us, so personal, yet so easily reproduced that an app can create appropriate statuses for us on a regular basis?  Is it possible for an app to understand/acquire our past experiences well enough to speak for us?  The affinity space and interaction affiliated with Facebook, as well as staying in touch on a semi-regular basis, are so powerful that people are willing to let an app create updates for them so that they can “keep in touch,” get a lot of “likes,” or inspire the most comments.  Gee’s description of an affinity space includes the generator of the space which provides it with content (p.80).  This generator would go from the Facebook user to an app.  The content could be examined or the way people interact with that content could be examined.  We could look at the comments or likes related to a particular comment and observe the interactions involved or simply stick with the content itself and understand where the user (or app) was coming from.  This space would include multiple portals (Facebook itself, possible email or texts related to the posted comment, and the internet itself).  These various portals would afford the space multiple means of interacting with particular content.


Take a second… think about the word “past.” What does the word “past” mean to you? This is a particularly challenging word and exactly what Gee refers to when he states that one’s experiences determine the meaning that an individual may give to a particular word. In this example, the girl had a terrible past bouncing from foster home to foster home and being abused throughout the process. she refuses to let her past define her. I loved my childhood, and often find myself reliving old memories with my family. I allow and love my past to define myself. But “past” to me means fun, love, happiness, family, lack of worry, and play. I love my “past,” but that is because it is defined by my experiences, just as the woman in the photo is defined by her past (in an obviously negative way).

Facebook, promises, language

Facebook, promises, language


“…language is tied to people’s experiences of situated action in the material and social world” (Gee, p. 49).  


This lady chose to promote her promise by posting on the because I said I would Facebook page.  Her familiarity with social media affected the way she interacted with other individuals.  She was regularly checking Facebook and staying in contact with other people while she was driving.  Her own experiences led to her use of language that was developed to create her promise.  She then posted it online so that others could hold her accountable as well.  Her experiences not only impacted how she decided to project her promise, but also what her promise was based on.   


“Meaning is not about definitions, it is about simulations of experience” (Gee, p. 51).  

What is the meaning of a promise?  Is there a difference between making a promise to oneself and making a promise in front of others?  The purpose of this website is to help “better humanity.”  Promise cards are used “to remember the importance of [one’s] word, for promises both big and small.”  This site is placing an assumption on the meaning of the word “promise” being a positive change for an individual.  These promises often include doing something for others.  

because I said I would…

Initially, my plan was to look at the comments made by individuals based on others promises in regards to this site.  Apparently the comments have almost entirely been removed.  I have decided instead to take a look at these people’s promises.  How does the language affect how a promise is presented?  This will be presented in the next couple posts… Stay tuned!