Politics-Related Emotions in Citizens’ Text-Image Social Media Content


  • Catherine Bouko Ghent University, Belgium


Visual citizenship, social media, thematised emotions, signal-like emotions, supported emotions


I am interested in visual political engagement online – how citizens participate in the dynamism of life in society by expressing their opinions and emotions on various issues of democratic life in image-based social media posts, independent of collective actions. In this contribution, I will focus on affect and judgement (Martin and White 2005). Affect and judgement (roughly emotions and opinions, respectively) are often tightly interwoven and their expression relies on a broad range of devices, cues, and related discourse patterns that are not always easy to distinguish. My approach is structured around three broad modes of the semiotisation of attitude in discourse: 1) thematised, 2) signal-like and 3) supported attitude. Firstly, in discussing thematised attitude, we will see how emotions and opinions become the object of discourse either through direct denotative processes, or through more figurative and more –or less conventionalised, connotative expressions. Secondly, for signal-like attitude, specific patterns signal the presence of emotions and/or opinions in discourse, especially when they are combined with each other (e.g., exclamation marks can signal emotions and/or opinions). Unlike thematised attitude, which concerns discourse about emotions and opinions, signal-like attitude refers to discourse as emotion or opinion. Lastly, supported attitude is informed by cognitive schematisations rather than by specific linguistic patterns, as in the case of thematised and signal-like attitude. I am concerned here with the clues of what causes certain emotions and opinions rather than their consequences in discourse (i.e. signal-like attitude). Analytically, I rely on a set of eight appraisal criteria that help me to infer emotions and opinions from manifest text-image content, like the proximity in time and space between a situation that is schematised in discourse and its writer/speaker.
I will illustrate my approach with a case study in relation to the Brexit Referendum.


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