Ward Peeters holds a doctorate in linguistics and works as a postdoc researcher in science communication at Leiden University. His main interests revolve around the impact of social networks in public domains. Ward has conducted research in Belgium, Japan and South Africa, part of an extensive study on computer-supported collaboration.
A day in the life
When you think about how you spend your time on an average day, it might look something like this: for eight hours, you sleep. For eight hours you eat, you move from A to B and you spend time with the people around you. And for the last eight hours, you are looking at a screen, living and working in a virtual reality. And in that virtual reality, the rules of engagement are slightly different from what you might be used to.
As a linguist, I have spent most of my research career analysing our life online and have developed methods and tools to study our online language production. In my research, I had hundreds of people work together on social media and studied how they tried to solve problems, share information and learn something from each other. Through digital discourse and social network analysis, I was able to identify what kind of language people use to work together successfully, and what generally causes communication breakdown.
Interacting in our virtual world
When we interact, we share content and resources. We manage ourselves and the online world around us, and we share our emotions. However, there is one aspect that systematically falls out of the boat. People are not critical. There just seems to be too much information coming in. While there are connections to be found between almost all of our interactive strategies and activities online, our critical thinking skills tend to become more and more isolated as more information reaches our screens.
In my research, we have visualized these networks of language and interaction on social media. Now, we can finally see where the problems lie, and take the necessary steps to solve them.
Because we can now better understand language and interaction, we can start changing the face of the internet. We can improve what is already there: the algorithms behind our social media apps. We can even launch new concepts for apps that make us interact again and that allow us to be critical. The good news is: we don’t have to lose track. We have all the information we need to create valuable time and space for interaction online, and make social media again truly social.
JSPS international fellowship for postdoctoral research, Tokyo, Japan. Grant Number: 18F18781
Peeters, W. & Pretorius, M. (2020). Facebook or Fail-book: Exploring ‘community’ in a virtual community of practice. ReCALL, 32(3), 291–306. DOI: 10.1017/S0958344020000099
Mynard, J., Tamala, M., & Peeters, W. (Eds.) (2020). Supporting learners and educators in developing language learner autonomy. Hong Kong: Candlin & Mynard.
Peeters, W. (2018). Applying the networking power of Web 2.0 to the foreign language classroom: A systemic functional linguistic analysis of online peer interaction. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 31(8), 905–931. DOI: 10.1080/09588221.2018.1465982