Linguistic guerrilla warfare 2.0: On the “forms” of online resistance
While initially feared to cause linguistic homogenization, the Web has rapidly emerged as a space for language variety and experimentation. In fact, as communication infrastructures have developed around the globe, online communication has progressively moved away from the “anglicizing” model hypothesized by critics, embracing — and increasing — the great linguistic variability of offline exchanges. What is more, the hybridization of orality and writing characterising the Internet has resulted in the emergence of multiple variations of a new language: the Netspeak. Alongside such a creative and playful impulse, a movement of “resistance” to the various systems of control that have been imposed over online communication can be noticed. Consider, for instance, leet (or 1337), a codified form of English characterised by the use of non-alphabetic characters instead of common letters, as well as some phonetic changes, the genesis of which is linked — among other reasons — to the attempt to overcome the control and censorship put in place by the administrators of forums, digital communities and other multi-user computer systems. Another example is the very popular algospeak, which includes alterations similar to the ones found in leet, in addition to the use of synonyms, figurative expressions and other strategies used to deceive algorithmic systems and thus bypass automated controls. This paper deals with the analysis of such phenomena in order to foster the reflection on the impact of new media on today’s communication processes, with particular reference to the crucial issue of the relationship between language and power
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