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MSc Communication, Behaviour and Credibility Assessment Seminar Series

Our annual series of research talks will be held in GM334 as follows:

Isobelle Clarke, Monday 17th June, 1.30—2.30pm


Gavin Brookes, Tuesday 18th June, 11.30—12.30pm
Olumide Popoola, Tuesday 18th June, 1.30—2.30pm
Julie Taylor, Thursday 20th June, 1.30—2.30pm

Abstracts

Deceptive, Provocative, and Emotionally Divested Assimilation: Comparing trolling tweets to


general English tweets
Isobelle Clarke
University of Birmingham
In this talk, I will present the results of a systematic comparison of general English tweets and trolling
tweets with respect to the major patterns of functional linguistic variation of general English Twitter.
In particular, a modified version of Biber’s (1988) ‘additive’ version of Multi-Dimensional Analysis
(see Sardinha, 2018) is introduced and applied to two corpora of tweets. This method enables trolling
tweets to be calibrated along the major dimensions of functional linguistic variation of general English
tweets. The results reveal that trolling tweets and general English tweets are significantly different in
their distribution (p < .05) along the major patters of functional linguistic variation. Specifically, trolling
tweets are more interactive, more oppositional, more persuasive, less self-reporting and more focused
on describing other entities than general English tweets. General English tweets are more non-
interactive, more promotional, less persuasive, more self-reporting and less focused on describing other
entities than trolling tweets. In light of previous research on trolling, three hypotheses are proposed,
which offer explanations for these functional differences. Despite these differences, however, there is a
considerable amount of overlap between the two groups of tweets suggesting that trolling tweets are
very much situated in the context of Twitter, and draw on the technological and linguistic affordances
of general Twitter in a process of deceptive, provocative, emotionally divested assimilation.

Obesity in the Press: A corpus-based comparison of tabloid and broadsheet representations

Gavin Brookes
Lancaster University

This talk reports early findings from the Representations of Obesity in the News project at Lancaster
University. Obesity is a medical term used to describe the condition in which a person is very
overweight and has a large amount of body fat. In the United Kingdom (UK) – the context for this study
– a person can be diagnosed as being obese if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) score of 30 or more
(National Health Service, 2018). Obesity is regarded as a major health concern in the UK, where it is
presently estimated that around 60% of adult men and 50% of women are either overweight or obese
(Office for National Statistics, 2017). This prevalence is predicted to increase in the future, with
projections suggesting that as many as 74% of men and 64% of women living in the UK could be either
overweight or obese by 2030 (World Health Organisation, 2015). This rising prevalence has been linked
to the increasing rates of several life-shortening conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and
some types of cancer (National Health Service, 2018). Given its increasing prevalence and perceived
health consequences, obesity constitutes a persistently newsworthy topic in the UK as in other countries.
Existing research into this media coverage has demonstrated the tendency for it to be deeply
stigmatizing for people affected by obesity, who are represented as failing to discipline, regulate and
contain their bodies (Bonfiglioli, et al., 2007; Boyce, 2007; Boero, 2013) – transgressions which can in
turn lead to social marginalisation and evoke derision, repulsion and even disgust from others (Lupton,
2018).

The research reported in this talk is based on a purpose-built corpus of articles about obesity published
across eleven UK national tabloid and broadsheet newspapers over a ten-year period spanning 2008 to
2017 (inclusive). This amounts to approximately 44,000 articles and 36 million words. The analysis
combines techniques from corpus linguistics with concepts from Critical Discourse Studies. Taking a
keywords approach, this talk will compare the ways in which the topic of obesity is framed by tabloids
and broadsheets. The analysis shows that while the tabloids represent obesity as a disease that exists
inside individuals, the broadsheets tend to frame it as a social problem. A corollary of these framings is
that, for the tabloids, responsibility for preventing and ‘curing’ obesity rests with the individuals
affected by it, meanwhile for the broadsheets the lion’s share of responsibility for obesity rests with
government and food industries. These framings are then interpreted (i) in relation to the wider society
in which they have been produced and consumed and (ii) in terms of their implications for promoting
contented bodily attitudes and encouraging so-called ‘healthy’ behaviours in members of the public.

References
Boero, N. (2013). Obesity in the media: social science weighs in. Critical Public Health, 23(3), 371-
380.
Bonfiglioli, C., King, L., Smith, B., Chapman, S. and Holding, S. (2007). Obesity in the media: Political
hot potato or human interest story? Australian Journalism Review, 29(1), 53–61.
Boyce, T. (2007). The media and obesity. Obesity Reviews, 8(1), 201–205.
Lupton, D. (2018). Fat (2nd edition). London and New York: Routledge.
National Health Service (2018). Overview: Obesity [online]. Available:
<https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/>.
Office for National Statistics (2017). Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England [online].
Available: < https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-
diet-england-2017>.
World Health Organisation (2015). The challenge of obesity - quick statistics [online]. Available:
<http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable diseases/obesity/data-and-statistics>.

Deception Detection—full title to be determined

Olumide Popoola
University of Birmingham

Full abstract to follow – please e-mail Samuel Larner (s.larner@mmu.ac.uk) for further details.
Childhood Experiences of Domestic Violence and Adult Outcomes. Where are we now:
challenges, debates and interventions?

Julie Taylor
University of Cumbria

The traditional view that children living in violent and abusive homes are passive witnesses to the
violence has changed in recent years. This presentation will review research advocating change in the
way children are treated in domestic violence research and in practice through the transformation of
service direction. In parallel I will reflect on her experiences of working with women on a community
sentence project who reported high levels of violence and abuse in their childhood homes and in many
cases their subsequent intimate relationships. The themes identified from the project are considered in
light of contemporary evidence and several synergies are identified not least of which being the
women’s reported agency and their sophisticated emotional and behavioural responding in the face of
considerable adversity. The presentation concludes by considering what work remains to respond to the
identified needs of children and families living with violence.