Home / Articles / Volume 16 (2018 Special Issue) / Introduction to the Special Issue: The Social Mediatization of the Economy: Texts, Discourses, and Participation
Document Actions



The starting point of this Special Issue of Language@Internet is the observation that discourse on economics and finance has been shifting in terms of genre, register, and context, and that novel forms of online engagement are crucially symbiotic in these shifts. We propose to analyse these new contexts through the analytical concept of social mediatization, which permits close engagement with the influence of particular affordances on the enregisterment, vernacularization, recontextualization, and rescripting of particular features and fragments of discourse on the economy. While the main, but not exclusive, focus of the issue lies on engagements with euro crisis discourse, the framework is applicable to a wide variety of contemporary media engagements.


No longer the prerogative of elite actors and institutions, talk of economics and finance1 has become commonplace in ordinary, laypersons' conversation, with, for instance, concepts such as 'quantitative easing' and 'recapitalization' currently forming part of everyday life lexicon in crisis-stricken Europe. Of particular importance are social media-enabled contexts of 'prosumption' (Toffler & Toffler, 2006), enabled in turn by the affordances (i.e., perceived "possibilities and constraints for action" in online environments, Barton & Lee, 2013, p. 27) of archiving, sharing, content distribution, and scalability (boyd, 2010). This formed the starting point for a colloquium, entitled "Mediatizing the Economy: Shifting Registers, Styles, and Contexts,” which the editors co-convened at the 21st Sociolinguistic Symposium, which took place in Murcia, Spain, in June 2016. The papers presented there, most of which are included in this Special Issue, explored different manifestations of the 'economy' ceasing to be a predominantly specialised domain, and they teased out the role of media, in particular social media, in this shift. It was clear in the thematic foci of the colloquium papers that a prime site for locating, illustrating and, indeed, accounting for this shift is the European and Greek sovereign debt crises (with the latter being arguably the most affected European country), which were themselves consequences of ballooning government debt in the wake of the global financial crisis post-2008. The severe economic downturn following the 2008 crisis, as well as state aid for financial institutions, led to ballooning government debt for many European countries, which were then forced by a variety of supranational institutions to reduce spending.

At the same time, the experience of the colloquium allowed us to recognise that, whilst keeping the focus on the social mediatization of the Eurozone economic crisis, it would be productive to extend the remit of our inquiry to different geographical and cultural contexts. As a result, this Special Issue has also included as topics the 2016 United Kingdom (UK) Referendum on membership of the European Union (EU), as well as macroeconomics news reporting on a Chinese mobile news app. At the same time, our starting point remains that social and new media are playing a key role in in the current changes in economics texts and discourse, and that they therefore merit attention in their own right.

In the light of the above, the articles in this Special Issue explore:

(i) the crucial role which digital media environments and modes of engagement are playing in rendering the economic sphere more accessible to ordinary, non-specialized actors, and

(ii) how such actors make economics part of their communicative repertoires and creative discourses.

To this effect we employ, as a useful conceptual framing of the above shifts, the concept of 'mediatization,' which refers to "socio-cultural change that is specifically tied to the expansion and differentiation of communication media" (Androutsopoulos, 2014, p. 12). In the case of economics discourse, mediatization implicates the observable, media-afforded proliferation of new contexts of creative and active consumption by ordinary actors of traditional ‘prestige’ scientific domains. This evolution is symbiotically interrelated with ‘economics’ becoming widely reportable news with a wide audience reach.

Of particular importance here is what we term ‘social mediatization’: the fact that ‘prosumption’ is engendered particularly through participatory culture, as well as the economy of sharing. This further destabilises the expert-lay distinction that has frequently characterised economics discourse. Social mediatization thus builds upon an understanding of mediatization as an increasingly interdependent interrelation between (i) different media and modes of communication, and (ii) their integration in the fabric of various social spheres (cf. Androutsopoulos, 2014). Yet it also amends it, since the concept of ‘social mediatization’ stresses that social media features of mediatization further heighten participatory modes and potentials for expression and/or contestation.

In this context of changing media landscapes, below we first further elaborate the concept of 'social mediatization' in order to have it reflect current understandings of social media discourse and specific affordances shaping it. We then map out current work on discourse and the economy, arguing that close analyses of news users' engagements with economic/financial discourse are still lacking in it. Finally, we provide an overview of the articles in this issue. The articles highlight the role of particular social media affordances in the ways in which specific facets of the economy are made sense of, commented upon, contested, and creatively reworked by networked audiences through afforded modes of participation. Such facets include general economic news reporting of key moments in the financial and Greek crisis, influential economists, and even specific economic terms.

Social Mediatization in a Changing Media Landscape

To gain an understanding of contemporary public engagement with economics discourse, our starting point is that close scrutiny is needed of that engagement in the context of mediatization processes as currently (re)shaped by social media affordances. As the articles of this Issue show, such a scrutiny enables the identification and critical analysis of new modes of public engagement with the economy in different online sites, and their connections with specific features of the design of such sites. Emphasis on the local contexts of online engagements with the economy allows us to move away from the "normative assumption of a coherent media logic" (Hepp, 2014, p. 56) and, instead, to explore key aspects of the increasing complexity of mediatization processes that disrupt the division between traditional/printed and digital media.

In online contexts, this means that while "principles, mechanisms, and strategies underlying social media logic may be relatively simple to identify […] it is much harder to map the complex connections between platforms that distribute this logic," including their institutional and economic contexts (van Dijck & Poell, 2013, p. 11). Taking our cue from Herring's and Androutsopoulos's argument that since "CMC technology continues to innovate at a rapid pace […], new and up-to-the-minute research is needed to document its appropriation and consequences for discourse" (2015, p. 143), our aim is to contribute insights to the call for new theoretical and empirical models of linguistic research (e.g., YouTube polylogues in research by Bou-Franch & Garcés-Conejos Blitvich, 2014) so as to address the realities of communication of socio-political life on social media.

As such, the articles in this Special Issue aim to "look at specific case studies through this analytical prism" (van Dijck & Poell, 2015, p. 11) and thus enrich our understandings of social mediatization processes by bringing in locally situated, empirical insights from a variety of platforms. What links the articles is an emphasis on social mediatization as a means to highlight modes of participation in online media. Indeed, texts and discourses emanating from official, traditional news sources are no longer merely 'consumed.’ Instead, official media institutions nowadays can be described as operating in contexts of 'prosumption' (Toffler & Toffler, 2006), in which members of a society themselves produce an increasing share of what they consume (also cf. van Dijck, 2009).

These online constellations of ever-increasing complexity are materialising against the backdrop of equally rapidly transforming landscapes of news reporting (cf. Anderson, 2011). Attempting to characterise news media reporting and consumption as a top-down process of unidirectional influence has become increasingly fraught with complications over the last few decades. Novel social media platforms and digital means of communication allow users to forge their own communities, potentially bypassing centralised institutions or means of control, in order to connect with a (self-selected) group of peers, when actively consuming and producing news. In addition to any political consequences (e.g., the Arab Spring), these evolving digital contexts may fundamentally alter traditional collective identities (Gerbaudo & Treré, 2015) and their role in participation in the socio-political sphere.

New online sites of prosumption, including Facebook, YouTube, eBay, and Wikipedia, "facilitate the implosion of production and consumption" (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010, p. 19). In turn, established media and policy sources increasingly refer to public engagement on social media, thus potentially turning erstwhile consumers of traditional news media into indirect producers of media discourse. There are tensions, however, in this attestable synergy of established news outlets with public engagement on social media, with the former increasingly deploring particular outcomes or effects of that participation in democratic societies. Topical examples include the alleged effects of social media engagement on the 2016 Brexit referendum, as well as the 2016 US election campaign. These examples illustrate an additional level of mediatization specific to social media distribution, namely the use of weaponised algorithmically-derived data so as to manipulate public opinion and engagements with current affairs. While the articles in this Special Issue do not focus on this rapidly escalating phenomenon, it is our hope that their insights into the links between social mediatization and engagements with the economy will be usefully drawn upon by qualitative, discourse-analytic studies of the role of algorithmic anticipation and manipulation.

Media and cultural studies of participation in social media have attested to shifts of traditional modes of civic engagement in politics to affective engagements that often fuse and remix popular culture and politics. This furthering of the television-mediatized process of infotainment in the dissemination of political news is reflected in the portmanteau term politainment (Baym, 2009). These shifts also speak to an increasing destabilisation of clear-cut boundaries between understanding and doing politics as rational, deliberative (re)actions and as emotive responses that draw on and create parallels with a broad range of cultural experiences, engagements, and celebrity culture (see, e.g., Loader, Vromen, & Xenos, 2016).

These sociologically inspired investigations that analyse the current digital media landscape are mirrored by similar efforts, though to a lesser extent, in (socio)linguistics. Squires and Iorio (2014), for instance, demonstrate how news media have increasingly incorporated tweets into their reporting, albeit with varying rates of acceptance of non-standard language features. Aslan et al. (2015) go one step further to investigate "interactional trajectories" between Twitter and news reporting. They show how "news organisations are using social media controversy to generate further controversy in their own journalism" (p. 597).

‘Social mediatization’ as an analytical concept also highlights the importance of spaces for affective expression in historical moments that promise social change (Papacharissi, 2015). In these spaces, sharing can turn to a mode of collectively and emotionally historicizing and experiencing breaking news of global events in the space-time of instantaneous proximity (cf. Chouliaraki, 2006; Georgakopoulou, 2015; Giaxoglou, 2015).

Sociolinguistic studies have also highlighted the role of language and other semiotic resources, as well as of specific emerging or remediated genres in the ways in which users circulate and/or satirise political events and politicians, e.g., through memes and spoofs (e.g., Leppänen et al., 2014). As shown by Georgakopoulou (2014), the portability and remixing affordances of social media platforms are instrumental in amplifying lay creativity, in particular in how users employ a range of multisemiotic means to create satirical analogies between current affairs and popular culture scenarios, thus personalizing politics and politicians. From this point of view, these lines of inquiry have added valuable 'language'-focused, micro-analytical insights to cultural studies of social media engagements as 'vernacular creativities.’ These refer to "creative practices that emerge from highly particular and non-elite social context and communicative conventions" (Burgess, 2006, p. 206), speaking to the semiotic democratizing potential of social media.

That said, as the articles of this Special Issue demonstrate, there are limits to studying the social mediatization of the economy primarily through the lens of processes of vernacularization (Coupland, 2014). Vernacularization is often deployed in sociolinguistics as a point of entry into shifting texts and discourses of domains that "have been the preserves of standardness" (p. 87). By identifying "previously 'blocked' linguistic features, styles and genres […] that 'pass the filter'" (p. 87) into such domains, the renegotiation of public-private boundaries in media discourse is empirically grounded. Here, cases in point are the popular(ised) public engagements of economists, such as the videocasts of Robert Reich in the US.2 An affiliated concept (as noted by Androutsopoulos, 2014, p. 25), mostly originating in critical discourse analysis, is that of conversationalization (Fairclough, 1994). Both, however, assume a more or less unidirectional influence and communication from elite/professional to lay domains. As the articles of this Issue show, it has become nearly impossible for research on current affairs to argue coherently what precisely is constructed by whom or which sources of power on a grand scale, or indeed to make any assumptions as to how this will play out. Therefore, as we will see, the complexity of elite-lay interconnections in the case of the social mediatization of the economy is best explored with a focus on specific affordances. These primarily include distribution and portability, as well as their role in amplifying and sedimenting or, equally, creating new meanings.

Discourse and the Economy

The 2008 financial crisis has provoked a surge of interest in scholarly work that addresses the multifarious links between discourse and the economy. Existing work has amply demonstrated that there is no such thing as a value-free representation of financial/economic affairs. The lion's share of (socio)linguistic attention has focused on metaphors in economic/financial news reporting or in other financial texts. Much research in this vein has contributed to an understanding of popular (conceptual) metaphors, such as 'economic crisis is war' and 'economic crisis is disease,' to describe economic/financial affairs (Arrese & Vara-Miguel, 2016; Joris, d'Haenens, & Van Gorp, 2014). At the same time, these studies also point out the potential ideologically problematic nature of some of these metaphors (Bickes, Otten, & Weymann, 2014; Caers, 2013). Economic/Financial news reporting has recently attracted the focus of Critical Linguistics, too, with foci including an analysis of blaming discourse in the context of the euro crisis (Ntampoudi, 2013), neo-Marxist understandings of dominant press discourses (Mylonas, 2014), and discursive strategies of legitimating particular economic policies (Vaara, 2014).

Combining discursive and sociological angles has led scholars such as Maesse (2015) to propose macroscopic accounts of the interaction between power and discourse that results in a hegemonic position of 'expert' economics. More concretely, he argues that economic discourse originates in various centres of power such as academia, news media, public experts, etc., which further solidify the neoliberal power structures that intervene in the production of discourse. His model of a Discursive Political Economy of Economics has been preceded by critiques reliant on the concept of neoliberalism, either as a dominant discourse (Ayers, 2005; Davies, 2005) or as a hegemonic structure (De Ville & Orbie, 2014; Plehwe, Walpen, & Neunhöffer, 2006). Earlier work focusing on the language/discourse of economics has, in fact, originated in that discipline itself. McCloskey (1995) argues that economists tell their stories/narratives adhering to fundamental metaphors, and that no economic theory is convincing in the absence of rhetorical backing (McCloskey, 1990). Other work has sought to provide a constructionist account of certain economics theorems, including the important equilibrium model (Weintraub, 1991). Similarly, ontological and epistemological debates in other fields of the humanities and social sciences have been mirrored by works in economics such as those of Mäki (1988) and Rothbard (1989), both of whom argue against rhetorical/discursive approaches to economics. These debates are resurfacing in economics once more, this time with renewed attention to the influence of dominant ideas, institutions, and cultural facets on an economic state of affairs (de Lima, 2015; McCloskey, 2010).

Regardless of the theoretical basis of these works or the scholarly field in which they originate, what links them is the observation that different linguistic means, stories, and dominant representations shape how members of professional communities (e.g., news producers, economists) and audiences conceptualise and understand an economic/financial state of affairs. In addition, the majority of these studies focus on the (elite) production of discourse and public communication on economic/financial affairs. Far less attention has been paid to how these particular conceptualisations play out in the public sphere in general and online in particular or how audiences make sense of them. Where attention has been paid to societal consequences of particular ways of economic thinking (e.g., Mokyr, 2017), the analytical focus is a macroscopic and economic historical one.

Yet as mentioned above, the active consumption side of economics discourse is the very area that has undergone dramatic changes in the past couple of decades. Moreover, and as the articles in this Special Issue will show, novel forms of public engagement on social media platforms have potentially wide-reaching effects on public understandings of 'expertise,' with 'expert' positionings being undermined, and expert-lay and public-private dichotomies being destabilised (see also the Conclusion). In other words, if experts conceptualise the economy in a particular way, it no longer automatically follows that this conceptualisation carries over in the socially mediatized public sphere. As such, a sustained linguistic focus that investigates micro-properties of the aforementioned interface, nearly absent in the literature at the moment, is now more than merited. This focus is well-suited to the investigation of novel forms of public engagement with current affairs and their implications for the emergence of non-elite discourses on economic/financial affairs.

The Social Mediatization of the Economy: An Overview of this Issue

Since the worldwide financial crisis of 2008, as well as its effects on the financial and economic health of the majority of European countries, mainstream news outlets and, indeed experts themselves, have invested in what we can call 'plain speak' attempts aimed at communicating the financial crisis to the 'public' (i.e., ordinary news consumers) in ways that render it understandable and accessible. A case in point is the inclusion of Q&A boxes in newspaper coverage that metalinguistically explain particular economic/financial terms by providing definitions, metaphors, or analogies. In a similar vein, online media create 'explainer' videos that define and explicate complex economic and political events and contexts by reference to everyday, occasionally banal, household settings. Tereza Spilioti (this issue) focuses on online video explainers associated with major economic and political events, such as the Greek financial crisis and the Brexit referendum. She shows how these new forms of mediatized discourse capitalise on affordances for multi-semiotic representations, remixing and cross-linking linguistic and other semiotic 'packages' of resources, resulting in what she sees as an expansion of news genres. By drawing on metaphorical, familiar scenarios of food and home cooking, this expansion still positions public audiences as 'non-expert.’ At the same time, the use of these non-mainstream metaphors in the context of financial crisis reporting explains the crisis as the result of inadequate decision making as opposed to an inevitable occurrence. In addition, although this is not the focus of Spilioti's article, the aforementioned social media facilities allow for these novel metaphorical scenarios to be rated, built upon, creatively remade, and recycled and distributed.

This active consumption side in online financial news reporting is the focus of Cedric Deschrijver's article, which investigates commenters' talk on The Guardian's report on the expiration of Greece's first bailout package.3 The live news blog under investigation there may in itself be seen as a symptom of vernacularization of the economy. Yet the comments also demonstrate what is, in many ways, an opposite trend. Aside from vernacular features having entered The Guardian's live blog reporting, commenters quickly and actively adopt financial and economic terminology in their assessment of the night's events and of its aftermath, which was unclear at the time. In this way, technical vocabulary co-exists with users' vernacular talk about the economy. Focusing on indicators of metapragmatic awareness – that is, linguistic features indicating language users' "reflexive awareness" (Verschueren, 1999) – Deschrijver shows that this process does not imply that the terms' original connotations and conditions of use are preserved. In effect, one of the terms investigated demonstrates signs of being at the early stages of enregisterment, that is, of “becoming socially recognized […] as indexical of speaker attributes by a population of language users” (Agha, 2005, p. 38), causing it to become for some commenters a term employed to suit various established interests, suspect in its apparent denial of the deadline's passing.

The processes of genre expansion and related potential for enregisterment reported in the two articles above are thus intimately linked with the opportunities for economics/finance talk in online contexts and, over time, are necessary to establish any durable patterns in the language, texts, and discourses to be found in the mediatization of the economy. At the same time, these processes ultimately depend on particular modes of engagement in varying new/social media contexts, as the articles by Hou and Lampropoulou demonstrate.

Mingyi Hou investigates comments on the platform of a highly popular Chinese mobile news app. Her analysis of user engagement with economic/financial news there leads her to identify the "generic innovation" of 'bashing,' with the app's metrics and architecture encouraging users to post pointed and scathing remarks. Consequently, the alleged truth and objectivity of both the news and user comments are backgrounded in favour of eloquence in expressing dissatisfaction with the economic news and socio-economic context. This mode of participation is shaped by users' expectations of bashing being "a default position in participation,” rewarded in turn by quantitative measures such as upvotes. In this way, as articles in this Issue show, the ways in which networked audiences make economics part of their communicative repertoires and creative discursive workings are intimately linked with specific apps and what platforms allow for, enable, and constrain.

As a counterpoint, Sofia Lampropoulou investigates user comments in The Guardian Online with a focus on how they make sense of news stories about capital controls imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2015, and how they apportion blame to particular actors and institutions. The article shows how users effectively recontextualize the news articles' discourses of chaos and fear into discourses of blame and responsibility, thus altering and expanding upon mediatized meaning-making regarding the economic crisis. In this way, users engage in creating discursive positions of expertise for themselves. They do that by "[m]astering economic jargon and comprehension of economic facts" so as to be able to associate that mastery "with entitlement to blame-attribution strategies.” In turn, certain linguistic features related to financial/economic discourse become strategic resources for users to solidify their apparent economics expertise. The two articles by Hou and Lampropoulou investigate texts of which the cultural, linguistic, and topical contexts differ widely, but what they both report is more or less agentive positioning on the part of commenter-users in recontextualizing and reframing meanings and explanations about the economy that institutional stakeholders may be promoting. On that basis, we can suggest that there is no a priori reason to assume that such meaning shifts are not occurring in other online contexts or with financial/economic news that has different topics.

One of those shifts occurring across contexts is an increasing reliance on the 'vernacular,' in Burgess's (2006) terms; in their engagements with media discourse, news prosumers will rely on everyday, grassroots experiences. To do so, they may either rely on their own experiences, or combine their own experiences with certain ingredients of economics news. In the latter case, this may give rise to engagements with the economy that are mediated and complicated by a focus on an economics expert. A case in point is Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Minister of Finance who, through his short term in office, gained worldwide fame as an "erratic Marxist,” 'showbiz' economics expert. Alexandra Georgakopoulou and Korina Giaxoglou investigate the role of key mediatizations (from Thug Life memes to the V for Varoufakis video and Twitter reactions) of Varoufakis in the creation of a “biographically projectible brand” (Lempert & Silverstein, 2012) of him as a celebrity economist. Their analysis demonstrates how users single out incidents involving Varoufakis in his negotiations with members of the Eurogroup as emblematic events, share them as breaking news, and satirically rework (i.e., rescript) them. In them, "the economy" becomes "an integral part of recyclable and replicable plots in which Yanis Varoufakis […] [comes] to stand almost metonymically" for the socio-economic context in which he operates. All the while, the plots contain semiotic links to popular culture plots and motifs that construct Varoufakis as an unconventional, defiant actor. The consistent "poly-storying" of Varoufakis, and in turn the economy, not only leads to the transmedia availability of new images and stories, but it also allows users to bring in "economic terms […] as part of their own lived experience, in stories of living in hardship.”

Finally, Jo Angouri, Salomi Boukala, and Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou employ a multi-method critical discourse approach to contrastively investigate two politicians' Twitter discourses that exemplify the recently rising discourses of politics of fear in connection with the economy. Specifically, the article focuses on tweets by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in anticipation of the 2015 Greek Referendum (on acceptance of the conditions of a 3rd bailout, see note 2) and those of former UK Prime Minister David Cameron before the 2016 British Referendum (on the UK membership in the EU). Through a quantitative content and discourse historical analysis of both politicians' references to institutions, their interaction with other tweets, and their recurrent argumentative topoi, the authors demonstrate how each set of tweets conjures up different views of the economy, linked with different narratives of belonging and ideologies. Cameron specifically links the economy to everyday concerns (such as the price of shopping), particular sectors of society such as the arts or farming, or society as a whole, all with a view to emphasising its key role in shaping Britain's future. Tsipras, in contrast, links the economy with EU neo-liberal interests and the blackmail of Greece. Thus, both politicians, with different communication strategies on Twitter, emphasise and recontextualize specific aspects of the overarching category of 'economy' in order to lend weight to their political viewpoints.


Overall, the articles presented in this Special Issue bring to the fore specific textual, discursive, and participation shifts in the social mediatization of the economy in relation to traditional expert-based features of the economy in print media. Such shifts, on the one hand, tally with (sociolinguistic) accounts of the vernacularization of expert-based domains, but on the other hand, they show the need to go beyond those accounts for a full description and interpretation of the phenomena involved. To be specific, it is necessary to account for shifting texts, discourses, and participation in the context of particular online media affordances, with changing affordances preceding or, at the very least, facilitating changes in the mediatization of the economy. That said, it may well be too soon to speak of a "vernacularization of the economy," since evidence is lacking that expert economics discourses have so far been profoundly affected in the same way. Many such discourses appear to continue to adhere to strict, implicit rules that erect high barriers to entry for non-experts (e.g., Aiezza, 2015; Leibbrand, 2015; Whitehouse-Furrer & Perrin, 2015).

Instead, we propose to subsume these shifts under the concept of 'repertoire expansion,' which allows for multi-directional, open-ended, socially and contextually situated sociolinguistic changes (cf. Agha, 2004 on registers and repertoires). Repertoire expansion includes but is not restricted to terms or expressions, genres, styles, and discourses originally related to a technical or expert register entering vernacular/lay registers and contexts (see in particular the article by Deschrijver). Hence, repertoire expansion also includes the reverse trend of vernacularization: that is, shifts taking place in vernacular language contexts as opposed to elite language contexts.

A key aspect of processes of repertoire expansion, as shown in the articles, involves media affordances that allow users to add to, expand upon, and complicate aspects of explanations of an economic state of affairs. This inevitably generates new meanings in local contexts, or the potential for them, with users having the ability to recontextualize certain aspects of financial and economic discourse. Consequently, "when deployed in new contexts as part of an individual's unique communicative repertoire, these recontextualized bits also develop new, highly localized, functionality" (Rymes, 2012, p. 216). Complicating existing scenarios and explanations of the economy goes hand in hand with a renewed potential to provide alternatives to given explanations. Such alternatives disrupt, or depart from, available mainstream scenarios. For instance, Eurogroup negotiations may be recontextualized as either a rap battle or as preparations for a barbecue, depending on which meanings and parallels users wish to emphasise and which ones they may wish to erase. Such a creation and availability of alternatives is intimately implicated in remixes, where unlikely, playful, satirical associations and analogies are crafted between events and circulating stories from different domains that are traditionally kept apart (see in particular the article by Georgakopoulou & Giaxoglou). These domains range from shared popular culture to highly personal and emotive life stories. In effect, these affective, creative, and personalising engagements with the economy are legitimated by specific modes of participation and affordances. In turn, they appear to be commonly associated with specific genres, such as ‘bashing’ certain news items or creating memes on the economy (see in particular the article by Hou).

Finally, and as the emergence of such genres implies, the repertoire expansion includes multi-semiotic means. Beyond language and technical vocabulary referring to finance and economics, images and other visual elements are playing a key role in conceptualising economic affairs (see in particular the article by Spilioti).

In general, as the articles show, repertoire expansion and the specific processes it is composed of affect public communication around the economy, including claims of financial expertise made on the part of traditional news media (Lampropoulou, this issue), politicians, and other public figures (Angouri et al., this issue), as well as of users engaging with them. On the one hand, claims to expertise made by commenters may corrode the implicit claims to expertise on the part of traditional newspaper reporting. This is the case, for instance, as we show, when users construct their own expertise on the basis of strategic and selective appropriations of technical terms in providing alternative explanations. On the other hand, through sharing, distribution, and reworking processes in social media, users may inadvertently amplify and make more readily available specific stories and explanations about the economy promoted by specific public figures, thus foregrounding and enhancing the latter's claims to expertise. In all such cases, any destabilisation and/or adjustment of expertise and expert boundaries need to be viewed as multi-layered and without one-to-one associations with specific language and discourse choices.

Overall, processes of repertoire expansion appear to be related to (technical) language, textual and multi-semiotic forms, provision of alternative discourses, and multi-participation in the social mediatization of the economy. These can provide a point of entry into further, much needed explorations of the role of digital media in networked audiences' understandings and engagements with traditionally expert-based domains of major consequence for socio-political life.


  1. As terms, the 'economy' refers to a "state […] in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money,” while 'finance' is that subset of an economy related to "monetary resources and affairs of a state, organization, or person" (Oxford Online Dictionary). 'Economics' is the study of 'economy.’ As the articles in this Special Issue show, however, these definitions and subtle differentiations cannot be assumed to be shared by or indeed followed by non-specialist authors on social media, who often use the terms ‘economic’ and ‘financial’ interchangeably.

  2. See, for instance, the videos on http://robertreich.org/.

  3. On 23 April 2010, the Greek government made an official request for financial aid to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, as it became clear the government's debt was no longer serviceable. Over the course of the following years, Greece would receive multiple 'bailouts,' that is, financial aid in return for reforms to the Greek state demanded by the creditors. The first of these packages would expire on 30 June 2015. Still negotiating details of a new bailout with its creditors, the Greek government announced that a Referendum would take place on 6 July 2015, asking the Greek people if they agreed or disagreed with the conditions of the new bailout.


Agha, A. (2004). Registers of language. In A. Duranti (Ed.), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 23-45). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Agha, A. (2005). Voice, footing, enregisterment. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 15(1), 38-59.

Aiezza, M. C. (2015). 'We may face the risks' ... 'risks that could adversely affect our face.' A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of modality markers in CSR reports. Studies in Communication Sciences, 15, 68-76.

Anderson, C. W. (2011). Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism's vision of its public in an age of audience transparency. International Journal of Communication, 5, 529-547.

Androutsopoulos, J. (2014). Mediatization and sociolinguistic change: Key concepts, research traditions, open issues. In J. Androutsopoulos (Ed.), Mediatization and sociolinguistic change (pp. 3-48). Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.

Arrese, Á., & Vara-Miguel, A. (2016). A comparative study of metaphors in press reporting of the Euro crisis. Discourse & Society, 27(2), 133-155.

Aslan, B., Dennis, J., & O'Loughlin, B. (2015). Balding goes trolling? Cross-media amplification of controversy at the 2012 Olympics. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 12(1), 577-607.

Ayers, D. F. (2005). Neoliberal ideology in community college mission statements: A critical discourse analysis. The Review of Higher Education, 28(4), 527-549.

Barton, D., & Lee, C. (2013). Language online: Investigating digital texts and practices. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Baym, G. (2009). From Cronkite to Colbert: The evolution of broadcast news. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Bickes, H., Otten, T., & Weymann, L. C. (2014). The financial crisis in the German and English press: Metaphorical structures in the media coverage on Greece, Spain and Italy. Discourse & Society, 25(4), 424-445.

Bou-Franch, P., & Garcés-Conejos Blitvich, P. (2014). Conflict management in massive polylogues: A case study from YouTube. Journal of Pragmatics, 73, 19-36.

boyd, d. (2010). Social network sites as networked publics: Affordances, dynamics, and implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), Networked self: Identity, community, and culture on social network sites (pp. 39-58). New York: Routledge.

Burgess, J. (2006). Hearing ordinary voices: Cultural studies, vernacular creativity and digital storytelling. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 20(2), 201-214.

Caers, E. (2013). Time for a euro currency syringe injection? Bank crisis financial credit metaphors in The Economist. In H. Van Belle, P. Gillaerts, B. Van Gorp, D. Van De Mieroop, & K. Rutten (Eds.), Verbal and visual rhetoric in a media world (pp. 119-131). Amsterdam: Leiden University Press.

Chouliaraki, L. (2006). Towards an analytics of mediation. Critical discourse studies, 3(2), 153-178.

Coupland, N. (2014). Sociolinguistic change, vernacularization and broadcast British media. In J. Androutsopoulos (Ed.), Mediatization and sociolinguistic change (pp. 67-96). Berlin: De Gruyter.

Davies, B. (2005). The (im)possibility of intellectual work in neoliberal regimes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 26(1), 1-14.

de Lima, I. V. (2015). Economic thought in the 17th and 18th centuries: A linguistic approach. On the Horizon, 23(3), 260-270.

De Ville, F., & Orbie, J. (2014). The European Commission's neoliberal trade discourse since the crisis: Legitimizing continuity through subtle discursive change. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 16, 149-167.

Fairclough, N. (1994). Conversationalization of public discourse and the authority of the consumer. In R. Keat, N. Whiteley, & N. Abercrombie (Eds.), The authority of the consumer (pp. 253-268). London: Routledge.

Georgakopoulou, A. (2014). Small stories transposition and social media: A micro-perspective on the 'Greek crisis.’ Discourse & Society, 25(4), 519-539.

Georgakopoulou, A. (2015). Sharing as rescripting: Place manipulations on YouTube between narrative and social media affordances. Discourse, Context & Media, 9, 64-72.

Gerbaudo, P., & Treré, E. (2015). In search of the 'we' of social media activism: Introduction to the special issue on social media and protest identities. Information, Communication & Society, 18(8), 865-871.

Giaxoglou, K. (2015). ‘Everywhere I go, you’re going with me’: Time and space deixis as affective positioning resources in shared moments of digital mourning. Discourse, Context & Media, 9, 55-63.

Hepp, A. (2014). Mediatization: A panorama of media and communication research. In J. Androutsopoulos (Ed.), Mediatization and sociolinguistic change (pp. 49-66). Berlin: De Gruyter.

Herring, S. C., & Androutsopoulos, J. (2015). Computer-mediated discourse 2.0. In D. Tannen, H. E. Hamilton, & D. Schiffrin (Eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 127-151). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Joris, W., d'Haenens, L., & Van Gorp, B. (2014). The euro crisis in metaphors and frames: Focus on the press in the Low Countries. European Journal of Communication, 29(5), 608-617.

Leibbrand, M. P. (2015). The language of executive financial discourse. Studies in Communication Sciences, 15, 45-52.

Lempert, M., & Silverstein, M. (2012). Creatures of Politics: Media, message, and the American presidency. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Leppänen, S., Kytölä, S., Jousmäki, H., Peuronen, S., & Westinen, E. (2014). Entextualization and resemiotization as resources for identification in social media. In P. Seargeant & C. Tagg (Eds.), The language of social media (pp. 112-136). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Loader, B. D., Vromen, A., & Xenos, M. A. (2016). Performing for the young networked citizen? Celebrity politics, social networking and the political engagement of young people. Media, Culture & Society, 38(3), 400-419.

Maesse, J. (2015). Economic experts: A discursive political economy of economics. Journal of Multicultural Discourses, 10(3), 279-305.

McCloskey, D. (1990). If you're so smart: The narrative of economic expertise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

McCloskey, D. (1995). Metaphors economists live by. Social Research, 62(2), 215-237.

McCloskey, D. (2010). Bourgeois dignity: Why economics can't explain the modern world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mokyr, J. (2017). A culture of growth: The origins of the modern economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mylonas, Y. (2014). Crisis, austerity and opposition in mainstream media discourses of Greece. Critical Discourse Studies, 11(3), 305-321.

Mäki, U. (1988). How to combine rhetoric and realism in the methodology of economics. Economics and Philosophy, 4, 89-109.

Ntampoudi, I. (2013). The Eurozone crisis and the politics of blaming: Narratives, identities and discursive patterns. GPSG Working Paper #14. Retrieved from http://www.gpsg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Working_Paper_14.pdf

Papacharissi, Z. (2015). Affective publics: Sentiment, technology, and politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Plehwe, D., Walpen, B., & Neunhöffer, G. (Eds.). (2006). Neoliberal hegemony: A global critique. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Ritzer, G., & Jurgenson, N. (2010). Production, consumption, presumption: The nature of capitalism in the age of the digital 'prosumer.’ Journal of Consumer Culture, 10(13), 13-36.

Rothbard, M. N. (1989). The hermeneutical invasion of philosophy and economics. The Review of Austrian Economics, 3(1), 45-59.

Rymes, B. (2012). Recontextualizing YouTube: From macro-micro to mass-mediated communicative repertoires. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 43(2), 214-227.

Squires, L., & Iorio, J. (2014). Tweets in the news: Legitimizing medium, standardizing form. In J. Androutsopoulos (Ed.), Mediatization and sociolinguistic change (pp. 331-360). Berlin: De Gruyter.

Toffler, A., & Toffler, H. (2006). Revolutionary wealth. New York: Knopf.

Vaara, E. (2014). Struggles over legitimacy in the Eurozone crisis: Discursive legitimation strategies and their ideological underpinnings. Discourse & Society, 25(4), 500-518.

van Dijck, J. (2009). Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content. Media, Culture & Society, 31(1), 41-58.

van Dijck, J., & Poell, T. (2013). Understanding social media logic. Media and Communication, 1(1), 2-14.

Verschueren, J. (1999). Understanding pragmatics. London: Edward Arnold.

Weintraub, E. R. (1991). Stabilizing dynamics: Constructing economic knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Whitehouse-Furrer, M., & Perrin, D. (2015). Comprehensibility and comprehensiveness of financial analysts' reports. Studies in Communication Sciences, 15, 111-119.

Biographical Notes

Alex Georgakopoulou [alexandra.georgakopoulou@kcl.ac.uk] is Professor of Discourse Analysis & Sociolinguistics at King’s College London. She has developed small stories research, a paradigm for studying identities in everyday life stories. She is currently exploring small stories on social media as part of the ERC project ‘Life-writing of the moment: The sharing and updating self on social media’ (www.ego-media.org).

Cedric Deschrijver [cedric.deschrijver@kcl.ac.uk] recently earned his Ph.D. at King's College London, in which he investigated metalanguage surrounding economic/financial terms in online debates. Using methods of linguistic-pragmatic discourse analysis, he is currently investigating the metapragmatics of online economics discourse, as well as metapragmatic labels surrounding media discourse (e.g., 'fake news' and 'conspiracy theory').


Any party may pass on this Work by electronic means and make it available for download under the terms and conditions of the Digital Peer Publishing License. The text of the license may be accessed and retrieved at http://www.dipp.nrw.de/lizenzen/dppl/dppl/DPPL_v2_en_06-2004.html.