This talk by Paul Baker, University of Lancaster, outlines the analysis of a 1.5 million word corpus of tweets about the Channel 4 television documentary series Benefits Street. With Britain experiencing a period of fiscal austerity after two recessions, traditional media discourses around people who receive government assistance (or benefits), especially working-age people who do not work, have hardened (Baker et al 2013, Baker forthcoming). In this talk I analyse discourse from a potentially more democratic source (Twitter) in order to ascertain how people responded to the program Benefits Street. Using analysis of keywords, coupled with a new collocational network tool, three main discourses were identified, each containing distinctive uses of language and receiving different kinds of responses. I discuss some of the historical roots of the discourses found and conclude by asking whether Twitter offers hope for those concerned with disempowering discourses and inequality.
All welcome. No pre-booking required. Hope to see you there.