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Raising Awareness through Virtual Experiencing (RAVE) - developing methods for revealing linguistic stereotyping using digital media

Research project The project aims to develop methods to raise students' awareness of stereotyping effects in language using digital matched-guise approaches. An important part of the project consists of testing these methods in a systematic way .

The project approaches the challenge of finding ways to increase sociolinguistic awareness of issues related to language and stereotypes among teachers trainees and other professional programs at all levels, so that metalinguistic knowledge be translated into professional language usage. The methods are based on digital matched-guise techniques. For example , we can now manipulate identity attributes using digital media so that you can pretend to be of the opposite sex . With these methods we can give students personal experiences of how one's "identity " as it is perceived by others ( gender, age , appearance , color , etc.) affect how we are treated and judged.

Project overview

Project period:

2015-01-01 2019-12-31


The Swedish Research Council, 2015-2019: SEK 5,225,000

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Language Studies, Humlab

Research area

Language studies, Sociology

Project description

Outcomes related to the application of democratic values such as equal rights, gender equality and respect for the individual in communication are clearly defined in all professional degrees of education. In these outcomes, “self-knowledge” about these processes is also specified as a specific goal. In the proposed project, we approach the challenge of finding methods for raising sociolinguistic awareness on matters related to language stereotyping among students attending teacher training on all levels, with the aim that metalinguistic knowledge be translated into professional language practice.
Language is at the heart of the mechanisms leading to stereotyping and inequality. It is one of the major factors that we evaluate when we meet others, and it has long been demonstrated that individuals are judged in terms of intellect and other character traits on the basis of their language output alone. Although courses in sociolinguistics often deal with such issues on a theoretical level, we also feel the need to provide students with a deeper understanding of these processes operate implicitly within themselves.
During preliminary trials conducted in 2011 at Umeå University, we have been able to manipulate identity variables such as gender using digital media in order to develop experiential pedagogic approaches aimed at raising sociolinguistic language awareness. Building on these experiences, we now want to further develop digital matched-guise methods that give students a deeper understanding of conceived identity-related phenomena in language. The specific aims of the project include:
• developing innovative methods using digital media for exposing subjects to their own linguistic stereotyping, biases and prejudices with the aim to raise awareness of these
• and to systematically explore ways of testing the efficiency of these methods with the aim to develop a concise, effective and reliable method for raising language awareness related to linguistic stereotyping.
The project consists of five phases or themes, where the first phase constitutes a pilot phase in which testing tools, equipment etc. will be carefully calibrated and tested for reliability, robustness and validity. Subsequent phases will systematically test stereotyping effects of different variables such as gender, ethnicity and social class. In the final phase, we aim to synthesize our experiences, results and conclusions into an open-source pedagogical “package”, to be used by institutions who want to increase awareness of language and prejudice among staff or students.
Proposed methods for raising sociolinguistic awareness on stereotyping include workshops, which will be integrated in ordinary course frameworks. Here binary student groupings will unknowingly be exposed to variants of the same recording of language output, which has been digitally manipulated for a specific social variable (gender for example). Students then evaluate the language output on a number of language and identity related criteria. The design is subsequently revealed and any potential group differences in the evaluation will be used as starting point for teacher-led group and self-reflections. During the entire project interviews as well as pre- and post-tests of implicit and explicit stereotyping tendencies among the subjects and control groups will used to evaluate attitudinal change.
The dissemination of the project will include 6-7 publications of various stages in the process, international conference presentations as well as an international workshop to be given in HUMlab, Umeå University in 2017. The total budget is 5 million SEK and the project will run over five years.

Key words: language stereotyping, matched-guise, language awareness, methods for raising awareness.
Latest update: 2018-06-29