Young People's Translocal New Media Uses: A Multiperspective Analysis Of Language Choice And Heteroglossia



The aim of this paper is to shed light on the particularities of the linguistic, social and cultural action of young Finns in translocal new media spaces, and the ways in which they themselves make sense of and account for their actions. We present findings from 4 case studies, each of which illustrates aspects of translocality in young Finns' new media uses. Theoretically and methodologically the case studies draw on sociolinguistics, discourse studies, and ethnography, making use of the concepts of language choice and linguistic and stylistic heteroglossia. Through the 4 cases in focus, the paper shows how young people's linguistically and textually sophisticated new media uses are geared by and express translocal affective, social, and cultural alignments and affinities.


In late modern mediascapes young people's engagements with the new media can be seen as sites for linguistic, social and cultural action which are no longer organised solely on the basis of local or national identifications, but are increasingly translocal, consisting in, as well as going beyond local and global identifications. The new media are organised as translocal activity spaces or communities of practice with their own emergent orders of normativity (Blommaert, 2005). National identity and language may have less significance here than shared interests, values, and ways of life. A highly technologized society such as Finland is a case in point: Almost all young Finns have access to and regularly use a range of new media through which they gain access to and engage with global cultural processes and practices as well as specific cultural spaces for instance on the internet. It is through interactions with these media that processes of localization and appropriation take place (see e.g. Pennycook, 2007; Leppänen, 2007b). Mediated cultural products are taken up and engaged with in ways which both enforce their connectedness with aspects of the global and resignify them so that they also index their situatedness. Finnish young people's new media uses thus illustrate how global cultural products and practices are mobilized in situated action–as an outcome of a “dynamic tension between localness and globalness” (Hawisher & Selfe, 2000, p. 277).

The new media, especially the Internet, have steadily been gaining ground over the past years (Luukka et al., 2001). Finnish young people have easy access to the internet, and 80 % of them use it almost daily (Parjo, Sirkiä & Viherä, 2008). The popularity of the new media has also brought about new communicative opportunities and environments. The media practices of young Finns are increasingly multilingual, with English holding a key position (Luukka et al., 2008). A national survey1 on the roles and functions of English in Finnish society conducted in 2007 (Leppänen, Nikula, Pitkänen-Huhta & Pahta, forthcoming), for example, showed that the great majority (83%) of the young respondents (15- to 24-year old) read e-mail in English at least sometimes, and almost half (42%) of them read English web pages daily, while only a small minority (6%) never do so. In addition, two thirds of the young write e-mail or web texts in English at least sometimes. A similar pattern is visible in young people's more specialized uses of the new media, such as information searches, chat, ordering goods, and playing electronic or internet games. In the light of this research, it is clear that young people in Finland are active, confident, and skilled users of the digital and new media. The skilled use of the new media together with the use of English form a powerful combination providing local actors access to translocal activity spaces and communities of practice where young Finns can create discourse that is appropriate and meaningful within their particular contexts and normative frameworks (see Leppänen, 2007b; Leppänen & Nikula, 2007; Leppänen & Piirainen-Marsh, in press).

This paper examines how appropriations of global cultural products and practices are achieved in new media environments. In particular, it pays attention to language choice, and linguistic and stylistic heteroglossia - the resources provided by different languages as well as by a range and mixtures of registers, genres and styles (e.g. Leppänen, 2009). Through an analysis of four case studies of media use, the paper attempts to shed light on the particularities of the linguistic, social and cultural action of young Finns in translocal new media spaces, and on the ways in which they themselves make sense of and account for their actions. It shows how young people's increasingly savvy, and linguistically and textually sophisticated new media uses are both geared by and express translocal affective, social and cultural alignments and affinities, such as shared activities, interests, lifestyles, and values.

Theoretical framework : Translocality, language choice and heteroglossia

Following Hepp (2009) and Nederveen Pieterse (1995), translocality here refers to two aspects of new media practice. On the one hand, it refers to connectivity, to the fact that today's locales are often closely connected, the media, new and old, being one factor facilitating and enforcing such connections. Hence, the local still matters, but it tends to matter in relation to other locales. On the other hand, translocality denotes a specific understanding of culture, where culture is seen as outward-looking, exogenous, focused on hybridity, translation, and identification. Within the context of the new media this view translates into a conception where both territoriality (‘we here now in our place’) and de-territoriality (‘they there beyond the bounds of our locale’) are reference points for communication, meaning making, and identification. For example, when Finnish young people play an English language electronic game, it is a very much situated activity, but at the same time something that transgresses its locality as soon as the players in their game activities interact with the game in its de-territorial ‘foreign’ English language. In the gaming activity, young Finnish players need to find ways to interact with an ‘English-speaking’ game in a relevant way, and, by playing the game they (at least symbolically, but often quite concretely, as in web discussion forums for gamers) identify themselves as members of a more global collective of gamers. Similarly, when a Finnish snowboarder writes to other Finnish snowboarders on the web of his/her hobby by using terminology and style adapted from the originally American snowboarding lingo, s/he is operating translocally, by creating hybrid discourse, by translating the American lingo for local purposes, and by identifying with both his/her local reference group as well as the group out there, beyond his/her territory.

Activities with the new media have become important social and interactional sites for many young Finns, often involving uses of more than one language, register, style, and genre, and opportunities and frameworks for negotiating social action, identities and a sense of belonging (Leppänen, 2007b). Language choice and linguistic and stylistic heteroglossia are key means of translocality: In new media activities they are often the only semiotic resources available for self-expression, communication, meaning making, and identification through which the local and translocal can be negotiated. In Bakhtin's words (1981, p. 291), heteroglossia can be defined as discourse which combines and mixes forms and contents that represent “the coexistence of socioideological contradictions between the present and the past, between differing epochs of the past, between different socioideological groups in the present, between tendencies, schools, circles and so forth”. Heteroglossia is the coexistence, combination, alternation, and juxtaposition of ways of using the communicative and expressive resources language/s offer us. In many Finnish new media discourses, heteroglossia manifests in the choice of language other than the first language as the means of communication, in mixtures of languages, registers, styles, genres; and in the recycling of linguistic and textual elements from other texts (Leppänen, 2007a; Leppänen & Piirainen-Marsh, in press). The actors in new media environments often operate in a multidimensional linguistic and discursive universe where they simultaneously make their choices interlingually–drawing on and combining resources from more than one language–and intralingually–selecting and combining features associated with registers, genres, and styles of one language (Woolard, 2002). The choices can of course be quite idiosyncratic, but more often than not they are motivated by the particular aesthetic, social, and cultural norms and conventions of the new media environments in question (Leppänen, 2009).

The Present Study

The research reported in this paper stems from a long-term research venture in the department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä, where the focus has been on the investigation of the spread and changing role of English in a range of domains of globalized, Finnish-Swedish bilingual, Finnish society (Leppänen & Nikula, 2007), and in which the new media have recently emerged as a particularly interesting contact zone. This research venture has been theoretically and methodologically multidimensional in its approach and has striven to investigate Finns' language uses on two interrelated sociolinguistic scales (Blommaert, forthcoming): the local, microscopic scale of individual language use and discourse practice, and on the more global macroscopic scale of general tendencies and trends. In order to understand and explain the dynamics, characteristics and meanings of Finns' uses of language/s, we think it is important to survey people's language attitudes and language use (Leppänen, Nikula, Pitkänen-Huhta & Pahta, forthcoming), and to provide detailed ethnographic descriptions of their language practices (Nikula & Pitkänen-Huhta, 2008) as well as to conduct close analyses of their actual discourse (see

With the help of insights drawn from sociolinguistics, discourse studies, and ethnography, this paper presents findings from four case studies, each of which illustrates aspects of translocality in young Finns' new media uses. The first case discusses Finnish adolescents' own perceptions and understandings of their new media practices. The second case describes in detail a young Finnish woman's versatile CMC activities and analyses the heteroglossic aspects of her web writing. Taking a microanalytic perspective on gaming activities, the third case describes Finnish adolescents' linguistic engagements with the global new media discourse of electronic games. The final case investigates bilingual language use by online community members in a Finnish discussion forum, in particular, the local appropriations of English extreme sports jargon.

On the basis of these four studies, this paper identifies a number of key new media practices typical of young people, explores the meanings these practices have for them, and investigates the detailed linguistic and discursive practices through which young people make sense of and construct their social realities in interactions with the new media. Here, the analyses approach human actions ethnographically (Blommaert, 2008, see also Smart, 2008) as situated activities, including interpretation and reflection, understanding the complexity of human actions, and attending to microdetails in the exploration of macrostructures (Blommaert, 2008, p. 13). Language and literacy are viewed as inherently social, multisemiotic, and discursive practices with which people make sense of and construct their social realities (Blommaert, 2005; Scollon & Scollon, 2004; Barton, 1994). In addition, the paper pays attention to the processes of language choice and types, forms and functions of linguistic and stylistic heteroglossia, or hybridity, manifest in new media practices (see, e.g. Alvarez-Caccamo, 1990; Androutsopoulos, 2004; Auer 1998, 1999; Backus, 1999; Leppänen, 2009; Meeuwis & Blommaert, 1998; Rampton, 2005; Sebba, 2000).

Making Sense of New Media Uses

To shed light on ways in which young Finns themselves make sense of and account for their engagement with the new media, and the opportunities and occasions of translocal practices they offer, this section reports on the findings of a discourse-ethnographic study of a group of Finnish teenagers (Nikula & Pitkänen-Huhta, 2008). The findings reported on here were initially acquired in a study exploring the presence of English in Finnish teenagers' everyday practices and investigating how the young people themselves perceive the role of English in their lives, but from the very beginning the important role of the digital and new media also became evident.

During the research process, the researchers maintained sustained contact with 10 teenagers, three boys and seven girls, and aimed at gaining access into their worlds and ways of thinking, and at reaching an understanding of a seemingly familiar social reality; that is, to get “a quasi-insider's” (Smart, 2008, p. 56) view of how they make sense of their uses of English. This was done with the help of multiple methods including several group and individual discussions with the participants, a number of visual tasks (e.g. photographs and collages) and literacy diaries. In the following, photographs and discussions provide examples of the multiple methods used.

Among the very first tasks, the teenagers were asked to take photographs of situations, places and activities in their everyday surroundings where English in their view has some significance. The photographs gave the researchers–as outsiders to their world–a glimpse of the participants' lives through their own eyes (or through their camera lens). Interestingly, almost half of the photographs illustrating contacts with English portrayed or symbolized different forms of the media (both old and new). Thus there seems to be an inseparable connection between English and the media in the teenagers' lives.

Each participant took a set of about 10 photographs, and such as the following two–depicting computers and music–appeared in most sets.

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Digital media, such as DVDs, CDs, iPods and mp3 players, seem to be very important to these teenagers. These media, as well as the more traditional TV and radio, appeared in the sets of photographs taken by all participants. What the follow-up discussions made evident was that different forms of the media have a constant presence in the participants' lives, to the extent that the media can be regarded as an integral part of their lifeworlds (cf. Livingstone, 2002). The teenagers seem to take the media-saturated nature of their lives for granted: There is a sense of normalcy associated to media presence, as well as to the constant flow of English into their everyday lives brought along by the media in general and by music in particular, as it is almost invariably consumed in English. The following two excerpts from our interviews illustrate this. In example 1, Aliisa talks about always having music on at the background, also throughout her other activities such as homework. In example 2, Siiri makes an explicit reference to music that she listens to always being in English2.

Example (1)

Eeva I’ve also always got music on, whenever I go to my room I always turn it on like it's always in the background, it doesn't disturb doing homework or anything

Example (2)

Siiri when I go to dance [lessons] or anywhere with iPods on my ears I'm constantly hearing music in English

As was mentioned above, photographs of computers were present in almost all the teenagers' sets. The computer is often a personal one and located in the teenager's bedroom (cf. Aarsand, 2009). Computers are used for a great number of activities, such as information search both for school and for fun, communicating with friends through MSM-messenger, hanging out in IRC-galleries, buying goods, consuming and producing music, or surfing on various sites of greater or lesser interest (cf. Aslanidou & Menexes, 2008).

Computers, however, are only a technology enabling communication; these pictures of computers are symbols for a whole way of life for young people in today's Finland. For one thing, the computer grants a possibility for the teenagers to stay in constant contact with friends. Usually these are the same friends they spend time with at school, but computer-mediated means such as MSN-messenger make it possible to continue this contact also after school hours (cf. McMillan & Morrison, 2006). What also characterizes the teenagers' CMC is that they keep their digital communication channels constantly open, i.e., there is a perpetual readiness to engage in communication and apparent willingness to be within reach at all times. In example 3, Siiri indicates that her MSN-messenger is always on when her computer is on, too. In example 4, Tiina maintains that even though she is now spending less time in YouTube and MSN than before, she still keeps the latter on at all times. It thus seems that being constantly ready to communicate is, in comparison to earlier generations, the natural state for today's teenagers, an opportunity made possible by the new media.

Example (3)

Siiri it's also a bit like that with me so that if I'm at the computer the MSN is open but then what I tend to do is to wander into all kinds places with many windows open’

Example (4)

Tiina at one point I used to be in YouTube or MSN all the time but I'm no longer in either terribly often, well you know MSN is of course open

When CMC comes together with young Finns' ability to use English, a powerful combination is formed: the ability to communicate in English provides Finnish teenagers with an access to much wider and diversified social and cultural spaces–to translocal spaces–than would be possible through using Finnish only. For example, the group discussions in our data reveal the teenagers' awareness of the social value associated with English: It is seen as a gateway to international communities and to a cosmopolitan future (cf. Mitsikopoulou, 2007). The following two examples by Eeva illustrate this well. In example 5 she describes how skills in English allow her to dissociate herself from sticks-in-the hicks, and example 6 shows how her future aspirations relate to moving away from the local (Finland) to the international (abroad), with English being in an instrumental role in this.

Example (5)

Eeva you know I feel I'm kind of more international and you know have a grasp of things and I'm not some kind of hicks from the sticks you know like some outsider because you know I just do understand it [English]

Example (6)

Eeva it [English] is probably quite useful y’know ’cos I mean I will most likely not stay here in Finland, this is a bit too small a place for me

At the level of aspirations, CMC conjures up dreams and ideals of internationalization and cosmopolitanism in the teenagers. At a more concrete level, there are different ways in which the participants engage in translocal activities and practices. On the one hand, there are what could be called, the more purposeful CMC uses that often relate to searching for up-to-date information on the internet, often in connection with teenagers' various hobbies. In example 7, for instance, Samuli tells how he follows the websites of a British football team. Here it is noteworthy how he also wants to bring forth the idea of coping with English.

Example (7)

Samuli but then there was this website of a football team from England, they had the site in English so you then had to cope with English and I did cope quite well

On the other hand, the activities on the Internet also often simply involve wandering about in international virtual spaces, whereby the teenagers occupy roles as outsiders or spectators rather than as active participants. Siiri's comment on her internet use during one day illustrates well that surfing on the web is often impulsive rather than planned:

Example (8)

Siiri for instance I visited an Asos dot com which is in English the site has accessories and all kinds of cool clothes and then I ended up in some blogs in Swedish fashion blogs and such, well I didn't really understand those but it was still quite nice you know to read them

However, teenagers not only enter ready-made social realities: Computer-mediated spaces also provide them with opportunities to create new contacts and communities that transcend national borders and, moreover, to adopt quite powerful positions in regulating who has access to these spaces (cf. McMillan & Morrison, 2006). This is illustrated by example 9, where Tiina describes discarding her Turkish MSN contacts due their ‘weirdness’–a communicative act probably much easier to accomplish virtually than face-to-face.

Example (9)

Tiina yea I had Turkish [MSN contacts] I guess at one point most of them were Turks but then I decided to get rid of them when I grew tired of their stuff

Siiri I’ve also had some Turks sometimes

Tiina  they’re a bit weird, peculiar

In sum, our findings suggest that the everyday activities of young people in Finland revolve around the new media and that their lifeworlds are to a great extent shaped by their media practices. The new media thus forms an integral part of their local, personal, and social lives. Further, their new media uses are accompanied with a constant flow of English, which further shapes their media practices and opens up a new world of international contacts and ‘imagined communities' (Anderson, 1991; Norton, 2001), i.e., translocal activity spaces and communities beyond the local networks with which they can connect not on the basis of face-to-face encounters but “through the power of imagination” (Kanno & Norton, 2003, p. 241). On the surface, these contacts and communities may seem uniform as every teenager has the means for access at their disposal. The actual practices related to these means, however, differ substantially from one individual to another. These young people engage in the new media in highly personalized and self-regulated ways in order to meet their individual needs and aspirations.

The Local And Translocal In Web Writing

While the previous section used ethnographic methods to gain an emic understanding of the ways in which young people make sense of their new media practices, this section takes a closer look at one young woman's interactions with the new media as an illustration of young people's rhizomatic and creative web activities. In these activities, mediated cult objects–films, TV series, pop lyrics, games–are actively retextualised (Silverstein & Urban, 1996, p. 21) and transferred into other new media contexts. As was argued above, a crucial resource in such transferrals and retextualisations is linguistic and stylistic heteroglossia, an important driving motivation in young people's discourse practice in new media contexts.

As confident and competent users of information and communication technologies, many young people skillfully make use of a range of ICT spaces (Kangas, 2002) to get their voices heard and appreciated and to engage in dialogue with others. One such realm is web fiction, which is dominated by girls and young women, for whom these spaces and activities are important as realms for creativity, play, transgression, fantasy, and desire–but also for the investigation of questions and problems of identity, gender and sexuality (Leppänen, 2007a). As an illustration of this, we describe the discourse practices of Afeni3, a Finnish-speaking woman now in her early twenties. The focus here is on a discourse-ethnographic description of her various web activities, on the one hand, and of the kinds of texts she crafts for the web, on the other. In particular, we will discuss her linguistic and stylistic choices as functional and meaningful in the creation of socially, culturally, and aesthetically appropriate web discourse (Leppänen, 2009) which has both local and translocal dimensions. The discussion of her activities is based on the information gathered from the various web spaces where Afeni disseminates information about herself and publishes her writing, as well as from her answers to a questionnaire on fan fiction writing (Leppänen, 2007a) and personal communication. Since her teenage years, Afeni has been an active agent in many web spaces. She spends a great deal of her free time in writing and editing texts for the web, and discussing texts by herself and others, as well as administering and monitoring many of the spaces in which she is a frequent participant. Table (1) summarizes the range and diversity of Afeni's on-line activities.

Table 1.  Afeni's on-line activities
Type of siteType of textTopicLanguage/sParticipant roleWeb location
Homepage: Kuunvalon keiju [‘Fay of Moonlight']Fan fiction Glossaries Fan art Bio infoNaruto Harry Potter Final Fantasy Pirates of the CaribbeanFinnish, w. some EnglishDesigner Author Writer Visual artist(
LiveJournal: Afenin pöytälaatikko [‘Afeni’s drawer’]Blog entries Fan fiction Bio infoAfeni's life Naruto Harry Potter Final FantasyFinnish, w. some EnglishDesigner Writer
Fanfictionforum Kristallimaailma [’Crystal World’]Fan fiction, Original fiction Fan artFinal Fantasy Fictional topicsFinnish, w. some EnglishAdministrator Writer Visual artist
Fanforumon NarutoFan fiction Fan art Bio infoNarutoFinnish, w. some English and JapaneseAdministrator Moderator Writer Visual artist
Wiki on NarutoInfo about Naruto Bio infoAfeniFinnishWriter ytt%C3%A4j%C3%A4:Afeni
IRC-gallery4Photographs Bio infoAfeniFinnishPhotographer Writer Afeni
Photowebsite5Photographs CommentsAfeni's homeFinnishPhotographer Commentator

Table (1) shows how Afeni has managed to create a multidimensional virtual space for herself. It demonstrates that she possesses a great deal of expertise as a web user and is able to skillfully use the affordances offered by different web environments for the dissemination of her work in various genres and modalities, and to draw on resources provided by at least three languages. In these spaces she also has a number of different roles ranging from that of a writer and visual artist to those of a commentator, moderator and administrator. In this respect, she is a good example of the increasingly active and varied girl culture on the web, which is no longer only about writing and dissemination of texts, but also about the harnessing the technology in a versatile way as a tool to advance the particular interests and activities that girls and young women have (Leppänen, 2007a). What is also striking about her virtual activities is that she is not making any effort to hide her offline identity from her audiences, or to recreate her online identity as someone different from her offline self. Thus she is not engaged in identity play (Thurlow, Lengel & Tomic, 2004) or identity tourism (Nakamura, 2002, p. 41) that have often been seen as typical of CMC. In contrast, Afeni openly and multiply establishes her offline identity by giving information about herself, her life and interests which effectively index what she and her lifestyle are like.

A particularly important aspect of Afeni's online activities is fan fiction. Fan fiction refers to the writing, reading and discussion of novels, stories, poems and songs by fans of cult TV series, films and fiction on web sites and forums founded and monitored by fans themselves. It is based on and intervenes in a variety of ways (e.g. imitates, modifies, subverts) for example characters, plot and themes of a cult ’text' originally produced by someone else with a legal right to them. Through and with fan fiction, fans express their emotional attachment to cult works, and seek access to and negotiate their membership in fan communities (Leppänen, 2007a). Writing in particular collectively established and monitored ways is thus a performative means for establishing and negotiating identity and shared culture, and an index of a particular lifestyle and values (Leppänen, 2009).

As Table (1) indicates, Afeni most often writes her fan fiction in Finnish. However, it is not out of the ordinary that she also uses English. Like the majority of young Finns, she, too, has the basic proficiency to do so, although, at the same time, she seems quite self-conscious when she chooses English as her means of writing. In her questionnaire replies she says, for example, that “although she loves Finnish” and despite the fact “that writing in English is more arduous than writing in Finnish,”“sometimes the story just comes out in English” and “she just cannot explain why this happens, it just happens.” Interestingly, many other fan fiction writers have expressed a similar opinion: The choice of the language does not always seem to be a conscious or rational one. However, Afeni also points out that writing in English is of course sometimes motivated by a wish to reach bigger audiences than the local Finnish ones. The next snippet from a tragic “angst” story based on the Japanese manga Naruto, illustrates her writing in English.

Example (10)


It was late night and I should be sleeping. But there was a full moon on the sky and I just lay on my bed sleepless. The moon was bothering me, but there was something else too. I just didn't know what it was.


I saw the light on the night that I passed by his room

I saw the flickering shadows of love from his door

There was a girl in his room… in his arms. I could tell that girl didn't carry Uchiha's bloodline but Hyuuga's awhen I saw her silvery eyes by accident. Why? Why on earth Itachi was with that girl? Why Itachi had brought some Hyuuga girl in his room in the middle of the night? I couldn't understand that at all. For me Itachi was just a loving aniki… He didn't care about girls. All he cared about was his family, me and his missions. Girls didn't mean anything to him… And still there was a girl in his room.


“Aren't you envious, are you, ototo-san?” Itachi said a playfully tone in his voice.

He stood there laughing

I felt the kunai in my hand and he laughed no more

Since I was still wearing my day clothes I reached to my kunai bag and grabbed the kunai in my little hand seeing in my mind how Itachi was kissing that girl. If he wasn't mine anymore, no one else could have him either.

[…] (

Linguistically, the story is fairly homoglossic. It is written in English with occasional lexical items in Japanese–proper nouns and lexical words such as aniki, kunai, ototo-san, which are either adopted from the source text or picked up from the shared linguistic lore of manga and anime fans. The Japanese, although a rarity, has an important semiotic function, because through it the writer can create an impression of a Japanese-speaking manga world, which stands in a metonymic relation to the completely Japanese-speaking cult text it is based on and which it partly imitates. At the same time, the story is textually quite heteroglossic: In accordance with the generic conventions of fan fiction, it combines the lyrics of the pop song (Delilah) with the text crafted by Afeni on the basis of the Japanese manga. Its hybridity is further accentuated by the fact that Afeni writes her story by drawing on conventions of two fan fiction genres: angst (a tragic story) and shounen-ai (a story about friendship and love between boys).

The next example–a story based on the game Final Fantasy XII - illustrates another heteroglossic solution to the negotiation of the local and translocal in Afeni's fan fiction. (The English translations of the sections originally in Finnish are given in square brackets.)

Example (11)

Johtotähti ei koskaan kuole

[‘The leading star never dies']

My oh my, do you wanna say goodbye?

To have the Kingdom, baby, tell me why?

My oh my, do you wanna say goodbye?

To rule the Country, baby, you and I?

If you were my King…

Balthier suuntasi kohti ohjaamon ovea Franin kanssa ilmapiraattien jaettua ohjeet Vaanille ja Penelolle, jotka saivat vihdoin kauan odotetun vuoronsa siirtyä Strahlin ohjaimiin. Ashe tuijotti piraattien poistumista konehuoneeseen. Hänellä oli karmiva tunne, että tapahtuisi jotain lopullista.

[Balthier headed towards the door of the cockpit with Fran after the air pirates had given their instructions to Vaan and Penelo, who finally were given their long awaited turn to steer Strahl. Ashe stared at the pirates entrance to the engine room. She had a terrible feeling that something irreversible was going to happen.]


Gotta steal from the rich when they don't know I'm comin’

Gotta give to the poor, no time for lovin’

My oh my, don't you cry, ’cause there's no way I'm stayin’

I will leave, say “bye bye”, I'm going my way…



When writing this romance Afeni has conducted a series of linguistic, stylistic, and textual transformations. Firstly, she has changed the originally Anglophone characters into Finnish-speaking ones. Hence, her narration of the plot and representation of the discourse of the characters take place in Finnish, hers and her audience's first language. At the same time, she again intersperses her own text with the English lyrics of a pop song (“My Oh My” by Aqua), which tells a much more ambivalent love story than her own narrative. The alternation of textual chunks in Finnish and English is, furthermore, accompanied by topical and stylistic shifts: the informal, spoken language register of the song telling an ambivalent love story is juxtaposed by the much more formal style of the Finnish narrative text telling, in turn, a distinctly tragic story of love about to be lost. The outcome is a multilayered text: The romantic story, unified by the narrative voice of the main character, emerges from a fusion and juxtaposition of two texts, two languages, two styles, and two storylines.

In this textual amalgam the use of two languages conveys part of the story's meaning: via the use of both Finnish and English, Afeni explicitly aims her text at her local Finnish fan audience, who can understand both languages. Her use of English in this text also shows how the language has lost much of its foreignness, and is treated, instead, as raw material for semiotic and textual bricolage in the same way as Finnish. Further, through her use of English she also creates a connection between her own local fandom and fans elsewhere in the world, who, like her, strive to retextualise globally disseminated popular cultural products, such as the pop song and electronic game on which she works in her own writing. Thus, she aligns her practice with those recognised and appreciated by both local and translocal fan collectives.

The case discussed here shows, on the one hand, how intense and complex young people's new media practices can be. It illustrates how, at least for some, being an active actor on the web can become extremely important for identity, self-representation, ambition, and development. On the other hand, the examples above also demonstrate how the young people's ways of writing mobilize a set of heterogeneous linguistic and textual resources which quite explicitly position and link up their discourses as both local and translocal.

Local and Translocal Action and Interaction in Gaming Activity

In this section we continue our close analysis of discourse in a new media setting, focusing on a technologically mediated gaming setting, where the global and local practices of gaming come into contact through linguistic choices involving code-switching and mixed use of English and Finnish (see Leppänen & Piirainen-Marsh, in press; Piirainen-Marsh & Tainio 2009a, 2009b). This section describes how teenagers engage with the global game discourse and negotiate their relationship and identities at the local level through situated language choice during collaborative game-playing activity.

With the growing popularity of computer and video games as leisure activity (see e.g. Buckingham, 2006), games have become an established cultural form and a globally influential new media domain which provides access to new types of practices and activities both locally (as in social game-playing in everyday settings) and translocally (e.g. online gaming communities on the internet). Gaming activities can be seen to take place in mediated spaces where children and young people in diverse local environments come into contact with social and cultural flows transmitted through global youth media (e.g. Androutsopoulos, 2006a; Androutsopoulos & Scholz, 2002; Leppänen, 2007b).

Recent work in interactional sociolinguistics (e.g. Shankar, 2004; Spitulnik, 1997) has begun to show how elements of media discourse (e.g. vocabulary, catch phrases, turn-taking patterns) enter into the everyday speech practices of young media users and are used for various social functions, such as creating sociability and negotiating identities. Such ‘linguistic engagements' with the visual culture and social institution of the media enable media consumers to draw on different forms of talk, styles, and repertoires, and through these express their alignments with social and cultural phenomena offered by the media in locally specific ways. The case analysed below illustrates how two young players engaged in playing a console-operated video game engage with and draw on the resources of two languages, their shared first language (Finnish) and the language of the game (English) in coconstructing their understanding and experience of the game as it unfolds through the various communicative modes (animation, voice, text, sound). The focus of interest here is on the local and situated discursive practices through which players attend to, make sense of and respond to unfolding events and actions in the game. The data sample is drawn from a set of game sessions that took place between two Finnish 13-year-old boys at the home of one of the players. The boys are involved in playing Final Fantasy X, a Japanese fantasy role game translated and localised into English.

The analytic focus is on the microstructuring of interaction through the use of verbal, embodied and other semiotic resources. I describe how language and other semiotic resources made available by the game serve as local resources in the interactive process through which the players manage the multimodal gaming activity. The analytic approach builds on multimodal analysis of interaction (e.g. Goodwin, 2000, 2003; Heath & Luff, 2000) as well as studies taking an interactional approach to language alternation (see e.g. Auer, 1998; Cromdal, 2005; LiWei, 2005; Mondada, 2007; see also Rampton 1995, 2006). This entails describing how participants draw on their bodies, the sequential structures of talk and the locally available bilingual resources to coconstruct action through which they manage and experience the game.

The excerpt below demonstrates how collaborative play activity where players engage with a game in another language offers different kinds of opportunities for participation and creating alignments with respect to both the simulated game world and the everyday social setting. The excerpt comes from an approximately 55-minute-long game session. Throughout the session the players have been commenting on characters, events and details of the narrative and jointly negotiating choices to make progress in the game. In this excerpt, the boys are commenting on a narrative scene which features a dialogue between two characters (se=Seymour and yu=Yuna). Narrative scenes such as this one are not playable, but offer important information about the plot and characters of the game. The transcript shows both the players' turns, which are indicated with the players' initials (P and K) in upper case and marked in bold print, and the game characters' turns (indicated with initials in lower case: se, y), which alternate and sometimes overlap with the players talk as the scene unfolds. Lines of the dialogue as they appear visually on the video screen are shown in italics on the right (line 5). Translations of the players' Finnish utterances as well as description of relevant embodied activity are provided below the translation line.

Example (12)

1Ptiätsä minkä se- takia- takia se teki ton operaation. 
  do you know wh-why he did this operation. 
  Gaze: screen 
  gaze: down (looking at his fingers) 
3Pjotta ne kaikki kuolis. ne Crusa:deritDI: Seymour enters
  so that they would all die. the Crusa: ders 
  Gaze: Screen 
4K(h) niih? 
  (h) yeah? 
  Turns gaze towards P 
5Pjotta sillä ei ois kukaan. joka vastustas sitä=S walks towards Yuna
  so he would not have anyone. who would oppose him=
  Gaze: turns gaze towards K gaze:K 
6se=you do not look so well=S walks closer to Yuna
7P=koska se haluis tulla Spi[ran? johtajaks] 
  = coz he would like to be the leader of Spira 
  Gaze: Screen 
8se[but now mo]re than ever 
9 you must be the people's strength [(0.5)] their confidence
11Pse halus ne kai:kki (.) Cruseiderit eestä po:is. et se pystys tota:.=
  he wanted a:ll those (.) Crusaders out of the wa:y. so he could we:ll=
  gaze to screen 
12se=anyone else (0.3) [would be expected ] to show [their sorrow]
13P[et sillä ei ois ketään,][vastustajaa]
  [so he wouldn't have any,][opponents]
  gaze: screen 
  K shifts gaze to screen
  gaze down 
15 (1.5) 
16Kthat is quite true= 
  gaze to screen 
17se=but you are a summoner 
   S: But youare a summoner.
   You are Spira's hope.
 Kgaze to screen 
18K↑you [are Spira’s-] 
   gaze down 
19se [you are Spira's] hope= 
20P=oo hiljaa Seymour. 
  =be quiet Seymour. 
  gaze: screen 
21se[ until Sin (0.2)] is defeated 
22K[Seymour on nii?] 
  [Seymour is so?] 
  gaze down 
23seyou must not relent. (1.5) do you understand? 
24Ksoon on nii? (.) [ga:y.] 
  he's so? 
  gaze at phone in his hand 
25y[yes] [(1) I understand ] 
26P[mikseiseite tapa sit Siniä] (0.4)
  [why doesn't he kill Sin himself] (0.4)
27 se on niin. m- > almighty po[werful,<] 
  he's so. m- 
28se[are you a]fraid 
29P→are you afraid? 
  gaze: screen 
30K→of co:urse I'm not, 
  gaze down; pulling at his shirt 

The excerpt begins with the player's commentary on the scene under way and its significance to the narrative. In lines 1–14 P, the more experienced player, explains to K in Finnish the character Seymour's plan to get rid of ‘crusaders’ in order to become the leader of Spira (the fantasy world the game is set in). After P asks about K's knowledge of the plan with his preliminary question (line 1), K accepts the role of recipient (line 2) and as P continues, K encourages him to tell more (lines 4 and 10). While seated side by side with their bodies and gaze mostly directed to the screen, the players also attend to each other through their body and gaze (lines 4–5). However, as the scene moves into a dialogue between the two characters (Seymour and Yuna), both players shift their attention to the screen (lines 12–13). In lines 14–16 K produces two responses which seem to address both the player and the game character, whose prior turns have been produced in partial overlap. K's initial response (‘hmm’, line 14) seems to acknowledge P's continuing explanation in a similar way as his earlier responses. Switching to English (line 16) allows him to attend to the game character's turn and display not just an understanding of it, but also close alignment with the unfolding scene and the character's position (‘that is quite true’). His shift of gaze towards the screen during the English utterance supports this interpretation. K continues to focus his attention to the screen, where lines from the dialogue appear as text (line 17). On hearing the first part of Seymour's next turn, K engages with the dialogue by voicing part of the latter utterance in overlap with Seymour (line 18). He thus uses the discursive resources of the game–the vocal and visual resources available–to take part in the construction of the dialogue, carefully timing his own contribution so that it can be heard as a continuation of the character's turn. This type of verbal participation displays heightened involvement with the scene and also serves as a display of expertise; ability to participate in the dialogue through animating parts of it in sequentially appropriate ways. Here such a display may be called for due to the earlier sequence where the players' different expertise became evident, with P emerging as the more competent participant and K as the novice player.

Lines 20–24 show the players addressing and commenting on the game character Seymour. First P addresses Seymour in Finnish telling him to be quiet (line 20), apparently displeased with his speech. K then aligns with P's critical stance with a comment describing Seymour as ‘so gay’ (lines 22 and 24). In lines 26–27 P continues criticising Seymour's actions in a sarcastic tone with an utterance including a code-switched utterance drawn from the game (‘almighty powerful’). In both K's and P's turns English items inserted in the otherwise Finnish utterances index the linguistically hybrid nature of the activity. In line 29 P repeats Seymour's preceding question ‘are you afraid?’ thus again drawing attention to and animating his turn. The question occasions a response from K in English. The coplayer here uses his own voice to produce a well-timed and appropriate answer to the question produced by the avatar and animated by the player. In this way he both draws on the local language resources and expands on them to create a novel piece of dialogue and his own version of the narrative parallel to the game. His nonverbal activity during the turn displays detachment from the game world: His gaze is directed down to his hands, and he is involved in a different activity (pulling his shirt).

The excerpt demonstrates how the players' language choice and use is shaped by the temporally unfolding contextual and semiotic resources provided by the game and embedded in the structures of interaction through which the players manage and talk about the game. Language choice and language alternation index the bilingual setting where mixed language use is a routine feature of the orderly management of the activity. Here the choice of Finnish, for example, indexes the players' discursive identities as an expert and a novice player, while the use of English displays heightened involvement with the scene underway, expertise in the game dialogue as well as a resource for building a shared affective stance. Engagement with the language of the game allows players to display their own continued attention to unfolding scenes, their expertise in details of the game and also their stances towards aspects of the scene.

Doing Local And Translocal Culture In Web Discussion: Web Forum Discussions Of Christian Extreme Sports

Next, we will have another look at young people's interaction in and with a new media setting focusing on an online discussion forum (Peuronen, 2008). More specifically, we will investigate how a particular community, young Christians, find in the web a place for articulating their faith, shared values and norms for interaction (Herring, 2004, pp. 355–356) as well as ways of identifying with wider cultural frameworks. At the same time, the case illustrates a culture that is realised - both off- and online–as yet another type of heteroglossic amalgam. In this cultural community Christianity and a particular youth culture, extreme sports, come together. Thus, in these discourses and practices of young Christian Finns two global phenomena are combined in a locally meaningful way. One semiotic dimension in which the process of amalgamation is particularly clear is, again, language choice and use. For Christian extreme sport enthusiasts, the universe of discourse in which they locate themselves is primarily Anglophone. For example, many extreme sports and their particular registers originated in North America, and it was North America which has hence influenced the ways and wordings in which these sports have been described and talked about.

As an illustration, we will look at the linguistic resources employed by young Finns who participate in web forum discussions on their website at As suggested in previous work in online ethnography (Androutsopoulos, 2008, pp. 5–6), the analysis consists of a close observation and analysis of the development of interactive online activities and of the “dynamics of communication” within specific forum sections and between users. The young are seen as social actors who draw on a range of resources from different languages, varieties, and cultural frameworks in order to negotiate their identities and to position themselves and others within certain groups and in specific contexts (Bailey, 2007, pp. 257–258; Heller, 2007; Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004, p. 14).

The community can be described as translocal, hybrid, and heteroglossic in many ways. First of all, the members are successful in combining seemingly two different cultures and their expressive resources. The electronic space offers them the possibility for sharing their thoughts, experiences, and expertise with each other as well as creating meaningful connections between the sports they are engaged in and the broader community of Christians outside of their local territory. Secondly, within their own community, Christian extreme sport enthusiasts in Finland meet each other both in their web discussion forum and in offline get-togethers. Thus, they represent a hybrid community in the sense that they have chosen to explore the possibilities offered by the new media although at the same time they obviously need the physical environment for carrying out their sporting activities (Thurlow et al., 2004, p. 114). Finally, the forum members' ways of interaction comprise creative uses of two languages: in addition to Finnish, their mother tongue and the main language-of-interaction in the forum, English, plays an important role in their online activities. In the messages posted to the forum, the young tend to insert English elements into Finnish and draw especially on the English extreme sports jargon, sometimes resulting in integrated and unconventional forms of Finnish and English.

In their appropriation of linguistic resources for their community purposes, the participants seem to treat English-language elements as an integral part of their communicative mode in relation to certain topics, for instance. Their frequent insertion of elements from English can often be interpreted as instances of language mixing, a group style conveying social and identity-related meanings (see Auer, 1999, pp. 314–318). However, the use of English may sometimes also have meanings related to the interaction management in the forum, as in the case of greetings, good wishes or closing words. As suggested by Auer (1999, p. 310), such alternating uses of two languages can be labelled as code-switching when the contrast between the codes is locally meaningful to the participants and the juxtaposition of the codes contextualizes aspects of the unfolding interactive situation or features of the participants themselves.

The initiator of the following discussion thread6 primarily targeted the thread at skateboarders or BMX riders concerning a joint road trip during the upcoming summer. In the third post of the thread (not included in the example), user A demands to have an explanation for the exclusion of rollerbladers from the target group. User B replies to him in the following post by welcoming rollerbladers to join the group. This leads to an exchange between A and B in which they use terms derived from English and embed them within Finnish orthography and morphology. The language variety in the extract represents mainly insertional language mixing: the two languages are not used for contrasting effect, but their use illustrates how for the participants language mixing is really their preferred style of communication. (The English translations of sections originally in Finnish are given in square brackets.)

Example (13)7

5 ANiinku näet meitä ona…ainakin täs yx…ainoostaan en oo taitava…mut Rakastan Jeesusta, ja tykkään blädätä ja kehittyy omal tahdillani!
 [As you can see there are…at least one right here… only that I'm not skilled… but I love Jesus, and I like to roller blade and improve my skills at my own pace!]
6 BHeh ja mun skedeys taidot on melko olemattomat myös mutta tärkeintähän onkin hauskanpito ollu koko lajissa alunperin.
 [Heh and my skateboarding skills are almost non-existent but anyhow, having fun has been the most important thing in this sport from the beginning.]
7 ANO TODELLAKIN! inline image Vaikka esim.snoukkauski on muuttunut tsillein…et HUH…
 Ku alotin jengi kyseli: “osaatsä metodin?”…ei enään… nykyään ne kyselee et kuin paljon säspinnaatinline image Mun vastaus: “EN SPINNAA…oon REHELLISEN old school”…like thatOld school myös meinaa sitä etten talvella vaivaudu menee serenaan vetää jää rännis olevaa isoint kikkeriä vesi satees… oon siihen LIIAN vanha ja LIIAN mukavuuden haluinen…
 Mut RISPEKTIT skideille jotka vetää kaikkea ilmas kun ilmas tai sit reililinline image
 [WELL SURE ENOUGH! inline image Although snowboarding for instance has changed like… whoa…When I started people used to ask me: “do you know the method?”…not anymore… nowadays they ask how much do you spininline image My answer to them: “I DON'T SPIN… I am truthfully old school…like thatOld school also means that I don't bother to go to Serena in the winter time to slide down the biggest icy jumping hill in the rain… I am TOO old and TOO eager for convenience… But my RESPECTS to the kids who ride anything in any kind of weather or on the railinline image]
8 BJeh. Todellakin näin. Jännää on se että lempitemppuihin skedellä sisältyy bonelessit yms oldskool temput vaikken niiden kulta aikaan ole edes kuullutkaan vieläskedeyksestä. Ne vaan on niin kivoja ja siistejä…inline image Tekniikkapuoli on sentääs kehittynyt jo jotenkuten ja nyt saan jopa 360flipin hyvinä päivinä*ooooh*.
 [Yeah. That's true. It's funny how my favourite tricks with the skateboard include bonelesses and other old school tricks although I hadn't even heard about skateboarding in their golden age. They are just so nice and cool…inline image Luckily, my technique has developed to some extent and now I can do a 360 flip in a good day *wow*.]

The example illustrates how two members of the community draw on English in relation to their expert knowledge in extreme sports, while describing themselves as snowboarders, rollerbladers, or skateboarders. Hence, extreme sports discourse is evoked by the use of English, and identities related to this lifestyle become elicited within it. The participants' language use is characterized by the ample use of nouns and verbs derived from English extreme sports jargon, integrated into the grammatical framework of Finnish. The resulting lexical items have gone through multiple processes of linguistic adaptation. For example, in post 7 words such as RISPEKTIT (RESPECTS) and reilil (on the rail) have been written according to the phonological spellings of the English words but using the Finnish orthographical and morphological rules (such as substituting k for c, adding the word-final i,the plural marker -t or a case ending). On the other hand, some words are only partly adapted to Finnish: bonelessit (bonelesses) in post 8 follows its English spelling but has Finnish suffixes attached to it (the word-final i and the plural marker -t). Additionally, there are groups of related lexical items that have been created based on an English term, such as ‘skateboarding,’ which function as translocal resources evoking connections to more global contexts in this local community. However, their spelling has often been appropriated to the extent of being unidentifiable in their original contexts. The Finnish translations based on the term ‘skateboarding’ include the compound skedeys taidot (skateboarding skills) in post 6, skedellä (with the skateboard) and skedeyksestä (about skateboarding) in post 8.

The use of English extreme sports jargon may be considered a norm in the discussion forum as the participants seem to expect familiarity with it when interacting with each other. In a way, it has become a part of their linguistic repertoire. It is possible even that for the community members their language use does not include two separate codes at all, but it simply their own style of text and talk (see Meeuwis & Blommaert, 1998).

The overall topic of the discussion between users A and B is the primacy of having fun over one's skills in various sporting activities, but they also talk about their preferred tricks and their approach to extreme sports in general. After being welcomed to participate in the intended road trip, user A alludes both to the Christian and the extreme athlete's aspects of his identity in post 5. In a sense, he justifies his involvement as a Christian rollerblader in this forum by stating quite unequivocally: “only that I'm not skilled… but I love Jesus, and I like to rollerblade”. On the whole, he seems to value personal faith and the right attitude to rollerblading more than the technical skills. In the following post (6), user B adheres to the extreme sports aspect of the discussion and says how his skateboarding skills are almost nonexistent, thus identifying himself with the position introduced by user A. Thereafter, they engage in a serious discussion on their qualities as extreme sports people.

In their discussion they focus especially on the notion of ‘old school’ approach to extreme sports. In post 7, user A defines it with the help of language mixing as follows: ‘EN SPINNAAoon rehellisen old schoollike that…’ (I DON'T SPIN… I'm truthfully old schoollike that… ). In this linguistically hybrid description of himself as a snowboarder, he demonstrates how English is an integral part of his way of speaking and, therefore, also of his identity. In addition, he uses a similar strategy to elaborate on the meaning of the term ‘old school’. He does this by recycling a hip-hop term, RESPECTS (RISPEKTIT) (see Androutsopoulos & Scholz 2002, p. 18), to state that although he himself does not bother to do risky tricks during the winter time, he has a lot of appreciation for those who will do anything in any kind of weather. He thus recognizes other people as legitimate representatives of extreme sports even though he positions himself differently, preferring other modes of conduct. User B, in turn, develops the notion of ‘old school’ by referring, again with the help of originally English terms, to tricks called bonelessit (bonelesses), which according to him can be defined as oldskool.

All in all, the two forum members represent themselves as people interested in different extreme sports but who are nevertheless united by their similar attitude to performing and talking about these sports. On the one hand, they draw on the terminology of international extreme sports culture. On the other hand, by producing different orthographic versions of these terms as well as by linking them to their own experiences and sporting activities, they localize both their forms and meanings. Thus, language mixing and the appropriation of the terms adopted from English extreme sports jargon seem to be central means for them to negotiate their identities as members of a translocal extreme sports communities and activities. At the same time, by quite an explicit indication of their Christian faith, they index a sense of belonging to the local/global Christian community.


Through detailed ethnographic, sociolinguistic, and discourse analysis of four cases, this paper has explored how young people's new media uses display local and translocal affective, social, and cultural alignments and affinities. Translocality was here defined as an orientation to the new media which consists of and goes beyond the local, and as social and cultural practice which is outward-looking, exogenous, and focused on hybridity, modification, and identification. In interactions with various new media young people negotiate their interests, lifestyles, identities, and sense of belonging. With the help of four case studies focussing on different aspects of Finnish young people's new media uses, we have shown how translocality manifests, in particular, in language choice, and in linguistic and stylistic heteroglossia, the coexistence, mixing, and alternation of different languages, registers, genres and styles. Young people's new media activities were shown to have both an interlingual and intralingual dimension, manifesting in, for example, their selection of English as their language of communication instead of their first language, their drawing on and combination of resources from more than one language, and their selection and mixing of features associated with different registers, genres, and styles of one language in their discourse.

The case studies demonstrate different aspects of the translocality of young people's new media activities as crucial. The first case focusing on Finnish adolescents' own perceptions and understandings of their new media practices showed how the new media is a major force shaping their everyday lives. On the one hand, the new media, particularly CMC, clearly has an important social function at the local level of the young people's personal lives, in enhancing their contacts and interactions with their friends. On the other hand, CMC enables them, at least imaginatively but sometimes also in an actual form, to take part in translocal activity spaces and communities beyond their local home bases. For the young people, these kinds of contacts and associations seem to offer an opportunity for identifying themselves as ‘international’ or ‘cosmopolitan.’

The second case illustrated how young people's new media practices may go much further than communication with friends and identifications with imaginary communities. By describing a young Finnish woman's varied, active, and long-term literacy practices in different web environments, it evinced how these environments can become sites for social, cultural, and aesthetic activities. Socially, these environments offered this particular young woman a complex set of social arenas in which she could incrementally establish and index herself as a particular kind of person, with a particular kind of value system and lifestyle. Culturally, her web activities were also important in how she, along with her peers, could have an active role as a creator and moderator of fan cultures. Aesthetically, the different web environments provided the young woman with opportunities to practice and develop her skills as a writer and a visual artist. Further, it was shown how the young woman's writing was fundamentally heteroglossic in nature. It was crafted by her as a complex linguistic and stylistic bricolage, in which the different languages, styles, textual resources, and genre conventions she uses connect her texts to various locales: the globally disseminated cult texts, her own aspirations and settings as a Finnish fan writer, as well as the discourses, normative expectations and conventions of both the local and translocal communities of fans to whom she aims her texts.

The third case study described Finnish adolescents' linguistic engagements with the global new media discourse of electronic games. The example demonstrated in detail how the players' language choice and use is shaped by the temporally unfolding contextual and semiotic resources provided by the game and embedded in the structures of interaction through which the players manage and talk about the game. Language choice and language alternation were shown to index the bilingual setting where mixed language use is a routine feature of the orderly management of the activity. A gaming event like the one analysed in this paper could be seen as simultaneously a situated and translocal activity, something that transgresses its situatedness due to the fact that the playing is an instance of global game culture, with which the two players featured in the example align themselves through their expert talk, actions and interactions while playing, and their competence with dealing with the global game language, English.

The final case discussed in the paper focused on the bilingual language use in a Finnish discussion forum focussing on extreme sports by young Christians. Although the forum has Finnish members only, the community itself was shown to be a translocal space for in at least two ways. Firstly, as demonstrated by its participants' patterns of language mixing involving English terminology, it places itself in the context of international extreme sports, thus negotiating participant identities as involving a translocal aspect as well. However, because this terminology was typically appropriated and domesticated by integrating it according to the rules of Finnish orthography and morphology, and by relating it to the Christian framework, the forumists foregrounded their identities as also Finnish Christians. The discussion forum was thus shown to be double-voiced: The participants speak simultaneously in the voice of Christianity, and in the voice of youth immersed in the particular youth culture.

In this paper we have thus tried to show how young Finns actively make use of the available new media spaces to engage in activities and cultural endeavors in ways that are meaningful and functional for them. Our analyses highlight the fundamentally mediated lives of the media savvy young people who are capable of and keen on surfing in as well as shaping the media environments for their specific semiotic, cultural, and social purposes. However, as the closing note it is perhaps important to remind ourselves of the fact that the new media is not the primum mobile for why young people are now actively and performatively carving their translocal social and cultural realities in electronic and digital settings. Translocal youth cultures, values, lifestyles, and activities such as exemplified by the cases discussed in this paper have existed before the era of the new media. However, thanks to the new media, particularly CMC, they have now been globalised in a way that was not possible before, giving rise to practices where the local and the global meet and merge in new ways.


This paper is part of our work in the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts, and Change in English (VARIENG), funded by the Academy of Finland, at the University of Jyväskylä. We also gratefully acknowledge our research assistants' Terhi Paakkinen's and Ari Häkkinen's help in the research endeavours reported on in this paper.


  • 1

    The survey was conducted in 2007, and its purpose was to diagnose Finns' attitudes towards English, their proficiency in English and other languages, and their uses of English. The number of respondents was 1500, and it included age groups from 15 to 79.

  • 2

    The interviews were originally conducted in Finnish.

  • 3

    Afeni gave us permission to use her ‘real’ nick in this paper.

  • 4

    Irc-Gallery is Finland's largest Internet community. In it, registered users can publish their photos and communicate with one another via various means.

  • 5

    All the web sites were accessed in October, 2008.

  • 6

    When analyzing the interaction in the discussion forum, the discussion threads, which in most cases include several messages concerning the same topic, are treated as the basic units of the analysis (see Androutsopoulos, 2006b, p. 527). In consequence, the sequential organization of the interaction is taken into account.

  • 7

    The Finnish sections have been translated to English by SP.

About the Author

Sirpa Leppänen is professor of English in the Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her research areas include discourse analysis, multilingualism, and language and gender. She is currently working on multilingual blogging, and has published on language hybridity in various new media contexts, and gender and sexuality in fan fiction. She directs two research projects: one of them focuses on uses and meanings of English within globalised Finnish society and the other on multilingualism as a problematic resource (for more information, see,;

Address: Department of Languages (P), P.O. Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä. Email:

Anne Pitkänen-Huhta is currently professor of English in the Department of Languages, English section, at the University of Jyväskylä. Her research focuses on literacy and discourse practices of young people, foreign language learning in formal and informal contexts, and the role of English in Finnish society. Her research employs ethnographic and discourse analytic methods.

Address: Department of Languages (P), P.O. Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä. Email:

Arja Piirainen-Marsh is professor of English in the Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä. Her research has focused on language use and interaction in everyday and institutional settings involving participants from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Her current interests include language alternation in multimodal environments and the relationship between linguistic choices, structures of interaction and other semiotic resources in social activity. Address: Department of Languages (P), P.O. Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä. Email:

Tarja Nikula is professor in the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä. Her research explores the role of English in Finnish teenagers' everyday lives from a discourse-ethnographic perspective. Her other research interests include discourse practices in content-based classrooms, pragmatics in language learning and teaching, and language education policies. Address: Centre for Applied Language Studies, PO Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Email:

Saija Peuronen is a doctoral student in the Department of Languages at the University of Jyväskylä and a member of a Research Unit for the Study of Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG). Her research focuses on the ways in which young Finnish people use bilingual practices for constructing a nexus of different cultures, lifestyles and identities in their online interaction, particularly in an Internet discussion forum meant for Christians interested in extreme sports. Address: Department of Languages (P), P.O. Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä. Email: