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Languages and applied linguistics
Language and the digital media

Language and the digital media

A key topic within the Language and Literacies Research Cluster of the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET) is the relationship between language and the digital media.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have transformed communication practices in the past few years. Along with the linguistic practices in which people engage and the nature of the social networks they construct, there is a strong and growing interest in how people make meaning not just through language, but through a range of resources.

A multimodal approach to meaning making means exploring diverse ways of communicating such as gesture, gaze, artefacts, images, layout, sounds and colour, in addition to language. Underpinning this innovative work is a critical theoretical approach, and the development of new research methodologies, including visual research methods and combinations of ethnographic and applied linguistic approaches. Our research covers all education sectors, from early years to post-compulsory education, and informal learning, as well as media, culture and public debate. Work in the area addresses issues such as the role social media have in the performance of identity and the construction of community. It also includes explorations of the opportunities that social media afford for novel forms of linguistic creativity, for extensive language contact and code-mixing, for acts of deception and fraud, and for political activism.

Particular foci include:

  • The potential of new digital media to reshape knowledge, literacy, learning and teaching
  • Critical reflection on the assumptions that underlie the use of digital technologies in education
  • The semiotics of multimodal environments. 

Qualifications available

PhD, Professional Doctorate.


For detailed information on current fees visit Research degree Fees.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) plus either a masters degree or research methods training at masters level (or equivalent).

Potential research projects

  • Linguistic strategies for privacy management on social media
  • New technologies and changing literacy practices
  • Multimodal communication and argumentation
  • The use of mobile technologies for language learning
  • Critical digital literacies in an era of social media and ‘fake news’
  • Critical digital literacies through virtual exchange

Current/recent research projects

  • Ethnographic case study of discursively negotiated identities on social media
  • Informal writing spaces: literacy and higher education goals
  • Explorations of student academic literacy practices in digital multimodal disciplinary contexts in South African vocational higher education
  • Impact on the knowledge-construction process of multimodal online interactions in audiographic conferencing systems: the case of adult distance learners of French
  • Multimodal meaning-making in second language learner interactions via mobile videoconferencing: gesture as mode

Potential supervisors


Women learning language online

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Dr Inma Álvarez, Director of Postgraduate Research Studies
Phone: +44 (0)1908 655364