Ethnographic Approaches to the Study of Writing as a Social Practice: Final seminar of the Language Regulation in Academia research project

In the Language Regulation in Academia (LaRA) research project we are interested in the ways in which different actors participate in the production of texts. We focus on how language users manage, monitor or intervene in their own or other’s language use – a phenomenon we call language regulation (Hynninen & Solin 2017). Language regulation can target either language choice (what languages can and should be used in a given setting) or language quality (what kind of language is evaluated as acceptable/good enough). We consider writing as mediated action that involves actors that are assigned or take on different roles. Another interest of ours is in the distribution of authority and responsibilities in the processes of writing. Following this focus, we invited researchers working on similar topics to take part in a seminar dedicated to this topic and to discuss connections between our project and their research.

The final seminar of the LaRA project entitled "Ethnographic Approaches to the Study of Writing as a Social Practice: Final seminar of the Language Regulation in Academia research project" was arranged at the University of Helsinki on 23-24 Oct 2019. In the seminar, we presented the most recent findings of our research and discussed them with our colleagues. Despite the name of the seminar, which indicates the end of our Kone Foundation project funding, the work in the LaRA project continues, and we look forward to sharing our work in various events in the future.

Our guest star in the LaRA seminar was Karin Tusting from Lancaster University, who started the event with a lecture on "Academic writing: methodological challenges of ethnographic research in university workplaces". We were also happy to have Karin as a guest commentator to the presentations.

Our own presentations were as follows:

  • Anna Solin: What is language regulation and how should we analyse it? 
  • Niina Hynninen: Moments and mechanisms of intervention: Regulating the language of English-medium research writing 
  • Hanna-Mari Pienimäki: Language professionals as regulators of academic discourse 

We then heard from various colleagues:

  • Jorunn Simonsen Thingnes (University of Oslo): Establishing language policy: Conflicting interests in Norwegian academia 
  • Kathrin Kaufhold (Stockholm University) and Lisa McGrath (Sheffield Hallam University): What shapes and regulates writing in ethnographic research across disciplines 
  • Laura McCambridge (University of Jyväskylä): From 'English' norms to disciplinary discourses: Investigating student writing on an EMI programme 
  • Tomi Visakko (University of Jyväskylä and University of Helsinki): (De)regulation of writing and interpersonal contacts in community theater
  • Tiina Räisänen (University of Oulu) and Anne Kankaanranta (Aalto University): The use of English as corporate language in global knowledge work over a 15-year business career 
  • Merja Ponkala (University of Tampere) and Suvi Honkanen (University of Helsinki): Holding to conventions: A discourse community perspective on regulating civil servants' writing practices in the Prime Minister's Office 

We want to express our warmest thanks to Karin Tusting as well as all our presenters for making the event such a great success! We are also indebted to our discussants Irina Piippo, Jyrki Kalliokoski, Johanna Vaattovaara, Anne Mäntynen and Kathrin Kaufhold for their insightful comments on selected presentations. Thank you! And thank you everyone who participated in the event! We will keep you posted about futher developments in the LaRA project.