Is there really such a Thing as Para-interaction? Basel Workshop

Ever since HORTON/WOHL (1956/1986) referred to the kind of virtual interaction between media makers and their anonymous and dispersed target audiences as ‚intimacy at a distance‘, the concept has been shrouded in debate. What are the linguistic and multimodal means used to realize social para-interaction? – This is the most vital question to media-linguists.

Martin LUGINBÜHL and Dorothee MEER raise this sensitive topic of para-interaction in a two-day workshop at Basel University from October third to fourth, 2019.

Drawing on my earlier corpus of social print advertising, I will be presenting a comparative sketch of some of the multimodal resources used in different medial ad-forms, i.e. print versus film. For this purpose, I collated a very small ad-corpus of films produced by non-profit organizations to promote health, social equality, public safety and environmental issues. These films are parallel texts to the printed material and allow a glimpse of how the same topic and communicative function is performed differently in different media. My focus will be on the para-interactional potential of the filmic signing modes ‚moving image‘, ’speech‘, ‚music‘, and ’noise‘. Clearly, the interactional potential of film is greater than that of print as the filmic is multimodally more complex. But it also appears that dialogic speech, which would seem to offer the strongest options for para-interaction, is not among the dominantly used resources in social advertising. Instead, advertisers, interestingly, adopt well-known media formats (e.g. hidden camera, documentary) in order to tap into users‘ genre experience and emulate such functions as entertainment or suspense.

Picture Credits: Odin Aerni –

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