Sunday, December 29, 2013

The discourse of online reviews

Reputation and ranking through comment and consumer review are a ubiquitous feature of new media. Reviewing involves online performances of identity and taste that are highly influential in the consumer-led participatory culture of late modernity. Based on an analysis of a corpus of 1000 such texts, Camilla Vasquez's book 'The Discourse of Online Consumer Reviews', due to be published by Bloomsbury later this year, explores the linguistic features of this new online genre. Using an eclectic range of approaches, the discourse of these (often humorous) reviews is given a detailed treatment. In a compelling exploration of stance-taking Vasquez shows how the quest for the perfect product inflects the comments of these self-appointed reviewers. As she observes in the conclusion to the second chapter 'on our quest to have a "mind-blowing" dining experience, or with our hopes of finding the "perfect" diaper bag - we will continue to consume.' We see how reviewers work hard to position themselves on the expertise continuum, often evoking professional knowledge or the views of others to bolster their credentials - and, of course, all this is indexed in their written comments. Advice, warning and product endorsement all feature here as review-writers gain reader involvement and encourage interaction. Vasquez majors on reviews of specific items such as multi speed blenders, diaper bags and yoga mats, throwing in more general ones such as hotel reviews from TripAdvisor, movie reviews from NetFlix, and recipes from Epicurious for good measure. A highlight, for me, was the mushroom tortellini debate on the recipe site - witty, yet spirited - and this is lovingly analysed for the play of voices in the extended online interaction! Through their evaluations and short narratives these reviewers create a shifting online community of consumer advice, and Vasquez shows how they deploy discursive resources to achieve this. All this makes goes to make this book an essential for anyone who is interested in online discourse.