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Virtual variation as part of virtual recognition – On the economy of naming practices in WiFi network names

Beatrix Busse (Heidelberg), Ingo H. Warnke (Bremen)

WiFi Network Names (WFNN) play a crucial role in the sociolinguistic territorialization of the virtual public sphere of cities. Beyond the function of rendering users anonymous through names like ‘TP-LINK_2.4GHz_FD75DF’, there are various intended names like ‘MangoOnBeach’, ‘White Wedding’, or ‘home-sweet-home’. It is obvious that names of this type have different functions in manifold strategies of discursive place-making (cf. Busse & Warnke 2014). In our case study we have analyzed a set of data of 1,595 WFNN in Berlin in the mode of grid-based random-sample taking. In our paper we will concentrate in particular on English-based WFNN that make up 10 percent of the data set. English WFNN are interesting for us as we can observe how they, as indexical signs, internationalize Berlin. Phenomena of translanguaging (Garcia 2009) are of heightened interest as well.

We will show that it is possible to yield important insights into practices of territorialization on the basis of a systematic equipartition of WFNN place points. Here different dimensions of linguistic variation come into view: we concentrate on place-making types by analyzing morphological and syntactic structures of WFNN, and we focus on those types with explicit and implicit reference to Berlin as a metropolitan area. Our theoretical approach is one that pursues ideas of recognition and interprets WFNN as tags of virtual naming in the context of “self-constitution” and a “regime of truth“ (Butler 2005: 22).

Busse, Beatrix & Ingo H. Warnke. 2014. Ortsherstellung als sprachliche Praxis. In I. H. Warnke & B. Busse (eds.), Place–Making in urbanen Diskursen, 1–7. Berlin, München, Boston: de Gruyter.

Butler, Judith. 2005. Giving an Account of Oneself. New York: Fordham UP.

Garcia, Ofelia. 2009. Bilingual Education the 21st century: A Global Perspective. Oxford: Wiley.