Dr. Blyth Biography
I am an applied linguist with a background in interactional sociolinguistics, pragmatics and technology. My research interests lie at the intersection of language, culture and interaction. In particular, I am interested in cross-cultural and intercultural online interaction. Currently, I am examining online discussions between French and American college students taken from Cultura, an on-going telecollaboration between MIT and various French universities. The general goal of my study is to demonstrate how miscommunication arises in cross-cultural discussions between French and American interlocutors who are largely unaware that their different cultures possess divergent "stance scripts," that is, culture-specific ways of expressing an opinion. The ultimate goal of this kind of pragmatic research is to identify the elements of conversational behaviors that index cultural ways of thinking and performing. Interest in the study of cross-cultural and intercultural stancetaking is growing due to the rapid expansion of the multilingual Internet. Once dominated by English speakers, the Internet is now a rampantly multilingual/multicultural social space. As a result, there are many new social contexts for multilingual and multicultural communication (e.g., chat rooms, virtual communities, etc.). While the rise of the Internet has made it easier to contact people from different cultures, cross-cultural intersubjectivity remains a challenge in online contexts.
In addition to cross-cultural communication, I am also interested in the use of digital tools and social media to facilitate collaborative social action (e.g., Wikipedia, open textbooks, etc. ). In particular, I am exploring the use of eComma, textual annotation software developed in the English Department at the University of Texas. In modern literate societies, reading is conceptualized as a private, mental act that typically involves one reader and one text. But today technology enables the synchronous reading of the same text by a large group of people who share their comments with each other as part of a collaborative meaning-making process. The goal of the eComma project is to understand how second language readers build collaborative commentaries of a given L2 text with the aid of this web-based annotation software. I have also worked with my departmental colleagues and graduate students over the years to build a suite of online pedagogical materials for French (e.g., Tex's French Grammar, a pedagogical reference grammar; and Français interactif, a 'blended learning' environment for beginning French).
Finally, I direct the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL), one of 15 federally-funded foreign language resource centers around the country. COERLL's mission is to produce and disseminate Open Educational Resources (OERs) for the Internet public (e.g., online language courses, reference grammars, assessment tools, corpora, etc.). The term OER refers to any educational material offered freely for anyone to use, typically involving some permission to re-mix, improve, and redistribute. Thus, COERLL seeks to promote a culture of collaboration that lies at the heart of the Open Education movement. In addition, COERLL aims to reframe foreign language education in terms of multilingualism. As such, all COERLL resources strive to represent more accurately language development and performance along dialectal and proficiency continua.