Multimodality Talks Series: The multimodal construction of interculturality, authenticity and authority in YouTube videos

Day:  Apr 29, 2022

Time: 12:00 – 13:30 BST

Place: online

Speaker: Jenifer Ho, City University of Hong Kong

To attend the talk please register here:

To watch the recorded talk, see here:

YouTube is increasingly used as a platform for knowledge sharing and construction. This trend is reinforced and popularised by the COVID-19 pandemic which results in an increasing number of people turning to YouTube for information and knowledge. The platform provides a space for micro-celebrities to come into contact with audience from a variety of lingua-cultural backgrounds, thus creating ample opportunities for intercultural communication. In these instances, micro-celebrities make certain aspects of their identities relevant or irrelevant through drawing on discursive and multimodal resources – performing Interculturality (Nishizaka, 1995; Zhu, 2015). Furthermore, during the pandemic, these micro-celebrities are influential not merely in terms of the way they portrait themselves aesthetically, but they also garner ‘moral credibility’ through performing their ‘authentic self’ (Tolson, 2001; Valentinsson, 2018). Thus, it is more important than ever to understand how interculturality and authenticity are constructed not only linguistically, but also multimodally, as is often the case in YouTube videos where micro-celebrities draw on the affordances of a wide range of semiotic resources for identity work.

This talk focuses on two videos created by multilingual YouTube micro-celebrities during the pandemic. By analysing one selected ‘moment’ in each video, informed by moment analysis (Li, 2011) and multimodal analysis (Kress, 2010), I demonstrate how such analyses can offer us insights into the multimodal construction of interculturality and authenticity by focusing on spontaneous and momentary actions which go beyond the linguistic mode. I further argue that the micro-celebrity’s multimodal performance of interculturality and authenticity grants him authority to be a promoter of certain cultural and health practices. The study can potentially pave way for a better understanding of the use of vernacular practices by micro-celebrities for global digital (health) communication.


Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. Routledge.

Li, W. (2011). Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(5), 1222–1235.

Nishizaka, A. (1995). The interactive constitution of interculturality: How to be a Japanese with words. Human Studies, 18(2–3), 301–326.

Tolson, A. (2001). “Being yourself”: The pursuit of authentic celebrity. Discourse Studies, 3(4), 443–457.

Valentinsson, M. C. (2018). Stance and the construction of authentic celebrity persona. Language in Society, 47(5), 715–740.

Zhu, H. (2015). Interculturality: Reconceptualising cultural memberships and identities through translanguaging practice. In F. Dervin & K. Risager (Eds.), Researching identity and interculturality (pp. 109–124). Routledge.tract T.B.A. soon


Jenifer Ho is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, City University of Hong Kong. Her research interests lie in the areas of multimodality and translanguaging in digital platforms. She is particularly interested in recreational language learning of adults in online platforms and in the digital wild. She has published extensively in the use of YouTube videos for teaching and learning. In recent years, she has begun to explore how online videos play a role in shaping cultural identities and promoting health practices. Her work has appeared in Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Journal of Second Language Writing, Qualitative Research, and System.


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