Gaspar, Borbala (University of Arizona)

Although the concept of imagination has been addressed in theories of identity construction by many scholars (Kanno & Norton, 2003; Norton, 2000, 2001, Pavlenko & Norton, 2007), and these works have provided us with many examples of how futures are imagined by learners, and how these imagined futures affect the investment and identity of the learner in language learning (Norton, 1997, 2000), we still know very little about how language learners use their imagination (Ryan & Irie, 2014). Furthermore, most previous studies on learner identity that include imagination focus primarily on the analysis of verbal communication in a physical space, but few are concerned with communication in virtual spaces. Most of these studies limit their focus primarily on the imagined and planned future of the language learner withdrawing the way the possible effects it may have on the present, claiming that imagination presupposes new identities (Pavlenko and Norton, 2007), placing imagination purely related to the self, as the processes of the individual (Erikson, 2007; Pizzalato, 2006), leaving out the other forms of imagination, in particular how can imagination be co-constructed using digital literacies, in a form of online multimodal translanguaging. The rise in the ubiquity of digital communication technologies provides an invaluable opportunity for foreign language learners to not only connect to the target language speakers within the use of a broader spectrum of communication such as images, videos, and other forms of semiotic elements that are imbedded and incorporated into their imaginations, and consequently into their lives. There are still gaps in the research on how multimodal communication affects the development of new types of (co-constructed) learner imagination, and in what ways the new forms of imagination can contribute to different (self)positioning (Davies & Harrè, 1990; Harrè & Moghaddam, 2009).

This longitudinal study focuses on an examination of how the use of the mobile application Hellotalk as a multimodal way of communication can trigger the imagination of the participants as they interact with their partners, and consequently how this contributes to new (self)positionings. In this qualitative study, I collected artifacts that demonstrate the digital discourses of learners, examined student portfolios, and conducted semi-structured interviews with three focal participants.

Findings reveal that multimodal elements and discourses provide a space for imagination, through which learners co-constructively transcend their space and time, and create a homogeneous space where their lives and sense of time become interwoven with their imagined presence. The new form of imagination described in this paper is socially mediated and co-constructed, do not necessary point to the future, triggers emotions and feelings, evokes different positioning, can contribute to greater learner motivation, and should be considered as an alternative to the theories of investment and imagination.

Key words: imagination, (self)positioning, foreign language learners, translanguaging, telecollaboration, digital literacies


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