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Elena Mattei holds a PhD and is Doctor Europaeus in Digital Humanities for English Studies at the University of Verona (SSD: L-LIN/12; final grade: excellent). Her research interests focus on the collection, annotation and analysis of tourism multimodal corpora on social media, with particular attention to the development of a multidisciplinary and mixed methodological framework integrating data-driven semiotics into social semiotics and Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). The social mission and academic purpose of her scientific work is to conceive and apply sistematically, empirically both methods and tools to foster multimodal literacy. The final aim is specifically to promote the active design of counternarratives or 'cybersituations' for social change, particularly in terms of environmental protection and informed use of social media.
Shortlisted for the Paul Fortier Prize as an emergent scholar conducting high-quality research in the field of Digital Humanities, she has published in the class A journal Iperstoria and in DH venues, and holds workshops on empirical research. She has also presented her research at various international conferences and coedited a volume on the multidisciplinary doctoral conference she co-organized at the University of Verona in 2021. She is collaborating with her former co-supervisor, John A. Bateman, and with the scientific committee of the Master “English for International Business and Global Affairs” at the University of Verona. She is currently teaching a Digital Humanities course and in the postgraduate course “English for the World of Work”.
In the future, she would like to investigate how the capitalist, romantic gaze of the postmodern traveler and tourists’ contemporary desire for exclusivity in the uncontaminated nature may be leveraged by discourse specialists to cultivate environmental awareness and promote sustainable behavior, in an attempt to reverse consumerism and the ecological crisis (Urry and Larsen 2011; Stibbe 2014). She would like, in this sense, to create a Grammar of multimodal eco-discourse.
PhD supervisor: Prof. Sharon Hartle. PhD co-supervisor: Prof. John A. Bateman (Professor of English Applied Linguistics, PhD in Artificial Intelligence)
Short summary of her PhD research
Her DH project focused on carrying out a multidisciplinary investigation into tourism boards' multimodal communication strategies through both quantitative and qualitative methods, with particular focus on text-image relationships in the digital promotion of the traveling experience on Instagram and company websites. It investigated specifically how discourse specialists systematically combine linguistic resources with digital photography to design particular representations of the travel experience and convey specific, positive attitudes towards holiday destinations that depend on contextual variables, including the multisemiotic ensemble's medium of dissemination. Indeed, multimodal strategies were demonstrated to vary significantly according to both the medium's communicative role in the marketing funnel of persuasion and the social needs of the corresponding audience in the journey towards purchase (Manca 2016; Shuqair and Cragg 2017; Ayeh et al. 2012).
To this aim, multimodal data were collected from Instagram accounts and official websites in order to compile different corpora. Her work includes the systematic, manual annotation of multimodal corpora and the statistical measurement of visual and linguistic strategies. A SFL-based, intersemiotic theoretical framework allowed for the detection of patterns of material regularities, which reflect new socio-semiotic, generic trends in the discourse semantics and legitimization strategies of digital tourism narratives.
Her thesis wishes also to emphasize the importance of data-driven multimodal research in the burgeoning field of Digital Humanities from a methodological, sociological, and multisemiotic perspective. The results of this study may also lead to an informed understanding as well as awareness of how ideologies are perpetuated in the current digital sphere and may be resisted. Consequently, this may support individuals in their attempts to challenge the legitimacy of established views, opinions, and passive acceptance of them, and contribute to the construction of counternarratives (Ahearn 2001; Plant 1992).
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