Language & Culture Seminar Series @ Social and Global Studies Centre

Presenter: Ms Jo Taylor
RMIT PhD candidate, GUSS


Commentary on religion is becoming more prominent in public discourse, often with strongly opposing views being expressed. With the rise of personalised, creator-controlled online platforms, there is an unprecedented capability to produce and spread opinions and information. Social media and other online communities tend to support and reinforce the opinions, values and beliefs of participants, however, online information can also lead individuals to radically change their views, including on religious belief. Deconversion narratives are personal stories of leaving a faith-based belief system and identifying as a non-believer or atheist.

Data are taken from comments sections of deconversion videos, on social media platform YouTube, created by former fundamentalist evangelical Christians in the USA. The USA is politically and technologically powerful globally, and, despite being ostensibly secular, religious adherence of the population and religious influence in politics are ubiquitous. Commenters are motivated to engage with the video creator’s story, in support and in opposition, and to interact with other commenters. This research takes a qualitative, multi-layered, sociolinguistic approach to the data in order to better understand the way commenters situate themselves ideologically, and how they interact within these groups, as well as with those on the opposing side.


Jo Taylor holds two Bachelor’s degrees – in Horticultural Science, from Massey University, NZ, and in Linguistics (BA with first class honours) from La Trobe University, Melbourne – as well as a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education and a Master of Education from Victoria University, Melbourne. She has taught 22 different linguistics and communication subjects since 2002, at four universities, as well as holding a wide range of other short-term and casual academic jobs. Jo began teaching sessionally at RMIT in 2014 and started doctoral study in July 2018. Her current main areas of interest are the sociolinguistics of online interaction and discourse on religion, so she has combined these two broad areas into the current project.

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Chantal Crozet


Building 37, Level 3, Room 18
411 Swanston Street


10 September 2019