Authenticating leadership ‘like a boss’

A session at Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices

Thursday 11th April, 2013

3:00pm to 3:30pm

‘Like a boss’ is a 2009 hip-hop spoof by The Lonely Island. The song describes a day in the life of a brash business leader played by American actor Andy Samberg, who shouts ‘like a boss’ after every activity. These activities start out with the mundane (‘direct workflow…like a boss’) but quickly turn to the personal (‘swallow sadness…like a boss’), then to the absurd (‘turn into a jet…like a boss’) before crashing into the sun and dying (‘now I’m dead…like a boss’).

The song was an instant hit on social media, spawning an even more popular catchphrase in the process: ‘like a boss’ is a meme that has captured the imagination of social media users in images and videos that feature people, animals and even inanimate objects doing things ‘their way’, i.e. with authority, flair and aloofness, even if these things involve ‘peeling onions like a boss’ or ‘high-fiving a smiling shark like a boss’.

In this paper we examine the identity practices around the meme’s use in a multilingual corpus of messages posted to microblogging service Twitter with the hashtag #likeaboss. Following Blommaert and Varis, we define identity practices as “discursive orientations towards sets of emblematic resources”. In this particular case, these emblematic resources center around loosely defined and ever-changing evaluations of business leadership. As Zappavigna has shown, Twitter offers a rich and diverse empirical space for studying such evaluative meaning relations.

In the analysis we examine how the like a boss meme

  • indexes what leadership does: i.e. authorize agency
  • extends the range of indexical meanings of leadership
  • metacomments on the corporate use of the term.

We illustrate these findings and compare them to the meme characteristics that Knobel and Lankshear, and Shifman discern. In conclusion, we take a step back and consider how the like a boss meme speaks to the sociolinguistics of superdiversity and to notions of leadership in (critical) management studies.

About the speaker

This person is speaking at this event.
Tom Van Hout

Discourse, Media & Journalism Studies @UAntwerpen & @UniLeiden | Discourse in Organizations | @lingethnoforum bio from Twitter

Next session in GF2

3:35pm The personal in political tweets: The use of Twitter during the 2010 British and Dutch General Elections by Todd Graham

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Time 3:00pm3:30pm GMT

Date Thu 11th April 2013

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