BELF and Web Affordances as Strategic Resources for Companies' Global Websites


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Paper presented at ELF6 Conference, Rome 3 University, on 5 September 2013.

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BELF and Web Affordances as Strategic Resources for Companies' Global Websites

  2. 2. ● Background 1: What is globalisation? ● Background 2: BELF and the Web as tools for corporate communication ● Analysis ● Materials ● Methods ● Preliminary findings ● Discussion of preliminary findings ● Final remarks Outline of the presentation
  3. 3. Globalisation according to Held & al. (1999): ● A process or set of processes ● Emergence of interregional networks of interaction and exchange ● Involvement of all social domains (cultural, economic, political, legal, military, environmental) ● Deterritorialization/reterritorialization of traditional economic, social and political boundaries into subnational, regional and supranational complexes. Background 1: What is globalisation?
  4. 4. Interregional interaction and exchange networks are possible thanks to advancements in transport and communication infrastructures. Implications for business activities: ● trading across national borders ● fiercer competition ● higher accountability towards stakeholders ● exploitation of the rapid communication fow to disseminate knowledge about economic, social and environmental performances. Background 1: What is globalisation?
  5. 5. English has become “the language of globalisation” (Gnutzmann&Intemann 2008), and it is used in the majority of business communication exchanges especially by NNSs (Louhiala Salminen&Kankaanranta 2011). This shared language to conduct business worldwide is often referred to as BELF, Business English Lingua Franca (Louhiala-Salminen & al. 2005). Background 2: BELF and the Web as tools for corporate communication
  6. 6. During the last two decades the advent of the Web, “the pivotal facet” of CMC (Petroni 2011, 24), has offered companies a new medium to promote products and maintain business relationships with stakeholders worldwide. Web-mediated intercultural business communication takes advantage of such affordances as hypertextuality, multimodality, interactivity. Background 2: BELF and the Web as tools for corporate communication
  7. 7. The implementation of BELF as a code and of the Web as a medium have converged in such a way to give rise to companies' global websites, which can be regarded as virtual repositories of the promotional materials delivered by companies, made accessible to any stakeholder in any part of the world 24/7/365. Background 2: The Web and BELF as tools for corporate communication
  8. 8. The aim of the analysis is to explore the discursive and hypertextual/multimodal practices adopted by a sample of Italian companies active in the renewable energy sector to promote their products, services and technologies. RESEARCH QUESTIONS ● Which are the most efficiently employed lexico- grammatical constructions to promote products and persuade customers? ● How does textual information coexist with and is infuenced by web affordances? Analysis
  9. 9. Web pages in companies' global websites dedicated to the descriptions of products, services and technologies. Industry sector: renewable energy → high-stakes sector: the increase in human activities has brought about a depletion of resources, climate change, environmental degradation, and a growing need for clean energy production. Materials
  10. 10. Country of origin: Italy → among the OECD countries, and state member of the EU (supranational entities) → in Cramer's conceptualisation of the spread and use of English in the EU (2007), Italy belongs to the Expanding Circle: English is acquired at school, and used in international encounters. → the renewable energy industry in Italy is expanding, with investors and new companies entering the sector (Mergermarket 2013). Materials
  11. 11. The communicative agenda of each company is achieved by the use of multimodal resources, hence a mixed methodological approach is required to assess the interconnectedness of textual information and other semiotic features: ● Corpus Linguistics: wordlists and concordance strings (most frequent content words, incidence of company names, noun phrases, pronouns, acronyms). ● Multimodal Discourse Analysis: qualitative analysis of multimodal resources (images, colours, logos, layout design) taking into account hypertextual and interactive strategies as well). Methods
  12. 12. Methods COMPANY NAMECOMPANY NAME ENERGYENERGY SOURCESOURCE SECTIONSSECTIONS TOKENSTOKENS WORDWORD TYPESTYPES Bonfiglioli SpA Wind Applications & Solutions Or Business Area>Wind> Products 3,909 1,127 IREM SpA Hydropower Products 1,438 419 Micron – Cappello Alluminio srl Photovoltaics Products (Why Micron, FAQs) 1,836 670 Palazzetti SpA Biomass The products 40,926 3,886 Turboden srl* Geothermal Products (Applications, Services) 1,321 539 *a company of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. group.
  13. 13. Bonfiglioli SpA ● 'Application&Solution', 'Business Area': noun phrases. ● 10 most frequent content words: control, motors, energy, Bonfiglioli, drive, (motor), wind, inverters, output, power, shaft. ● Use of noun phrases to package specialised knowledge: Selectable Vector control function, AEC regenerating inverters, wind turbine blades and systems. ● Company is referred to by its name 23 times: indirectness. Exclusive we used only 5 times: - Bonfiglioli places a team of specialist and highly competent engineers at its customers’ [sic] disposal [...]. - Discover more on how we can serve you.
  14. 14. Bonfiglioli SpA ● Interactivity: two paths lead to the product section. - Applications&Solutions: search tools - Business Area>Wind>Products ● Hyperlinks realised by the use of directives: discover more, read more, find your local partner. ● Corporate colours grey, white, blue, logo in the top left- hand corner of the screen. ● Wind energy symbolised graphically by wind turbines. ● Product image in the middle of the page, textual description on the right; technical data, charts, at the bottom of the page.
  15. 15. IREM SpA ● 'Products': noun. ● 10 most frequent content words: generator, electric, power, control, grid, turbines, operation, (turbine), energy, pdf, boards. ● Usage of 'energy' and 'power': disseminating specialised knowledge. - Ecowatt hydroelectric turbines […] transform the kinetic energy of the water into precious electricity. - The turbine-generator group constantly transforms hydraulic energy into electric power [...]. ● Passive voice: focus on the products and their features. - [...] the wheel is mounted directly on the generator shaft. - These models are fitted with some dc electric driving gears.
  16. 16. IREM SpA ● Interactivity: a drop-down menu caters for different navigating paths (Power Supply, Hydro, Professional lightning, Lightning). ● Corporate colours black, white, orange, red, logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen. ● Hydroelettric energy symbolised in a banner image in the top section of the page representing water falls. ● Clickable product images and active links to downloadable pdfs in the bottom section of the page. Use of directives: 'read more'.
  17. 17. The noun phrase 'Attached Files' contrasts with the use of directives used on the same page to realize hyperlinks ('find out more'), and it implies a degree of staticity that clashes with the dynamic nature of the Web .
  18. 18. Micron – Cappello Alluminio srl ● 'Products': noun, 'Why Micron': indirect question, 'FAQs': acronym. ● 10 most frequent content words: Micron, photovoltaic, plant, modules, power, panels, cell (cells), energy, conditions, electrical. ● 'Micron' used as modifier: Micron Technology, Micron Photovoltaic cells, Micron Photovoltaic Module. ● Theme-rheme structure to foreground the products and describe their features and performances. - A photovoltaic plant is a system composed of several complementary elements [...]. - [T]he thermal solar panels utilize the thermal energy of the sun [...].
  19. 19. ● Interactivity: a drop-down menu caters for different navigating paths (The Micron Module, Polycrystalline, Monocrystalline, etc.). ● Corporate colours: white and light blue for the company, light green for the group. ● Company logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen, group logo in the top middle section of the screen (small font). ● Slide show in the top section of the page showing phases of the panels production inside the factory. Micron – Cappello Alluminio srl
  20. 20. Palazzetti SpA ● 'The products': noun phrase. ● 10 most frequent content words: power, thermal, total (cfr. 'Total thermal power' used to describe the products), dimensions, pellet, firebox, you, system, efficiency, made. ● Usage of 'you', questions, directives to reach out to the web user. - Would you like to check this personally? Click here to download the list of all our certified products [...]. ● Exclusive we to refer to the company. - We offer a vast range of fireboxes capable of satisfying any requirement. - We were the first to offer stoves having this technology at the end of the 90s.
  21. 21. ● Interactivity: drop-down menus, hyperlinks listed on the left, search tool to browse products. ● Corporate colours white and red, company logo in the top middle section of the screen. ● Banner images: one on top of the screen (the same for the whole website), one in the middle (different from section to section). ● Product descriptions: images in the middle of the screen, technical features on the right, textual information in the bottom section of the page. Palazzetti SpA
  22. 22. Turboden srl ● 'Products', 'Applications', 'Services': nouns. ● 10 most frequent content words: Turboden, power, geothermal, electric, units, heat, CHP, HR, net, active. ● 'Turboden' used to refer to the company (indirectness), or as a modifier. - […] Turboden intends to promote its versatile ORC technology and know-how. - […] in the early Nineties, Turboden completed a 1,000 kWel plant in Austria. - Turboden turbogenerators electric power output, Turboden ORC technology, Turboden Online Service ● Use of acronyms for the names of the products: CHP (Combined Heat and Power Units), HR (Heat Recovery Units), HRS (High Electrical Efficiency Units).
  23. 23. Turboden srl ● Moderate degree of interactivity: no drop-down menus, heavy reliance on downloadable brochures and data sheets in pdf format. ● Corporate colours, red and grey, company logo in the top middle section of the screen. ● Banner images in the top section of the screen. ● Hyperlinks to social networks: disseminating knowledge and promoting the brand outside the company's website. ● 'Applications' sections: hyperlinks are realized by four clickable boxes (one for each energy source with which the company deals) combining images and text.
  24. 24. The use of colours, images, bullet points and different font sizes caters for multimodality. The heading 'Is it suitable for you?' reaches out to the web user.
  25. 25. Discussion of preliminary findings Effective corporate communication via global website can be obtained thanks to the strategic implementation of BELF and Web affordances. ● Disseminating specialised knowledge: high incidence of content words regarding the different energy sources, use of noun phrases to package information, passive voice to foreground the products and their features. ● Promoting the products and the company: - thematization, directives, 'we'/'you', and questions to involve the reader. - multimodal resources (colours, images, layout) to attract the web user's attention. - interactivity (hyperlinks, drop-down menus) provide for a personalised navigation within the website.
  26. 26. Discussion of preliminary findings Yet, interactivity seems to be occasionally constrained by the companies' preference for downloadable pdf files. Heavy reliance on pdf files may entail running the risk to simply 'push' information to the web user. This choice is refected in the use of language (i.e. 'attached' files) .
  27. 27. Concluding remarks Globalisation impacts on the way companies promote their products and disseminate knowledge about their performances. According to Louhiala Salminen&Kankaanranta 2011 ● BELF: a consequence and a prerequisite of globalisation ● Communication technologies: “the ultimate enablers of global communication”. Efficient web-mediated intercultural business communication relies on the convergence of language and the affordances offered by the medium.
  28. 28. Concluding remarks Each company makes a personalised use of BELF and the Web: the more strategical the implementation of language and medium is, the more efficient communication will be. ● Language is adapted by the companies to fulfil their organisational aims. ● Meaning is created adopting all the semiotic resources available, and the visual aspect gains prominence. ● When interactivity is not exploited to the full, the web- mediated communication may lose some of its efficacy.
  29. 29. Thank you!
  30. 30. Question Time