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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Language, Identity and Cycling in the Age of Global Media: Exploring Interpersonal Semiotics in Multimodal Media and Online Texts

Identities in the Media

'Mark, Mark, Can We Have a Word?': Narrative and Evaluation in the Media Interview


A direct sighting of the Tour de France from the roadside may be little more than a flash of colour as the peloton passes by in a matter of seconds, travelling in excess of 40 kilometres per hour. Exhilarating as this may be, unless you have some way, such as familiarity with the race and its participants, to contextualise what you see, some way to know what happened before and a ‘schemata of interpretation’ (Goffman 1975), the few seconds you witness will almost certainly be incomprehensible in terms of the race.

Like many other phenomena in contemporary society, following a bicycle race is largely dependent on information from the media. It is a pertinent reminder that meaning in cycling experience, as in other sports and other areas of public life, is often shaped through the media. A further implication of this is that the identities associated with a sport are also effectively produced in the media. The power of digital recording to encapsulate and spread meanings evoked using multisemiotic resources will be a recurring theme throughout this book, but in this chapter the focus will be on how public identities such as those of professional cyclists

© The Author(s) 2018

P. Kiernan, Language, Identity and Cycling in the New Media Age DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-51951-1_2

are evoked in the media. This involves some discussion of the nature of celebrity identity and the ways in which public figures contribute to the shaping of their media image. This chapter explores the different voices that shape celebrity identity in the media and also considers the way individual texts either open themselves up to a range of potential voices or alternative perspectives, or close them down.

There is now a bewildering array of resources for public celebrities to narrate themselves in new media applications; however, this chapter focuses on older media resources. In order to do this, I will discuss the postrace rider interview and consider four media versions of the interview and how they are interrelated. The texts represent sporting celebrity as narrated through the conventional cycling media resources of a televised press interview, a cycling magazine article and a newspaper report, as well as an excerpt from an autobiography. All of the texts focus on the cycle race itself as a narrative that creates an opportunity for evoking identities of the rider, his team, the public and even the interviewer.

The approach used in order to do this is a narrative one extended through the appraisal model of evaluation (Martin and White 2005). In particular, it highlights the resource of heteroglossia, a feature borrowed from Bakhtin (1981), which helps elucidate the kind of strategy the celebrity uses in his autobiography to negotiate a problematic challenge to his identity.

The rider discussed in this chapter is British cyclist Mark Cavendish, who has become one of the most successful sprinters of all time, winning, among numerous other races, a record number of stages at the Tour de France. The interviews analysed here come from a period in his career when, despite his cycling success, he struggled to make a positive impression in the media.

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