Barack Obama - Code Switcher

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Code switching is a large part of a public figures publicity arsenal. Being able to switch mannerisms, linguistic traits, and other factors of a depiction of self is incredibly important in the formulation of a diverse and accepting group of constituents. Being able to maintain all the code switching when prompted is also necessary for maintaining those groups, because being able to appear like you know exactly what they’re experiencing shows commitment and understanding. Barack Obama was known through various examples to show his ability to code switch based on the community he was visiting, whether it be rural North Carolina church, or USA basketball locker rooms. In this clip, we see his interactions with various players, male and female, and the coaching staffs. Take note how he changes the way he speaks based on their perceived race and whether they are a coach or a player. In addition, the status of the individuals he is addressing changes the way he speaks. For example, the way he talks to LeBron James (superstar) and Anthony Davis (rookie at the time) are different, even though they are both power forwards for the USA Men’s basketball team. Furthermore, in his recounting of the story about Joe Biden’s daughter, we see his use of different speech techniques with a coach who is white when compared to interactions with a black player. Finally, the handshake at the beginning of the video with Kevin Durant is a great example of an on the fly code switch.

Posted by Ben Orlowski on May 8, 2017

Communities of Practice;

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