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Focus Unit 5: • The phenomena Language, Language as a (tangible, physical) symbolic system for communication • Language as a window to the mind (internal representations of the world) • Language mediates experience • People mediate experience by means of language • ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’: with the words and sentences we leave the domain of language as a system of signs and enter into the another universe, that of language as an instrument of communication, whose expression is discourse
[SEMANTICS] the study of meaning • Popular expression: “It’s a case of mere semantics” To capture and study the intangible process of meaning [and its negotiation] we have to work on the level of language The study of negotiation of meaning
Language as social practice: Realities = Social Practices (action & experience) Represented in Discourse Construction of a reality language mediates experiences, people behind messages (the sender) mediate experiences through language
The study of discourse • Language as a means of constructing realities. • Unit of analysis for this: Discourse. • Discourse as actual instances of communication in the medium of language. • Discourse as “socially constructed knowledges of some aspect of reality” (Foucault) • Discourse analysis offer the possibility of understanding how language permeates human affairs. • Discourse= an extended stretch of connected speech or writing, a text. • Discourse Analysis: the analysis of an extended text, or type of text
[Socially constructed knowledges] • These knowledges have been developed in specific social contexts, and in ways which are appropriate to the interests of social actors in these contexts • Contexts: large ( e.g. a company, the socialistic ideology) or small (e.g. family, between best friends) or institutionalized (e.g. mass media). • Discourses are resources for representation, knowledges about some aspect of reality, which can be drawn upon when that aspect has to be represented. • Frameworks for making sense out of things • Plurality of discourse: there can be several different ways of knowing -and hence also of representing- the same ‘object’ of knowledge. Different ways of making sense of the same aspect of reality, which can include or exclude different things, and serve different interests.
[Socially Constructed Knowledges] • Evidence for the existence of a given discourse comes from texts, from what has been said or written. • More specifically it comes from the similarity between the things that are said and written in different texts about the same aspect of reality • It is on the basis of such similar statements, repeated or paraphrased in different texts and dispersed among these texts in different ways, that we can reconstruct the knowledge which they represent
e.g. Discourses about Animals • Animals as living creatures, cute creatures, pets. They have feelings (anti abuse of animals)
Totem power of Animals • Evoking the spiritual power of animals (shamanic cultures)
Properties of Discourse (1) • Discourse are finite: • “ Discourse contain a limited number of statements (Foucault, 1977) • (‘’) Bits of knowledge are shared between many people and recur time and time again in a wide range of different types of texts and communicative events, even if they are not always formulated in the same way and not always complete. • (‘’)But, once you know a discourse, a single part of it can trigger the rest…
Properties of Discourse (2) • Discourses have a history • Discourses have a social distribution (=discursive formation)(belong to a certain relating theme: e.g. ‘animals as pets’ is not the same theme as ‘animals as food’) • Discourses can be realized in different ways (can be realized through action (e.g. animals have feelings anti animal abuse attitude) or through the representation of such way of life (e.g. being a vegetarian)
Social constructed? • There is a relation between discourses and social activities • Understanding is ultimately based on doing, our understandings derive from our doings. But discourses transform these practices in ways which safeguard the interests at stake in a given social context. • DiscourseDoing: What? Why? Plus ideas and attributes • Actual example: Status Aparte: LGO? UPG?influences the social act voting
Discourse Doing: What? Why? Plus ideas and attributes Ideas and attributes: • Evaluations: a value • Purposes • Legitimating: reasons why particular things should be done in particular ways, by particular people, etc. • (advertising, political discourse the art of persuasion )
The Anatomy of Discourse (1) • Actions: the things people do, the activities that make up the social practice and their chronological order • Manner: the way in which (some of or all of) the actions are performed. (e.g. slowly, energetically, graciously, based on anger) • Actors: people (also animals) involved in the practice, and then different roles in which they are involved (for instance active and passive roles) • Presentation: is the way in which actors are dressed and groomed. All social pratices have their rules of presentation, although they differ in kind and degree of strictness
The Anatomy of Discourse (2) • Resources: the tools and materials needed to enact a social practice • Times: Inevitably social practices are timed, they take place at certain times, and they last for certain amounts of time • Spaces: the spaces where the social action takes place, including the way they should be arranged to make the practice possible • In reality all these elements must be part of the way a social practice is actually enacted. But texts/discourses may include only some of them, and so do the discourses on which these texts draw their content. Knowledge is selectiveand what it selects depends on the interests and purposes of the sender(s) (institutions) that have foster the knowledge • Being critical literate is being aware of this fact!
Social practices represented in Written texts: • Written texts include only 2 elements of the social practice, the actions and the medium through which they are realized. • Not represented are the writer and the reader, and the circumstances of writing and reading –time, place and grooming etc-
How is reality changed into discourse? 4 basic types of transformation of reality: • Exclusion: discourses can exclude elements of social practice • Rearrangement: Discourses can rearrange the elements of social practices, for instance when it ‘detemporalizes’ elements which in reality have a specific order, or when it imposes a specific order on actions which in reality do not need to take place in any specific order • Addition: discourses can add elements to the representation (purposes, evaluations, legitimations) • Substitution: discourse substitutes concepts with other concepts • Being critical literacy is being aware of the strategies that are applied in order to construct reality
Assignment: • The social construction of women in different ads during the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and now etc. • Please look at the following ads and answer the following questions: • Which of parts that constitute a social practice (components of the anatomy of discourse) are present in the following discourse practice? (Identify and elaborate on each part that is present in this specific discourse practice) (see sheets 19 en 21) • What is the underlying message? (if you could describe the message in a couple of statements , what would these statements be? (the message is not always explicit, this can be discursive present in the discourse) • How is the woman being socially constructed in this discourse? • What does the ad tell us of the social context it is embedded in? What does it say about the gender roles? What is the relationship between women and men? (history, culture, social convention, political context etc.)