|Imagine a politician who spends the day debating new
farming regulations in Parliament. She calls into the supermarket
for some groceries on the way home, and then goes to a restaurant
for a meal later. The politician will have approached food in 3 entirely
different ways - at work as a matter for regulation, in the supermarket
in terms of price and attractiveness, and in the restaurant in terms
of service and sophistication.
These three different contexts have involved the same food - the
contents of the shopping basket are the same as the food on the
plate in the restaurant, and the same subject of the regulations.
The same food is evaluated in different ways, and different discourses
are used about it in the different contexts.
Another approach is that a person takes on different roles (or
sub-personalities) regarding food: e.g. as historian, investor,
politician, consumer, gardener, etc.
- A historian would look at how food and food production has developed
(or remember previous decades of their personal history).
- An investor would look at the investment potential of companies
in the food sector.
- A politician may look at campaigns, trends and public opinion
- A consumer might approach food in terms of price or health,
or as a gourmet.
- A farmer or gardener would see the work involved in growing
crops, and consider the dangers of pests and diseases
We step in and out of these roles during the day, and collectively,
we step into similar roles as members of organisations, lobbies
and businesses, for example, these corporate entities look at their
"markets" and "operations", differently to the
way individuals do. We subordinate ourselves to the organisation,
and think on its behalf.
There are 3 main approaches to organising and understanding these
fields of context:-
- van Dijk and other academics look at Context as an inner cognitive
device, describing how we organise our minds and thoughts. I summarise
this Cognitive Context approach
on the attached pages.
- These collective mental maps are externalised in the printed
and broadcast media, and most clearly of all in the internet,
which now contains nearly all of our discourses. The internet
can be described as an expression of ALL the elements of ALL our
minds, and it can be used to map our consensus reality. I described
a Context Survey method, and
then applied it to a widescale survey
of food and farming, and then interpreted
- The context can also be imagined as a Landscape with a variety
of actors who take up positions in relation to each other, and
which relate to the Context Landscape
in a variety of ways. It can be very valuable to map a landscape
and imagine a drama in this way, and I also give examples of this
in the Integration Section.
In particular, my Context Survey technique
can be used for any topic of interest. My case study of the context
of food and farming includes 60 web pages from a wide range of organisations,
and some interesting conclusions are
drawn from the patterns revealed. The web pages include an overview
of recent developments in food production, web pages from different
organisations, which together form a "map" of the food
sector, drawing all their different perspectives into one system
of "the field and the players". This can be examined for
patterns and further information.
Context analysis is the key to using my other techniques - without
a rigorous examination of the context, it is easy to stay in a for
- against discourse about any topic. Examination of the context
helps to shift from this to a more inclusive overview.