Discourse - an Overview

We normally believe that we use our minds to think about issues, events and circumstances. Discourse suggests that, rather than using our minds and thinking, we often work in pre-existing and relatively permanent mental structures called discourses, although we adapt these discourses to our own purposes and situations.

We all "knit along together" creating discourse.

Discourse can be described in great detail, as having strands, knots, positions, themes and many other elements, and I have described this more fully and summarised some of the theoretical ideas about this in the Discourse pages.

Academics now use Discourse to help them understand many social and political issues, and this has developed into a new school of thought, Critical Discourse Analysis. A feature of CDA is its interest in the way power relationships are signalled in communications. I discuss this in greater detail on the CDA Theories Page.

Text Analysis is a closely related field with a different but very valuable approach.

From these academic studies, I have developed a Discourse Toolbox, which can be used for analysing texts ranging from single key documents to large bodies of information to find out "What are they really saying and thinking ?" This Toolbox can be applied to government policies, the publications or websites of any organisation, and for other tasks such as characterising the corporate culture of an organisation.

We may already use the tools in the toolbox automatically - we call this "reading between the lines" or semantics - but we do this instinctively. The toolbox has 16 major sets of tools, and if it is rigorously applied to a text, then an objective understanding can be reached, and this can be used as a basis for negotiations or comparisons.

I provide 6 pages demonstrating the tools which were most useful in examining my sample text - the UK Government 2001 "Aims and Objectives" for food and farming. I carry forward the results from these tools into the Dispositive and Integration Sections, and this material is also used in a different context in the companion Food and Farming site.

Please contact me at george@whatever-will.be if you are interested in the above

(0044)(0) 1372-749803

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