Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Discourse as a verb

February 24, 2010

I’m thinking more seriously about my methodology as I begin my research on how a teen blogger conceptualizes audience when writing online. I am using a sociocultural perspective of literacy to frame my study and so I’m thinking about how I conceptualize discourse. This is one of those words that you see everywhere in scholarly work but can get sticky because there is a variance of usage.

For my study, I am using the term discourse in the sense of language-in-use. Drawing largely from Foucault, I see discourse as functional–as a verb, a set of actions, and as something we use language to DO. In my study discourse will be considered as reflective of the mental processes I’m looking at which are the ways that teens are conceptualizing their audience as they write in online spaces.

To be clear, this is different from a textual analysis. I’m not looking at the processes that make a unit of language take shape and have meaning but what the teens are DOING. They are using images, video, layout, language, etc TO DO SOMETHING and I’m interested in who they imagine as their audience when they do.

So in my case, discourse analysis is a way to make visible language and literacy events in the blogs–specifically the “conversations” that happen both via blogroll/commentary/hyperlinked blogs AND in the heads of the bloggers, since I see the blog as one side of a one-to-many conversation. Who are they talking to, what about, and why?

Discourse analysis makes sense as one piece of my approach for a study of audience awareness of teen bloggers because blogging is social media (well, sometimes–depends on how it’s taken up!) And I’m considering writing as a social interaction–response to a real-imagined audience.

The discourse in this case is NOT neutral and CREATES an audience.

Of course, as represented by my graphic, I am considering discourse within the sociocultural frame. It is important to mention that I don’t see offline/online as discrete. Shoutout to danah boyd: “[Teenagers’] participation is rarely divorced from offline peer culture; teens craft digital self-expressions for known audiences and they socialize almost exclusively with people they know” (p. 3 in her dissertation). As Miller and Slater (2000) assert: “We need to treat Internet media as continuum with and embedded in other social spaces…they happen within mundane social structures and relations that they may transform but that they cannot escape into a self-enclosed cyberian apartness” (p. 5). I view the Internet as embedded within teenagers’ lives and as taking significance only through its use. The teenagers though are socioculturally situated. They are teenagers, who blog…and I will even need to clarify that “teenager” is a sociocultural construction! And that blogging is just one practice within the “ecology” as Jenkins says of their literacy practices.

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