LINGUIST List 15.1892

Tue Jun 22 2004

Review: Discourse Analysis: LeVine & Scollon (2004)

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  1. �lisabeth Le, Discourse & Technology: Multimodal Discourse Analysis

Message 1: Discourse & Technology: Multimodal Discourse Analysis

Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 13:33:32 -0600
From: �lisabeth Le <>
Subject: Discourse & Technology: Multimodal Discourse Analysis

EDITOR: LeVine, Philip; Scollon, Ron
TITLE: Discourse & Technology
SUBTITLE: Multimodal Discourse Analysis
SERIES: Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press
YEAR: 2004
Announced at

�lisabeth Le, University of Alberta

In their introduction to 16 selected papers from the Georgetown
University Round Table 2002 (GURT 2002), the editors of this volume,
Ron Scollon and Philip LeVine, present ''Multimodal Discourse Analysis
as the Confluence of Discourse and Technology''. The papers treat
different themes, of which the main ones are: why should we study
discourse and technology and multimodal discourse analysis; the role
of the web in discourse analysis; multimodal discourse analysis in
studies of social actions and interactions; multimodal discourse
analysis in educational social interactions; the use of multimodal
discourse analysis in doing our analyses in workplaces.

The selection starts with Theo van Leeuwen's ''Ten Reasons Why Linguists
Should Pay Attention to Visual Communication''. He underlines the
multimodality of communicative events, and calls for a cooperation between
linguists and students of visual communications.

Rodney H. Jones talks about ''The Problems of Context in
Computer-Mediated Communication''. Her discussion is based on a
participatory ethnographic study of the use of CMC by university
students in Hong Kong. Models that have been developed for written and
face-to-face communication are inadequate to deal with the question of
context in CMC, because CMC users simultaneously manage multiple ways
of being present and multiple levels of presence within multiple
fields of interaction by moving objects, spaces and barriers in and
out of interactional prominence, and by moving in and out of ''synch''
with different interlocutors.

In ''Multimodality in Novices' Use and Perceptions of Interactive
Written Discourse (IWD)'', Angela Goddard reports on approximately
30,000 words of IWD data produced by students as part of their online
course, and collected in the form of chatlogs. A Mediated Discourse
Theory approach to her data revealed the complexities of the nature of
participants' simultaneity in their deployment of IWD, and of the
creative polyvocality in evidence in participants' textual output as
they explore the ''enunciative positionalities'' of this tool.

Boyd Davis and Peyton Mason examine the ''[Use] of Questions to
Establish Authority, Identity, and Recipient Design in Electronic
Discourse'' with the use of an online asynchronous conference intended
to extend class discussions for students and professors in an
undergraduate honors program seminar. In their use of questions to
manage their frequent disagreements, students exploited a style that
is an interactional norm for formal oral debate, if not for ordinary
conversation. It seems that this style was thought a professionalizing
register as its use conferred authority upon its speakers with its
characteristics of evaluation and appraisal, and enabled dialogism
with the alternation of presentation of both sides of an issue.

Hsi-Yao Su is interested in ''The Interaction between Technology,
Linguistic Practice, and Language Ideologies''. The paper focuses on a
specific linguistic practice, the ''Mock Taiwanese-Accented Mandarin''
(MTM) used in Internet exchanges. While members of the Internet
Community in Taiwan belong generally to the younger educated
generations, Taiwanese-Accented Mandarin is associated with rurality
and older age, but also with friendliness, congeniality and local
color. MTM appears to play different roles: it is a language play with
aesthetic value; it represents a practice of ''crossing''; and it
participates in the emergence of a Taiwanese identity. However, the
transformation from spoken to written contexts reinforces the distance
between the standard variety and the stigmatized accent.

Ingrid de Saint-Georges looks at ''The Influence of Space and Layout
in Making Meaning'' on the basis of ethnographic data that she
collected in a Belgian vocational training center. She shows how
spatial configurations facilitate or obstruct certain configurations
of interactions. Space is transformed under the actions of
participants, and discourse precedes, steers, follows or accompanies
these actions. In the construction of space, discourse appears related
to three major functions: instruction, evaluation, and social
relationships. Thus, the spatial configuration is not only a space of
action but also a space for identity claims and construction.

Laurent Filliettaz works on ''The Multimodal Negotiation of Service
Encounters'', more specifically on the impact of nonverbal
behavior. He argues that a multimodal approach to social interactions
should pay attention to the way agents ''handle things'' while
interacting. Nonverbal actions are deeply interwoven with
communicative processes.

Sigrid Norris introduces a conceptual framework for Multimodal
Discourse Analysis that would allow for the explication of the
multiplicity of (inter)actions that a social actor engages in
simultaneously. These social interactions take place at different
levels. Higher-level actions are constructed with numerous lower-level
actions, drawing on several communication modes. For example, the
action of selecting a CD in a music store comprises many lower-level
actions such as utterances, specific manual gestures, eye gaze in a
certain direction, posture, etc. Furthermore, actors may be engaged
in several higher-level actions at the same time (e.g. talking with a
particular child, supervising other children, talking with adults),
and change the one they are foregrounding at a specific moment. This
multiplicitly of communicative actions requires that interactions be
investigated in a more holistic manner than is usually done.

Alexandra Johnson draws our attention to ''Mediational Means and
Identity Negotiation in Immigration Interview''. In her examples, she
focuses on an employment-based green-card interview by an immigration
officer. Using Mediated Discourse Analysis, she shows how an
unexpected similarity on a practice level between the applicant and
the interviewer (use of the same type of word-processing program,
document layout, body behavior such as gaze) results in a negative
evaluation of the person in the position of lower power.

Elisa Everts examines ''Modalities of Turn-Taking in Blind/Sighted
Interaction'' in two-hours of videotaped interaction between a blind
woman (particularly well integrated into her sighted community) and
seven of her sighted friends and family members. Through her analysis,
Everts shows the importance of visual cues for gaining full
participation in interaction, and thus undermines the assumption that
speech and hearing are sufficient for ensuring an equal access to
participation in interaction with sighted interlocutors.

Elaine K. Yakura raises question about '''Informed Consent' and Other
Ethical conundrums in Videotaping Interactions''. She underlines the
need for an increased sensitivity and awareness on the part of
researchers who choose to videotape naturalistic interactions, and
suggests them to exceed the basic legal requirements in order to allow
an increased access and involvement of their subjects.

Lilie Chouliaraki discusses ''The Moral Spectator: Distant Suffering
in Live Footage of September 11, 2001''. In particular, she analyses
the way Danish television mediates the events by articulating
different space-times, the ''here-there'' and the ''before-after''
dimensions. Her analysis takes place in the dual perspective of
televisual mediation as visual and verbal meaning-making, and of
television as an agent of moral responsibility. She shows that the
spectator is put in a position of witnessing the suffering that is not
in the ''real time-real space'' perspective, and this activates
empathy with the sufferer because the spectator cannot act in this
scene of suffering.

Joel C. Kuipers uses videotaped ethnographic data to investigate
'''Voices' as Multimodal Constructions in Some Contexts of Religious
and Clinical Authority''. In Sumbanese ritual settings, he observes
that visual media have become more important. In the traditional
performances, voices of absent third parties, ancestral voices, are
progressively foregrounded verbally over the course of the ceremony
while visual cues of these voices diminish in importance. In the more
recently developed performances for elementary school children, each
voice has a single visual focus, oriented towards the central gaze of
the spectator. In U.S. clinical settings, the appearance of multiple
voices in a patient's discourse brings in the patient's lifeworld and
allows the construction of a lively dialogue with the clinician.

Carey Jewitt asserts that research on new communication technologies
tends to foreground the affordances of medium at the cost of
neglecting the affordances of representational modes. In his opinion,
the meaning of a text is realized by people's engagement with the
medium of dissemination and the representational affordances of the
modes that are used. Thus, in order to understand the practices of
people engaged with technologies, the way technologies shape the
learner and the learning environment, first we need to understand the
semiotic affordances of medium and mode.

With his ''Brief Intellectual and Technological History of the
Emergence of Multimodal Discourse Analysis'', Frederick Erickson
underlines the desirability to consider both verbal and non-verbal
behavior in the study of oral discourse, and he shows how technology
has increasingly allowed for that. This also means that a wider
variety of forms of transcripts needs to be explored. Indeed, we need,
for example, to give more attention to the real-time location of
verbal and non-verbal microevents within the stream of communicative
activity, and to identify patterns of communicative activity which
obtain across multiple successive events.

In the last paper, Marilyn Whalen and Jack Whalen from the Palo Alto
Research Center tell us about their 15-year long work of ''Studying
Workscapes'', i.e. in defining ''distinct configurations of people,
their practices (the communal methods they use to organize and
accomplish their work); the habitats or environments where this works
gets done; and the tools, artifacts, and devices that populate these
environments and are involved in the work's achievements''
(p.210). Indeed, a good design of a workplace means an appropriate fit
between technological capacities, techniques, and the natural
organization of human habitats and practices.

While presenting a large diversity in terms of object of study,
theoretical framework and methodology, these papers underline the
importance for Discourse Analysis to become (more) multimodal. This
call is increasingly heard in various conferences related to Discourse
Analysis, and will undoubtedly be repeated. For those unfamiliar with
this ''new'' direction in the field, this book provides a general idea
of what is being done by scholars in different parts of the
world. However, the field evolves, and at least one more mode (music),
not mentioned here, is now brought to the attention of discourse
analysts (Theo van Leeuwen, First Conference on Critical Discourse
Analysis, Valencia, May 2004).

�lisabeth Le is Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics in the
Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University
of Alberta (Canada). She works in the framework of Critical Discourse
Analysis on the representation of international relations in French,
American, and Russian media discourse.
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