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LINGUIST List 16.2276

Thu Jul 28 2005

Review: Discourse/Applied Ling: Scollon & Scollon (2004)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <naomilinguistlist.org>


What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Sheila Dooley at collberglinguistlist.org.
Directory
        1.    Mekki Elbadri, Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet


Message 1: Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet
Date: 27-Jul-2005
From: Mekki Elbadri <yamekkhotmail.com>
Subject: Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet


AUTHORS: Ron Scollon and Suzie Wong Scollon
TITLE: Nexus Analysis
SUBTITLE: Discourse and the Emerging Internet
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2004
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-2744.html


Mekki Elbadri, translator and researcher

The book consists of a preface, seven chapters and an appendix. In the
preface the authors introduce the physical and experiential background on
which the book is based. This refers to the authors' work in Alaska that
started in December 1980. They point out that Suzie Scollon proposed an
idea to Ron Scollon that radically changed their lives (p. iii). She
suggested using the internal electronic mail system of the University of
Alaska computer Network for teaching university courses, communicating
between staff and students.

In January 1981 they started using e-mail conferencing to teach a graduate
course entitled 'Language, Literacy and Learning'. According to the
authors, that was the first time that such a medium was used in the United
Sates in credit-bearing university teaching. Subsequently, they describe
different educational, developmental and academic projects in which they
were engaged. All of them were targeting improving the access of native
people in Alaska to public institutions, based largely on the use of
communicative technologies and practices.

In the book the authors elaborate their theoretical approach to
ethnographic discourse analysis, termed 'nexus analysis' which they use in
a number of other publications. The above mentioned projects are all
included under this approach. They explain the word 'nexus' as originally
meaning a link between two different ideas or objects which links them in
a series or network.

As ethnographers, the authors state that their interest is focused on
social action. On the one hand, they define nexus analysis as "the mapping
of semiotic cycles of people, discourses, places, and mediational means"
involved in the social actions they are studying (p. viii). The term nexus
of practice, on the other hand, is defined as being used "to focus on the
point at which historical trajectories of people, places, discourses,
ideas and objects come together to enable some action which in itself
alters those historical trajectories in the same way as those trajectories
emanate from this moment of social action". (ibid.). Accordingly, nexus
analysis is centered around three main activities, viz. engaging in the
nexus of practice, navigating the nexus of practice and changing the nexus
of practice (p. 9).

The first three chapters of the book deal with the theoretical foundations
of 'nexus analysis' with special emphasis on the concept of 'cycles of
discourse'. The authors explain the ways in which discourse becomes action
and then action becomes discourse to produce a cycle that they assimilate
to the water cycle. Larger semiotic ecosystems are formed through the
interaction of a cycle of discourse with other similar cycles.

Chapters 4-7 take each of the activities of tasks of nexus analysis --
i.e. engaging (chapter 4), navigating (chapters 5 and 6) and changing
(chapter 7) the nexus of practice-- in a detailed discussion. The authors
give various examples from the projects they were engaged in in Alaska to
show how each of the activities in the cycles functions. They analyze
questions of social change, timescales of human actions and power
relations involved in those discourse/action cycles.

The book is a continuation of research undertaken by the authors and
published in a number of previous and subsequent publications. However,
looking at the dates of the projects mentioned in the preface, this work
might be a predecessor for most of the authors' publications that appeared
earlier; see for example Scollon, R. (1998), Scollon, R. (2001), Scollon,
R. & Scollon, S. (2003), and Scollon, S. (2003). Although the book is
characterized by the abundance of practical examples from the authors'
field work in Alaska, it also contains some important theoretical
background and formative information. Chapter 1, for instance, contains
useful definitions of terms used by the authors compared to usage by other
sources. The appendix provides a rich guide for ethnographic discourse
analysts. Another by-effect of this book is that it uncovers the first
attempts of using new media and their effects on social action and ensuing
discursive manifestations. These questions have become commonplace in our
everyday communication and attract less academic research and scrutiny.

REFERENCES

Scollon, R. (1998), Mediated Discourse as Social Interaction. A Study of
News Discourse. New York: Longman.

Scollon, R. (2001), Mediated Discourse: the Nexus of Practice. London:
Routledge.

Scollon, R. and Scollon, S. (2003), Discourse in Place: Language in the
Material World. London: Routledge.

Scollon, S. (2003), "Political and Somatic Alignment: Habitus, Ideology
and Social Practice". In Weiss, G. and Wodak, R. (2003) (eds.), Critical
Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Mekki Elbadri is a translator and researcher based in Vienna, Austria. His
research interests include translation, terminology and discourse analysis
(namely critical and multi-modal discourse analysis).


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