Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2005 00:17:15 +0200 From: Mekki Elbadri 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
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.
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:
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).