“Meet the New Poor” was the headline in the Daily Telegraph on Monday 25th May 2009. It is a captivating, dramatic, and an enticing, statement. Can you guess what the article was about? It could be perhaps; the impact of the economic recession, Australia’s unemployment status, and our society. What is most interesting is analyzing this statement and the article from a ‘critical discourse perspective’. However to do this one must understand the definition and meaning of Discourse in Communication and Media studies. Fairclough (1995) provides this basis. He defines the ‘use of language as discourse,’ as “viewing language use as a social practice (implying first), that it is a mode of action, as linguistic philosophy and (also) implies that language is a socially and historically situated mode of action, in a dialectical relationship with other facets of the social (1995 p.54).” Before deconstructing his analysis of ‘discourse;’ and drawing it in with Economou’s articles on Australian and Greek texts, there is a secret that lies beneath his definition and article that is essential in understanding this statement on a practical level. This deeper understanding derives from Foucaultian philosophy. Foucault theorized this concept and came to a conclusion of society and man. This wise man once said, “Man is a thinking being. The way he thinks is related to society, politics, economics, and history and is also related to very general and universal categories and formal structures.” Michel Foucault (1988) (sourced from Website).
Essentially, every media form conveys a meaning. However it is critical to understand how and why these forms are constructed to ultimately serve their purpose. This is where Fairclough’s discourse analysis proves to be useful. Simply providing a brief description of his analysis, Fairclough looks at a process whereby he studies a Media Form using the concept that he terms as- a ‘communicative event,’ and another concept termed as the ‘order of discourse’. The Communicative Event focuses on three aspects. These include texts, discourse practice and socio-cultural practice. The second part focuses on the ‘order of discourse.’ These are basically tools used to look at the construction of Media Forms.
Texts are ‘concerned with both their meanings and their forms.’ They can be analyzed in three terms that Fairclough summed up as, ‘ideational (ideology behind text), interpersonal (identity and status) and textual (formal, informal, close distant p.58).’ The ‘discourse practice’ is analyzed through examining the text production and the text consumption (p.58). For instance, an example is based on analyzing the inter-textuality (interpretive analysis p.61) and the linguistic analysis (descriptive in nature) of the Medium. This could refer to the text being written in colloquial language so that the reader receives the text (consumption), although the Medium may have gone through a large production process. This all depends on the larger picture, which is based on the way we receive a text, termed as ‘socio-cultural practice;’ the idea of the position in society and culture of a text, or also ‘situational context’ (p62). The second part termed the ‘order of discourse’ has a basis on the idea of genre.
Using pictures and text, Economou’s article provides a framework of which to look at when analyzing a text. An argument or more so concept which Fairclough construct is closely related to Economou’s analysis. Fairclough when an analyzing a text emphasizes the use of language through power relations. He provides a simple example, “in which a conventional consultation between a doctor and a patient, or a conventional interview between a reporter and a politician.” He goes on to say that such practices are shaped, with their common sense assumptions (eg. Doctor knows all about illnesses), to prevailing relations of power between groups of people (p.54).” The reason that I have made direct links between these two articles can be questionable, but more so interesting.
I have found the power relationship between the viewer/audience/receiver and the production line of a text (reporter, cameraman, editor) to be significant when analyzing a Media Form, in terms of Economou’s perspective. For instance, a photograph could be received as ‘factual’ and ‘attitudinally’ to the audience, and this all depends on the construction of the photograph, including the position, and layout of the page. Economou states that, “photos have the potential to position the viewer to take a positive or negative view, or, even implied, participants whether or not the photo’s selection and presentation is consciously motivated by this potential (p259).” In this power-play relationship in terms of any media form, by the end it is a socio-cultural practice that relates to the final projection of the media form.
I can see how this idea of ‘discourse analysis’ is important, especially when looking at news formats, entertainment and sports. But what I find most intriguing and am quite unsure of is based on the purpose of ‘discourse analysis.’ The purpose could be twofold. Firstly, it could be as a way of measuring ‘accountability’ of reporting, and secondly, within understanding the fabric society and thus construct. An Australian program that is called Media Watch on ABC is based on analyzing Australia’s media. One episode provided a linguist-analysis within news reporting on the term ‘nuclear missiles.’ This program could be an example where the Media is watched, and kept accountable. So essentially my Blog postage has a media discourse associated to it, and if we were to study media discourse we would come back to Foucaultian philosophy and end up singing the song Rome Wasn’t Built in A Day!
Fairclough N. “Critical Analysis of Media Discourse” In Media Discourse London Arnold, 1995, 53-74
Economou, Dorothy, “Pulling Readers in: News Photos in Greek and Ausralian Broadsheets” in White PPR and Elizabeth A Thomas Eds. Communicating conflict: Multilingual Case Studies of the News Media. London Continuum 2008 145-152
Website http://www.foucault.qut.edu.au/quote/2005q.html page last updated 10 February 2009 Site created in January 1997 by Clare O’Farrell. Accessed 25th May 2009.