CDA, social media and impact… oh, and welcome!

I used to have a blog but never really updated it regularly enough. With the start of a PhD I decided it was time to rectify that… and this is the result. Basically, I will be blogging about language (or maybe “discourse” would be better) and the connections between this and politics, protests, social media, music, images, ethics (read the about page for what my ‘real’ research is about). Hopefully, this will provide a space for ongoing, fragmented phd-related thoughts. So…

Today I’ve mostly been thinking about “impact”. The impetus of this, originally, was having @dr_bob82 as pretty much my sole lecturer for the final year of undergraduate study. He’s proper into the impact of (socio-)linguistic research, inside and outside of academia – and there’s a book about that on the way. Beyond that though, the word was stressed a few times in the induction week at Lancaster, by staff and so on. And it is particularly relevant to work in critical discourse analysis (CDA), social media, social movements and the coming together of these areas.

CDA practitioners differ over what the role of CDA should be in wider society, what its normative goals should be. In the past, I’ve been critical over CDA’s ability to actually change things. After all, one of the key themes in CDA research is on how certain social groups are represented negatively, say, in the media – and yet these representations continue and, when the media seems to be in a little bit of trouble, it doesn’t seem to be because of CDA. This is being, however, not only cynical but also simplistic and misleading, on my part.

The first point to make is that there are various ways CDA can contribute to social change. The first – while CDA research doesn’t seem to directly “do” much, the people behind it certainly do. This might not be clear from journal articles and monographs but CDA-y stuff has had an impact, often quite directly, on policy – usually due to CDA practitioners being part of advisory panels or submitting reports, etc.

The second – and this is much more indirect – the adoption of CDA in teaching (i.e. linguistics, education, perhaps sociology, perhaps psychology undergrads cover it) creates a trickle down effect of critical language awareness. For example, linguistics undergrads may very well go on to teach, or may enter into journalism or related fields, and then may go onto be a little bit more critical when faced with, for example, a class textbook or a government press release. More importantly, perhaps, is the introduction of CDA methods into management studies – see Gerlinde Mautner’s work for more on this.

The third – the one area where not enough is being done. There is good reason for CDA practitioners to publish articles (behind paywalls), (excessively priced) books, to attend (extortionately priced) conferences and to give presentations at (for some, inaccessible) universities. These bracketed problems, of course, aren’t the fault of the researchers. But it does mean that there is a responsibility to find other avenues for research to find its way out into the world (the first type of impact, outlined above, is of course one of these). And given the relative lack of web-presence – although Teun van Dijk’s site remains useful – CDA isn’t moving quickly enough in this direction.

Internet-based publication is the key – blogs and social media in particular. The internet is quite obviously more accessible than academia – and more likely to influence the “right” people (although this is all relative). Publishing research in blogs, linked via twitter, is quicker and, in many ways, more self-reflexive and collaborative than simply concentrating on academic publication – then again… as I write this it becomes obvious that the use of social media and blogging for researchers is self-evident. Even more so when you consider the normative goals of CDA (social change). More ‘popular’ ideology critique seems to have more of an impact – particularly with regards to public perception of the media – but, being optimistic, CDA practitioners can too.

(This LSE blog is very good on this sort of stuff, including a guide to twitter for researchers.)

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