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Nexus Analysis: Expanding the Circumference of Discourse Analysis
12 December 2002
George E. Pake University
At any moment of action, many discourses are present, most of them buried in practices of the social actors or as 'histories' in the objects and places present in the action. In analyzing how we lit a camp stove to make breakfast, introduced email to university distance delivery 20 years ago, and traced Cold War ideological cleavages within a group of friends who exercised together in a public park during the Taiwan Missile Crisis, we show how a nexus analysis, as a form of discourse analysis, can give us a fresh view of moments of social interaction. Such a view gives us leverage in bringing about change in the discourses that emanate from human action.
Discourse analysis has been a productive line of research for the past four decades or so at both the micro-social interactional level and at the level of the study of macro-socio-political forces in our lives. Mediated Discourse Analysis (MDA) is a form of sociocultural (activity/practice) analysis that seeks to clarify the many complex relations between discourse and social action. Nexus analysis is a way of opening up the circumference around moments of human action to begin to see the lines, sometimes visible and sometimes obscured of historical and social process by which discourses come together at particular moments of human action as well as to make visible the ways in which outcomes such as transformations in those discourses, social actors, and mediational means emanate from those moments of action. We show with three examples how we engage in a nexus of practice by recognizing a zone of identification, how we navigate the nexus of practice, and how we change the nexus of practice, taking into consideration the hidden discourses, the hidden dialogicality, that influence moments and outcomes of action.
Suzanne Scollon's research in the field of linguistics has explored socialization to language and worldview in several multilingual societies including Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Honolulu and Hong Kong. She is particularly interested in the sociocultural psychology node of her and Ron Scollon's nexus of practice approach. Ron Scollon's research has encompassed the study of language use and language structure, and more recently, mediated discourse analysis, geosemiotics, discourse and ethnography, and activity/practice theory.
Their current work includes several books: Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice (2001, Routledge) examines the relations between discourse and a nexus of practice and ways of explicating those linkages; Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World (estimated publication 2003, Routledge)discusses a kind of geosemiotics -- the integration of social interactionist theory (including all forms of spoken discourse), visual semiotics (and significantly including text as fixed and therefore visual forms), and 'place semiotics', especially the built environment; and Nexus Analysis: Expanding the Circumference of Discourse Analysis (in preparation) develops the concept of nexus analysis as an activist theory of participation in social change through discourse analysis.
In addition to their research, Ron Scollon and Suzanne Scollon have taught at universities across the world including the University of Hong Kong and the University of Central Finland. They have also consulted with a large list of organizations such as Nokia Mobile Phones and the National Endowment for the Humanities on matters of intercultural communication and the intercultural aspects of the introduction of technology.
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