About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More on discourse communities: community "vision"

After my last post, I read an article by Charles Goodwin on professional vision. Goodwin looked at professionalism through an anthropological lens, but it fits well with the idea of discourse community (which is a term used more in language learning and communication).

Goodwin looked at how professionalism is both created, developed, and maintained through coding, highlighting, and "producing and articulating material representations. (p. 606)." All of this combined creates what Goodwin calls a "professional vision" within which members of the profession are able to work and converse.

Expanding on his idea, I would say that these three factors (coding, highlighting, and producing and articulating material representations) are aspects of a discourse community. Goodwin's coding is the use of language, jargon, and articulation of shared understanding that is the foundation of the profession.

Highlighting is a more complex concept. As Goodwin describes it, within a community of practice certain ideas, information, and expertise is highlighted between members. This creates a shared vision as to what knowledge is important and the boundaries that help form professional values.

Goodwin's framework, knowledge, and discourse communities

Like a profession, discourse communities create their own codes (including jargon, rules of discourse, syntax, and symbols), highlights, and material representations. This helps to create the vision (often not articulated) of the discourse community. This is often articulated through formats, processes, and interaction about practices.

Formats and other tangible artifacts (material representations), help to record, categorize, and structure knowledge both within and outside of the discourse community.

Processes and skills are used to filter and highlight knowledge and structure interaction in order to develop and maintain the parameters of the community. It is also a way to identify membership and to negotiate situated knowledge within a dynamic environment. Because community knowledge is situated, the processes and skills creates a framework within which cognition can be developed by the discourse community. When the skills or processes no longer meet the needs of the community, the community may:

1) disband and members move into a new discourse community;
2) change its skills and processes (retool); or
3) try to eliminate the situational factors that are creating the pressure to change (i.e. limit membership, try to stop outside influences, codify all aspects of discourse through rules, etc...)

Note: see the comment by Luisa Migual on Andy Coverdale's blog. It is an example of how a discourse community meets the needs (or doesn't) of its members.

Spatial knowledge in a discourse community includes the understanding of the networks within the community, the shared agreement of what (implicit) knowledge is important, and knowing who has what abilities within the community and how to access the discourse community resources and expertise. The discourse community vision is based on spatial knowledge of the discourse analysis. In turn, the discourse community vision is the basis for culture, articulating values, interaction, and shared cognition.

Goodwin, C. (1994) Professional Vision. American Anthropologist, New Series, 96 (3), 606-633.

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