Thursday, 25 September 2014

We could test that

Something that I (Charlotte) find myself doing a lot when reading news stories is thinking ‘Interesting. We could test that’. So much of what we read is based on assertions that lack supporting evidence, or, cast in a more positive light, presents ideas that are still in a pretty nascent state. At worst this is hugely frustrating, at best it can provide ideas for projects...

By way of an example, a few years I was reading an article that stated that Unlike ‘science’, this new term – ‘The Science’ – is a deeply moralised and politicised category. Today, those who claim to wield the authority of The Science are really demanding unquestioning submission’ (Furedi 2008). I thought this was a really interesting idea, and, because it was a claim based on two lexical items, it looked like something that could be effectively investigated from a corpus linguistic perspective. It led to this article and I learnt a lot about how the science has indeed become a rhetorical device that is used to assert authority without disclosing anything about the science itself.

So, to help you think about possible project ideas, here are four stories that I saw and thought ‘we could test that’:
  1. This article was talking mainly about British men going to fight in Syria, but the claim that caught my eye was that 'The language used in public to discuss war has become extraordinarily distorted – and not only among radicalised communities. Combat is routinely described in the media as though it were a form of sport'. And this got me thinking that a really useful project could be an analysis of whether metaphors for war have changed over time.
  2. A while ago I read an article (but can’t remember where sadly) which talked about how women's bodies are used in the media as a metaphor for the text producer's evaluation of the Iranian government; so articles depicting an authoritarian regime will be accompanied by pictures of a veiled woman, while those talking about it as a more liberal state than its neighbours will use a picture of a woman with her hair uncovered and so on. I don’t know how this would develop as project and it would have to be for someone confident in multimodal CDA, but it was a different perspective on an old debate. 
  3. There has been a lot of discussion recently about possible BBC bias in the representation of the Scottish independence debate, for instance this article reports on a demonstration about bias, and so I was wondering whether there was much language evidence for this. This is potentially a huge project and would need narrowing down, but could be topical and revealing. 
  4. Finally, this article from yesterday’s Guardian was talking about the language of poverty and got me wondering about whether/how poverty may have shifted in terms of its associations, and how it currently relates to terms like inequality and deprivation (these are just the terms discussed in the article). 
I also wrote about a possible project from an article which asked So why does the western feminist movement hardly look at African feminism for clues?  on another blog last year, you can have a look here.

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