If I Write It, It’s Real (Faber)

(Pardon me as I catch up after the first half-week of the new semester and–even more intrusive–the week *before* the new semester.)

Faber, Brenton. Discourse, Technology and Change. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print.

“What are the effects of certain discursive forms on social organizations and structures?” (78).

Faber’s empirical analysis examines social/institutional change as it’s constructed through/enacted in discourse–as he persuasively argues, it’s a commonplace of most discourse-related disciplines that discourse plays some role in constituting reality, but there have been few studies that examine how specifically this occurs..The particular kind of change he’s interested in has to do with an institution or group’s assertion of agency in a situation of technological and cultural change; how discourse is used to destabilize and thus change old practices (the case he examines involves the roll-out of a highly problematic office software system on a university campus). Working from Critical Discourse Analysis and Systemic Functional Linguistics (and including a range of discourse models) Faber’s analysis carefully connects the micro or functional level of syntax and other grammatical/linguistic features to the macro or ethical level of ideology and identity, showing how (along with material actions) “ideological beliefs can be discursively instantiated and disseminated throughout a social network” (103). The central concept that he arrives at is textnology, a rhetor’s text-tool, used to persuade readers that some change exists. The textnology “constitutes the new as an already existing phenomenon” as a (possibly) “necessary component of some processes of social change” (127). This concept is useful for analysis, Faber argues, especially as technocratic discourse (texts that are functionally–if not topically–technical communication) spreads beyond “immediately technical or scientific workspaces” (128). The instrumental rationality of such discourse (texts that deny users choice, that create problems that appear to be rationally resolvable, and that promote expediency in decision-making) needs to be examined from an ethical perspective, looking at ways that “the aggregation of discourse, technology and change […] enables or resists projects of individual choice and accountability during the process of change” (x).

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