The New Economy
Operating within the New Economy
French Discourse Analysis (FDA)
Knowledge and learnig
Normative language groups will penetrate every aspect of
the economy and will be taken for granted as the language which is used within every kind
of economic operation. In contrast, minority languages will be restricted in their reach
and extension into economic activity.
Within industrial age economy several minority language groups have succeeded in
achieving a significant presence in public sector activities and, most notably perhaps, in
the regional media (Nelde, Strubell and Williams, 1996). These public sector activities
are not insignificant within regional economies characterised by the absence of large
private sector enterprises. This has been of value to the minority language group if only
by reference to how the associated promise of accessing high profile, well paid and
highly skilled occupations using the minority language serves as a motivating force for
parents seeking the best for their children. However, these opportunities have been
restricted to minority language speakers and the associated labour market segmentation has
generated considerable animosity in some quarters. Consequently we are a long way
away from the scenario within which the minority language is of benefit to everyone,
whether they speak the language or not. Minority languages remain a problem rather than
becoming an asset.
The New Economy
Currently we are confronting a new round of economic restructuring within which
industrial age economy is slowly giving way to what is known as the New Economy (Williams,
2000). It is this challenge that is facing minority language groups. Any region or social
group which fails to engage with the New Economy is in danger of becoming the source of
displaced labour for that economy. It is clear that there are definite spatial
concentration by reference to the hardware and software developments two of the main
components of the ICT sector in Europe which leaves many minority language regions out of
these developments and obliging new forms of entry trajectories. The concept of path
dependency, or how earlier forms of economic activity will determine future forms, means
that for several such regions the existing media sector and how it transforms into
multimedia activities will be a key to that trajectory.
However, there are two contexts within which the media sector is obliged to
change. Firstly there is the issue of convergence and how it merges previously
separate sectors and activites; and secondly there are the new ways of working associated
with the development of knowledge as an asset. Economic activities are redefined (fig. 1):
Figure 1. Toivonen 2001:75 (Modified by Kentz)
The convergence of ICT and media breaks down the barriers which have separated
the world of broadcasting, publishing, communication and IT. New partnerships are
required. The Infocom sector uses digital communication to create a content industry
which uses hardware and software to distribute digitised information (fig. 2).
Figure 2. Infocom Sector
The synthesis of many fields of expertise links with IT capabilities and
stimulates content and services production. It is claimed that the content industry could
be worth as much as 5% of EC GDP, becoming responsible for employing 4 million workers.
Its annual growth rate could be up to 20%, creating up to a million new jobs
between 2000 and 2005 (EC, 2000). There are already oportunities for the creation of new
systems of entertainment which can reach a global market at relatively low cost. The key
involves the link between product and process innovation (Williams and Kantz, 2003).
New workflows are necessary and these can now operate trans-regionally (Williams,
In Press). The semantic web uses software specifically designed to cope with on-line
working. Human language technology in the form of machine translation and voice
recognition allows on-line working to evolve regardless of language differences.
Even large video files can be moved effortlessly across space via broadband.
Trans-regional development using interoperable cultural archives for content production
used as shared resources is feasible. It opens up markets formerly closed by language and
culture, while accessing a global market which includes a range of regional diaspora.
In summary there are the kinds of changes which are summarised in the following
table which must be addressed:
Table 1. The Old Economy and the New Economy
|Key Factor of
cost via economy of scale
Quality, time to market, cost
3. Operating within the New Economy
There has been a tendency to consider these changes by reference to two or even
three separate emphases. Firstly, there is the structural focus involving the
organisational and spatial focus claimed to be necessary to simulate knowledge generation
and innovation. It includes reference to the importance of the regional and the cultural
and how it leads to the conception of Regional Innovation Systems (Braczyk, Cooke and
Heidenreich, 1998). The emphasis on learning as the precursor of knowledge generation
leads to an emphasis on proximity and the focus on the kinds of interaction which are
claimed to stimulate process and product innovation. Local knowledge and regional culture
are claimed to be essential for shared knowledge to be promoted. This involves the
reasoning behind the emphasis on industrial clusters, the Triple Helix relationship
between Universities and the public and private sector in promoting the learning process,
the emergence of incubators and Science Parks as the organisational basis for such
developments, etc. These approaches tend to be driven by the geographical and the economic
metadiscourse with some input from among Sociologists.
Secondly, there is focus on the kinds of interactive contexts within which
knowledge is claimed to develop. Evidently, this links with the first concern, but the
emphasis tends to be more on the interaction than the process. It involves the
anthropological metadiscourse and its concern with small scale interactive analyses. It
has resulted in a focus on what are called communities of practice as the basis whereby
knowledge is created (Wenger, 1998) (2). These are
small scale communities which are capable of being studied using the ethnographic methods
of Anthropology and the Sociology of work.
Thirdly, far less emphasis has been placed on the relevance of language for the
entire process. The focus here is less on structure and the interactive process than on
the interpersonal process of knowledge generation. It must engage with the other emphases
and should ignore disciplinary concerns in developing its focus. It is the later which I
wish to focus upon in this paper. The relevant starting point involves what is being
claimed about the nature of knowledge and how it can be developed.