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Multimedia, minority languages and the New Economy, by Glyn Williams


6. Knowledge and learning

Having outlined how the relationship between the individual and the subject of discourse is conceived of, we should now turn to the method whereby discourse analysis reveals meaning and tacit knowledge. Recognising how these are produced and the analysis of their nature should allow their operation to be clarified. Viewing social practice as the effects of discourse, and recognising the relationship between the stability of discourse and the normative order, allows us to uncover the nature of tacit knowledge and the ‘negotiation’ of meaning in terms of the subject/object relationship. That is, it is seen by reference to social parameters. Analysis proceeds from two directions – exposing the internal unwinding of the discourse; and the social action which the discourse supports.  These are carried out by the enonce, and not by the rational intentions of the locuteur.

It can be argued that linguistic form is akin to a normative order in the sense that its codification derives from the direct observation of linguistic behaviour. Of course this has been modified by the process of corpus planning and standardisation but, nonetheless, ordinary language involves institutionalised, patterned behaviour.   However, there is a difference between syntactic grammar and deictic grammar. The later fixes subjects and objects in relationship to one another by reference to time, person and place. Social deixis is the means whereby discourse is able to operate in social reality. Modalities, on the other hand,  pertains to a ‘truth’ value in the sense that within discourse or text there is a subject who situates what she says in relation to the certain, the possible, the probable etc. or in relation to judgements of value. To this extent language is always a reflexive exercise involving the enonciateur in relationship to language. Each enonciative act is made visible through a series of marks which are capable of being analysed.

Wittgenstein’s language play which sees language games as a form of life, involves the signification of a word as its use in language (Wittgenstein, 1969). Language is given a material existence, imposing its ambiguity on speaking subjects, their consciousness and their experience, and it is here that the social is most evident.    Language play indicates that language acts are structured in the sense that they are linked to genres of life or social practices. There is a difference between signification and meaning. The former is linguistic whereas the later involves real effects and pragmatic understanding. Signification involves a systematic structure of places in relationship to the formal dimensions of time, person and place or of diverse   modalities.  In connection with effective situations, it allows language to perform the role of operator of interaction, situating the discourse in relation to a series of places of enonciateurs, where the taking in charge of the discourse by the locuteur has the effect of carrying the system along. Social interaction occurs where the locuteurs, in taking the enonces in charge, establish a relationship between the enonces which conforms with those relationships which the formal apparatus of enonciation implicates between the enonciateurs. Between the signification which interpolates the enonciateur, and meaning, which constitutes the real of the allocutaire, are the act and the event which are constructed on the internal structure of the enonces.

Where Wittgenstein’s language play sees each sector of social life as a play of language wherein ambiguity is resolved, Bakhtin’s work claims that the structure of enonces does not indicate the language play within which they are implicated (Bhaktin, 1981). Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism is invoked by reference to social interaction.  Dialogism indicates that meaning is never pre-given, but is the result of a practical meeting of social groups around signification. Enonciation does not have any meaning in itself, in an already completed signification, since it consists of a multiplicity of plays of language. Meaning is the result of practical confrontation of social groups around signification, and the plays of language are the products of open options at the heart of a discursive organisation. There are no natural boundaries to society, and society has no reality outside of language if it is the effects of discourse.

The social construction of meaning involves the materiality of language and the integration of linguistic form and their functioning in social interaction. Discourse is viewed as language process as social process such that the social/language distinction does not exist. Language production puts in play both the social structure, and the elements of the individual personality which occupies that social structure. Thus, one is obliged to seek the effects of discourse in the social production of meaning of discourse and not in the production of discourse. Meaning is already constituted before the subject’s existence.

The objective of analysis is to reveal how meaning is the consequence of a practical confrontation of social groups around signification and language play. The analysis involves focusing on the marked nature of the discourse. This involves the deictic markers and modalities or the truth value of the discourse. Enonciative linguistics explores how interaction is constructed into language, rather than being an innate, preformed performance. The marks of discourse designate the nature of the interaction. Modalities are analysed by reference to how they imply a certain ‘attitude’ of the enonciateur by reference to what is said. This is not rationalism, but is an expression of the constant interaction involving the co-enonciateur. They indicate affinity with others through the signification of ‘reality’ and the enactment of social relations. There is also the free or unmarked part of the discourse. It is ‘free’ in the sense that it does not reveal any relevant deictic marks nor modalities. By reference to this aspect of discourse the enonciateur and locuteur must take account of the place they assume in the interpretation of the existing situation, but do have a degree of latitude.

The individual is constituted as a subject through the relationship between interpolation, signification and the taking in charge of discourse, with signification interpolating an enonciateur into meaning when the enonciateur takes charge of the discourse. The act of language supported by the construction of meaning and the enonciateur who takes the discourse in charge are linked. The taking in charge derives from the marks in discourse, with the ‘I’/’you’/’we’ opposition regulating boundaries.  When the individual identity changes so also does signification. However, signification itself is not akin to meaning and must be accompanied by the real effects of discourse. The act and the event involve the relationship between signification and the real effect, and involves how the enonciateur is transformed into the locuteur occupying a real social place. The formal apparatus of enonciation operates when locuteurs are taken in charge, implying a social interaction premised upon shared meaning and the implication of a relationship between the enonce and the situation.  Similarly, modalities link the constituted subject and the situation.

7. Conclusion

The fundamental problem associated with the knowledge economy revolves around the claim that knowledge is both specific or explicit and tacit in nature. Furthermore, knowledge is the very basis of innovation, the driver of economic growth within the Knowledge Economy. Consequently, there must be some way of making the tacit explicit. If, as Wenger implies, knowledge is organised and generated within communities of practice, then it must be necessary to conceptualise the process of knowledge generation within these communities. There is general agreement that knowledge derives from meaning which is a shared feature and the very basis of being human.  Thus some form of semantics would appear essential in order to explore the nature of tacit knowledge.  In this paper I have argued for an approach which derives from the principles of post-structuralism and its relationship to a decentred linguistics – enonciative linguistics.

Having outlined how this approach builds up a specific understanding of the social construction of meaning and its relationship to analysing the nature of tacit knowledge, it remains to consider how the outcome relates to the new workflows mentioned at the start of the paper. The customary approach to analysing workplace practice involves ethnographic studies. This is nothing new and can take a wide range of trajectories in its analysis capacity. The problem involves the interpretive nature of ethnographic work and how this interpretation is premised on the orthodoxy of the centred, rational subject. In my view a great deal more than this is required. Above I have outlined the relationship between discourse and social practice. Discourse is not simply textual but involves the flow of behaviour that influences social practice as the effects of discourse.  The analytic process of FDA is linked to this understanding and can be applied to social practice. Thus it becomes possible to analyse workplace practice by reference to the relationships between subjects and objects, and between different subjects by reference to how they develop a shared meaning which has a high degree of stability. Knowledge is an integral part of this process. It means that the different components of the new workflow of multimedia production must be viewed as communities of practice and analysed by reference to the above procedure.

This process has proceeded by reference to an awareness that whereas linguistics sets constraints on forms, the social involves meaning. Outlining the stable nature of discourse allows us to recognise how knowledge  relates to social practice. It allows the analyst to map out how knowledge is operationalised within social practice.   Meaning becomes something other than the stable and homogenous projection of what a rational human subject wishes to say. Whereas orthodox linguistics refers to the unstable as the impossible, discourse analysis refers to the unenonciable by reference to what cannot be stated from a determined place. Consequently, meaning is always shifting, and despite being conditioned by prior discourse, new knowledge is constantly being created. There is room for creativity, both in terms of language and in terms of interdiscourse.

8. Bibliography

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Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge, CUP.

Williams, G. (1999): French Discourse Analysis: the Method of Post Structuralism. London, Routledge.

Williams, G. (2000): "The Digital Value Chain and Economic Transformation: Rethinking Regional Development in the New Economy". Contemporary Wales, Vol. 13, pp.94-116.

Williams, G. (In Press a): "From Media to Multimedia: Workflows and Language in the Digital Economy".  In M. Cormak and N. Hourigan (eds.): Minority Language Media: Concepts, Critique and Case Studies. Multilingual Matters.

Williams, G. (In Press b); "Regional Innovation Systems, Communities of Practice and Discourse Analysis: Three themes in search of knowledge". Sociolinguistica. 19.

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Williams, G., E. Roberts and R. Isaac (1978): "Language and Aspirations for  Upward Social Mobility. In G. Williams ed. Social and Cultural Change in Contemporary Wales. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 193-206.

Wittgenstein, L. (1969); On Certainty. Oxford, Blackwell.

Glyn Williams
Research Centre Wales - University of Wales

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