Monday, March 16, 2009

The Work of the Symbolic (6)

Qualitative-constructivist methodology has a unique advantage for exploring the work of the symbolic in institutional processes as it stresses the embodiment of experience in shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices.

Let's take one last look at this sentence. As I read it, it has the following parts:

1. Qualitative-constructivist methodology
2. has a unique advantage
3. for exploring
4. the work of the symbolic in institutional processes
5. as it stresses
6. the embodiment of experience in shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices.

Each of these parts results from a separate (though perhaps not conscious) rhetorical decision. Consider (2). By using the word "unique", we go beyond the claim that our chosen method is good or apt or well-suited. But by using the word "advantage", we also suggest that other methods are possible, even that they are capable of reaching the result we are looking for, just less effectively.

Note also that our choice of method is based on what we want to "explore", not what we want to, say, determine. And notice (5): we are using a method that merely "stresses" something, not one that is, in some special way, able to, for example, capture it. Finally, there's a feature I mentioned in the first post on this sentence. It chooses very complex constructions to name each major element (1, 4, 6). Consider one way of simplifying it.

Our methodology has a unique advantage for exploring our object as it stresses the embodiment of experience in shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices.

Here we have obviously removed some information from the sentence, but we have also focused the readers attention on the part of the sentence that delivers a particular claim. Instead of using the sentence to say three things, we are using it to say only one. This of course demands that we will have to write some other sentences as well:

We used a qualitative-constructivist methodology in this study. The method stresses the embodiment of experience in shared sociolinguistic meanings and practices and it therefore has a unique advantage for exploring the work of the symbolic in institutional processes.

On Wednesday, another sentence.

2 comments:

Jonathan said...

Yes, but what is qualitative constructivist methodology and what exactly is "the work of the symbolic"?

Thomas Basbøll said...

Those are both good questions. While the article does arguably assign a technical meaning to the first, it, surprisingly, does not define the second (though it appears in the title). It seems to mean something like the "construction of meaning". The study is based on a reading of newspaper articles and want ads.

At times the paper brings the two notions together around the good, old concept of rhetoric.