Ray Poynter of Vision Critical presented on understanding social media via discourse analysis at ESOMAR 3D 2011.

Where the Rosetta Stone enabled people to understand ancient scripts, as the same message was written in the stone in three languages. Michel Foucault was a structuralist.

Discourse analysis is a family of approaches that “like all families fall out bitterly”. Common themese are constitutive, contextual, dialogical/contested and “discourse as an end not as a proxy”. There are many traditions of discourse analysis, from conversation analysis, discurvise psychology, Foucaualdian, Bakhtinian, sociolinguistics and more.

  • Conversation analysis was invented by Harvey Sacks in the 1960s, looking at a close examination of what people are talking about.
  • Discursive psychology analyzes what people say as the primary phenomenon rather than what they might be thinking. Of course, anchoring and framing lead to different answers and attitudes. How much thinking and memory are expressed in language?
  • Foucault & Foucauldian discourse analysis shifts “the focus away from the individual to the society”. Things only have meaning in context of a society: we are conditioned by and conditioning language. Starbucks expended great effort in creating a language around their high-end coffee.

Pragmatic discourse analysis uses little theory: social media monitoring, blog mining, buzz monitoring and listening research. For instance, for social media and communities, turn taking within online discussions needs to be analyzed. Sentiment analysis needs to be linked to actions. Conversation analysis is needed for communities. How can we start to apply discourse analysis to improve our understanding of online texts?

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.