Internship Pt. 3 – Discourse over time and Lexical choice

A large section of my research for my internship went towards examining how the concept of discourse, and discursive acts, can alter over time. This post explores elements of that research.

Word connotations and lexical choice

As I explain further in my white paper, discourse analysis focuses on the micro level on individual words in a sentence structure. The lexical choices of an orator can alter the ideological message of a speech act drastically, as it does with a text. Computational analyses allow for a reading of such speech acts on a significantly more macro level, allowing us to quantify readings of lexical choices etc.

This section of the project focused on the alteration of how discourse functions over time. For the purpose of example, we analyse here perceived changes in the discourses of political parties between times when they are in, and out of government. Specifically, we look here at the discourses of the Irish labour party, focusing particularly on their attitudes towards water charges as a perceived attack on the working class. We then analyse a more general pattern of discourse over time through keyword analyses of speeches by Joan Burton, current Tanaiste and long-serving member of the Labour party.

 

From their official party website, Labour write, “The four principles on which Socialism is based are Freedom, Equality, Community and Democracy. From its first election programme in 1920 to the present day, these principles have been at the centre of the policies which the Labour Party has offered to the Irish people. These are the values which have ruled our major campaigns and our political activity whether in opposition or in Government.” (http://www.labour.ie/principles/) Consistently, party material highlights socialism as the cornerstone of its practices. Recent media and public criticisms of the Labour party have centred on the perceived alterations of ‘party politics’, or official discourses, during their current time in government as part of the Labour/Fine Gael coalition. Most recently, these critiques have arisen from the implementation of a water charge, that had been threatened by many over consecutive governments. This implementation will most drastically affect the working and lower-middle classes that Labour highlight as being the party’s priority. Because of this, Labour have perhaps been more drastically affected in the public consciousness than their more conservative Fine Gael counterparts.

Prior to their most recent election to government, the Labour party, as recently as 2010 (https://www.kildarestreet.com/sendebates/?id=2010-06-23.222.0#g256.0) had been questioned on their position on the implementation of water charges, yet had remained largely silent.

It is also worth noting that the Labour party were responsible for the abolishment of water charges in 1996 in the rainbow coalition, a move made by minister for the environment Brendan Howlin, who remains a TD (and minister for public expenditure) for the party today.

 

Just prior  to the general election of 2011, Labour ran an ad campaign that highlighted Fine Gael’s plans to impose water charges, and their apparent opposition to this.

fgeverylittlehelps

source: https://irishelectionliterature.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/fine-gael-every-little-hurts-labour-party-ad-from-the-2011-genral-election/

It can be seen then that the Labour party have often altered their democratic socialist discourse through particular actions, such as those referenced above. It is perhaps more telling though, to see if these discursive alterations can be measured through particular speech acts. For this purpose, we have chosen to analyse key words in addresses by Joan Burton, both in opposition and in power, with other .

(as inspired by this; http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/25/state-of-the-union-text-obama)

Joan Burton is the Tanaiste, Minister for Social Protection, and Leader of the Labour Party. Her biography page on the party’s home page reads, “She was the Labour Party’s spokesperson on Finance from 2002 to 2011, and opposed the bank guarantee in 2008. She was appointed Minister for Social Protection in 2011, and nominated Tanaiste in July 2013”. (http://www.labour.ie/joanburton/) As the current leader of the Labour party, Burton has largely been the receiver of much disdain by the voting public for her often incongruous messages. Yet, many defenders of the current government may argue that, even as the symbolic figurehead of the party, Burton has been consistent in her actions. For the purpose of analysing this quantitatively, we take here two samples of speeches, each of a significant length and spoken as a monologue, to compare Burton’s lexical choices over time. Ideally, a large corpus could be selected of monologues, but the public records of these speeches, as discussed in the paradata section, are difficult to search, extract and correct. Instead these two samples come from immediately before the last election (her post-budget 2010 address) and the same address, given this past December.

Full keyword analyses will be attached in the appendices, the following are selected points of possible interest and wordles as visual representations.

Wordle created from post-budget 2010 address

 A-draft-of-discourse-analysis-and-the-Labour-party-1.jpg

In her December 2009 address (budget 2010), Burton’s most frequently used word was ‘people’. She used this word 31 times in her address, usually with reference to low-income workers or parents. This excerpt from the speech, particularly laden with ‘people’, is particularly interesting in terms of discourse;

It is a pity that such slimming of income has been applied to working people and those on middle incomes because they are the people doing the heavy lifting in this budget. I daresay the Minister must be aware that people with children took the biggest cuts this year and last year. Let us remember child benefit is paid almost universally to women. I suppose that is a comment on how few women are Members of this House and what little political power women exercise compared to bankers. The Minister always says ‘Yes’ to bankers but in his different budgets he always finds it difficult to make payments in respect of children.

 

This excerpt obviously places Burton’s use of the word ‘people’, as centring on concern. Particularly, Burton utilises both feminist, and socialist discourses when she places herself within the roles of both mother (juxtaposed with the emphasis on cuts to child benefit), and minority woman in the workplace. This positioning, of course, incites an empathetic reaction to both Burton and her party. Whilst, simultaneously, this emphasises a blame of the elected government from which she separates herself.

Burton’s next most frequent lexical choice is the word ‘Euro’. In all 28 examples of the utilisation of this word, Burton is referring to currency. Specifically, she details examples of cuts to the financing of departments and initiatives that directly affect the working class, or vulnerable groups in society, such as children or the disabled. Burton highlights, extensively, the social ramifications of cuts on these groups, contextualising them as being contradictory to her party’s policies. In relation to cuts on social welfare departments, Burton says, “That is a really heavy hit on a particular sector which, more than any other, encompasses the notion of social solidarity and need. We should remain a one-Ireland society. Yes, we had our billionaires but we should remain close to that notion. The principle of the Labour Party is that we are a one-Ireland society and those who have most should contribute most”.

Again, Burton highlights the focus of the Labour party’s discourses, emphasising socialism and the politics of inclusion.  It should be noted that the automatic transcription did not recognise the symbol ‘€’ as would be represented in a more inclusive character set. Instead, when making manual corrections, I adjusted this symbol to be read as ‘euro’. However, regardless of this correction, ‘euro’ does not appear in any other context than as currency, framing a figure.

Fifth, is ‘austerity’, which frequently appears alongside other top keywords such as ‘billion’, ‘banker’ and ‘developers’. It is particularly obvious where Burton places the blame for the economic recession that frames this budget. Again, this framing highlights a socialist discourse that removes a level of autonomy from the workers, and centres on the most wealthy, most corporate to connote most negatively.

 A-draft-of-discourse-analysis-and-the-Labour-party-2.jpg

wordle created from 2015 statement on budget

We justapose the above sentiment analysis with Burton’s use of discourse in her statement (as published on Labour.ie and her personal website), as released in December 2014. This statement obviously comes five years after the above, and is released by Burton as the now Tanaiste and leader of the Labour party.

In this keyword analysis, Burton most frequently utilises the word ‘will’. Whilst this might seem like a commonly used word that might usually be excluded from keyword analysis, I chose to include it. Predominantly,  as it denotes intention and overlexicalisation (a term used to define when a text contains a plethora of particularly ideologically laden or contested terms and their synonyms,further explained in ‘terms of discourse analysis’), ‘will’ states a determination and intention that is purposefully chosen lexically as a sign of accountability. This emphasis on the onus of responsibility can again be seen in the word ‘people’, the second most frequent lexical choice. ‘People’ occurs eighteen times in the speech, predominantly referring to ‘people with disabilities’ and ‘vulnerable people’. So again Burton highlights the plights of similar social groups, yet frames her actions as a defence, rather than her previous speech which attacked the sitting government’s actions on these same marginalised groups.

As we can see in the visualisation above, ‘welfare’ is also frequently referred to in this speech, Burton reiterates that the actions of the government in this budget will not negatively affect welfare recipients, in fact it is this iteration that she begins her speech with. ‘Welfare’ is used 13 times, usually to refer to welfare recipients, but also to refer to the more general ‘well-being’ of citizens in relation to this budget. By emphasising what she sees as the benefits of these actions on the vulnerable, she emphasises much of the same empathy that was present in her previous speech, but reframes it as a personal and party defence.

So what can be read from the juxtaposition of these two speeches? Particularly, the framing of the speeches is most interesting. Whilst the focus on the marginalised in society is consistent, out of government Burton uses her representation of these people as being victims of governmental practices. Conversely, Burton uses these same groups to highlight the focus of perceived ‘positive’ actions of her own government. Personalisation (again as we explain in terminology) here is employed as a tactic to position and unite. Social actors here are utilised to centre the purpose of Burton’s discursive acts as being to empathise with the marginalised, regardless of her personal political position. This reframing of a socialist discourse then highlights the fluidity of discourse itself, here positioning and personalisation are used greatly to reinforce contradictory discourses of neoliberalism that are imbued in the act of cutting departmental budgets and tax reliefs.

***

 

I will attach wordsmith/antconc files and corrected .txt files (or maybe .docx files for readability?) to the appendix of my final report. Let me know if you’re interested in seeing any of my data, or have any queries

Bedfordk@tcd.ie

critique of UKIP statistics in the media

(This post is from 2012)

Ukip benefiting from disillusionment with main political parties, poll finds is an online article written for the Guardian online by Tom Clark, who is a political writer for the newspaper. Clicking through to his profile revealed that the majority, if not all, of his articles feature quantitative analysis and are heavily based on statistics.

The online feature has as its sources the Guardian/ICM poll of 1001 people surveyed by telephone. ICM is listed as a research organisation that, “is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.” A paragraph at the end of the feature explains this. The survey was commissioned by the Guardian online, but the piece was written around the results of the survey. The research is credited as being part of  a 28-year series of surveys on political trends within the United Kingdom carried out by the Guardian/ICM. The full history of these surveys is both mentioned and linked to within the piece and is available for download from the click-through link found at the address found in the ‘works cited’ section of this exercise.

The article itself states that the survey was commissioned in the wake of the police commissioner ballots which saw record lows in turnout and Ukip outpolling the Liberal Democrats which were released the second week of November. However, upon reading the attached history of surveying, I realised that these surveys took place between two and four times per month in those twenty-eight years. It was the apparent shift in response owing to the release of the above ballots that spurned the writing of a separate article for the findings in this particular case. What the data of the past surveys show clearly that cannot be seen in the graph and statistics of the article, is the rise in the other category of voters from 1% in 1985 to a high of 15% in June 2009(where it stands again currently).The article states, “The ICM/Guardian survey showed that Labour’s solid eight-point lead held firm over the previous month, but a growing proportion of voters were looking for an alternative home, particularly at Ukip. The combined total of the assorted minor parties rose three points to 15%, a score that has never been bettered in the 28-year history of the Guardian/ICM series.” This reveals the obvious need for the further division of the survey’s options.

The obvious objective of the survey is to reveal changing attitudes towards political parties within the United Kingdom. Those polled were asked their voting intentions and given the options of the three main political parties as well as a fourth option, “other”. It is this fourth option that is the focus of the article, as it is at it’s highest since the telephone survey’s beginning.

Using Gerry Rose’s model, there seems to be a level of ambiguity within the structure of the survey by limiting the number of voting options available to four. Understandably, what are deemed ‘minor’ political parties and technical groups etc. may not always necessarily be popular enough to warrant a separate option within the survey. However, as the focus of this article points out, one such smaller party (namely the right-wing Ukip) had gained enough prominence within the United Kingdom to vastly alter the results of the survey and render ‘other’ as the choice of a significant proportion of those polled (15%). Therefore, this individual poll was obviously altered to identity the political leanings of those who selected that option. The original poll format includes four options, namely; Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Other. In it’s present form, as found in the article, the poll has been divided further. It now gives the following options; Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Other and Ukip. The newest poll, the focus of the article, has been amended to include Ukip, which takes up 7% of overall votes and accounts for nearly half of the ‘other’ category. Ukip’s omission from previous poll’s is still notable however, as the ‘other’ category had consistently higher popularity that the Liberal Democrats for more than eighteen months, all of which were polled by Guardian/ICM. Similarly, there is no category for those polled who will not vote or are undecided on party allegiance, their opinions are omitted from those surveyed. This ignores a possibly large amount of those who are in the eligible category for survey (whose only specification is for the surveyed to be 18+ or of voting age in the United Kingdom)

Following Rose’s model once more, we can examine how the operationalisation and field-work of the survey can affect its findings on changing political attitudes. It is important to note that this poll is continuously done by phone to landlines. This, whilst probably the most effective method of surveying the general population at the survey’s inception in 1985, is rather problematic today. Many people no longer have or use a landline phone with the advent of mobile technology. Many of those that do will screen callers for identification and not answer to unknown numbers. Many other people of voting eligibility will not have listed phone numbers available for market research. Many young people do not use landlines, whilst they are still a popular means of communication for many older citizens. Because of this, a consistent poll of 1001 people contacted through telephone will not necessarily represent accurately the entirety of the changing views of the voting public of any given nation.

With relevance to the ‘metaphysical pathos’ of the survey, only one question is structured in order to prompt a positive or negative response. Those surveyed are asked about where their faith lies with each political party’s leader, with the three main leaders mentioned, as well as option for ‘none’ and ‘don’t know’. This question seems to be exhaustive in nature, as it explores what appear to be the most popular choices as well as giving a negative and uncertain option for response simultaneously. The overall tone of the article is overarchingly neutral. The author has used the facts and figures and only expanded upon them to present the argument that Ukip has gained in popularity, which is clear to be read from the statistics, without giving any separate opinion or weighed interpretation of the figures received through the survey..

 

 

 

Word count; 1126

 

 

Clarke, Tom. Ukip benefiting from disillusionment with main political parties, poll finds, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/nov/19/ukip-benefiting-disillusionment-politics-poll.

 

 

Rose, Gerry (1982) Deciphering Sociological Research, London, Macmillan

From Chapter 2, Framework p14

 

Guardian/ICM polls: every one since 1984. No author. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/oct/21/icm-poll-data-labour-conservatives. Accessed 24/11/2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultural barriers to further education and initiatives for Irish Travellers

Education, at even a mandatory level, is made incredibly difficult  for Irish travellers. Power, at every level, acts as a barrier to equality. As such, the inability of the education system and ‘settled community’ to adjust to incorporate traveller heritage and identities (in addition to many other socio-economic factors) create a near-impossible task of the completion of formal education. In turn, these difficulties can only further compact the multiple difficulties members of the travelling community face it the attainment of further education. This post briefly outlines the extent to which initiatives addressing these  systemic shortfalls have been addressed.

“Education shall aim at developing the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent. Education shall prepare the child for an active adult life in a free society and foster respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, and for the cultural background and values of others.“

Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 

Irish Travellers are a traditionally nomadic people, who maintain a set of traditions and a distinct ethnic identity. It is a combination of these traditions, their nomadic lifestyles, education policy and a lack of inclusion that prevents many traveller’s from entering third level education. Traditionally Travellers were commercial nomads who traded in the rural agricultural economy. Travelling is a fundamental part of Traveller identity, yet today 77% of Travellers live in houses. (Donahue et al., 2005)

In the late 1980’s, the then President of Ireland Mary Robinson encouraged a greater and wider awareness of Traveller culture amongst the general population. She also implemented the Task Force on the Travelling Community, which called for for the prioritisation of Traveller needs and interests and provided much needed new legislation on equality.

The Traveller Health Strategy identifies Travellers as a socially disadvantaged group, and lists that social exclusion and frequent racism are the causes of this classification. While the Irish Traveller community is specifically identified in Northern Ireland as a particular ethnic group (Race Relations Order 1997), the same cannot be said with the Republic of Ireland. The Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community (DOE, 1995) recognised Traveller cultural distinctiveness, and recommended that it should be supported by public policy.

In recent years, education for travellers has become more accessible through government initiatives and policy like the adoption of the five-year Local Traveller Accommodation Plans by all Local Authorities in 2000, additional funding from the Traveller Accommodation Unit for building and refurbishment of Traveller specific accommodation, and a scheme of loans and grants for the replacement of caravans for Travellers. That is not to say that this had lead to an overall increase in travellers accessing third level education, as the difficulties experienced by non-settled travellers have only lessened marginally.

For young traveller children, education is an inevitability. In recent years, the Department of Education and Science has released figures that suggest a near 100% registration of traveller children of the appropriate age within primary schools. This dramatically lowers as the child progresses to secondary level where a large portion of travellers make it only to the junior cycle. This dramatic decrease extends even further to third-level, where in 2008, the HEA estimated that travellers make up just 0.08% of the population.

However, many government initiatives over the past decade have been implemented in order to promote the accessibility of higher education for travellers. The removal of university fees in 1996 made third level education a possibility for many disadvantaged travellers because of cost feasibility and the high levels of unemployment amongst travellers. In 1997 The Universities act was implemented, as was the National Anti-Poverty Strategy. The Education Act of 1998 obliged schools to ensure that the education system respects diversity of values and traditions in Irish society.  In 2002 the DES published Guidelines on Traveller Education in Primary and Second Level Schools, laying the grounds for the possibility of entry into third-level. the ‘Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy’ was published in 2006, and proposed a 5-year strategy to examine Traveller Education including education in preschool and the early years, primary, post-primary, further and adult education and third-level education.

 

        The ‘Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy’

 •  examines existing provisions and supports for Travellers in education at all levels from preschool to higher education

 • identifies objectives for Traveller education, sets out plans of action, with suggested time scales

 • makes recommendations in relation to optimising or reallocating existing resources

 • sets out expected outcomes

 • addresses all aspects of Traveller education taking a holistic lifelong learning perspective from preschool provision to adult and continuing education. (Department of Education, 2006).

 

 

 

 

Despite the implementation of policy in recent years, the number of travellers enrolling in third-level institutes is still notably low. This can be seen as being directly in correlation with irregular school attendance and absenteeism in secondary level education within the Traveller community, which The Irish Traveller Movement cites as being caused by negative experiences of travellers within education in Ireland. The ITM state that there is a large level of bullying against traveller children in education coupled with a low level of interaction with settled children. The outcome of education for travellers is also seen as being relatively poor, because of biased hiring practices after third-level. Third-level is unequivocally less appealing if the same jobs are the only prospects that appear to be available after completion. As it currently stands, no government scheme directly addresses the factors beyond economics that directly effect the enrolment of Irish travellers in further education, and that cannot be read as ‘enough’.

 

 

 

 

 

Equality Authority (2006). Traveller ethnicity: An equality authority report.

http://www.equality.ie/index.asp?locID=107&docID=556

 

ITM (2001). A lost opportunity?: A critique of local authority Traveller accommodation

programmes. Prepared for the ITM by Kathleen Fahy.

http://www.itmtrav.com/pdf/CritiqueHandOut.pdf

 

ITM (2004). Irish Travellers in education: Strategies for equality. Dublin: ITM.

http://www.itmtrav.com/pdf/Education_report.pdf

 

 

Donahue, M., McVeigh, R. and Ward, M.(2005). Misli, crush, misli: Irish Travellers and

nomadism. (A research report for the Irish Traveller Movement and Traveller Movement

(Northern Ireland). http://www.itmtrav.com/pdf/MISLI-CRUSH-MISLI.pdf

 

FIGURES AND EXCERPT FROM; Department of Education and Science (2006). Report and recommendations for a Traveller

education strategy. Dublin: Stationery Office.

 

.

 

A draft of discourse analysis and the Labour party

Word connotations and lexical choices

As has been previously mentioned in the introduction to the project, discourse analysis focuses on the micro level on individual words in a sentence structure. The lexical choices of an orator can alter the ideological message of a speech act drastically, as it does with a text. Computational analyses allow for a reading of such speech acts on a significantly more macro level, allowing us to quantify readings of lexical choices etc.

This section of the project focuses on the alteration of how discourse functions over time. For the purpose of example, we analyse here perceived changes in the discourses of political parties between times when they are in, and out of government. Specifically, we look here at the discourses of the Irish labour party, focusing particularly on their attitudes towards water charges as a perceived attack on the working class. We then analyse a more general pattern of discourse over time through keyword analyses of speeches by Joan Burton, current Tanaiste and long-serving member of the Labour party.

From their official party website, Labour write, “The four principles on which Socialism is based are Freedom, Equality, Community and Democracy. From its first election programme in 1920 to the present day, these principles have been at the centre of the policies which the Labour Party has offered to the Irish people. These are the values which have ruled our major campaigns and our political activity whether in opposition or in Government.” (http://www.labour.ie/principles/) Consistently, party material highlights socialism as the cornerstone of its practices. Recent media and public criticisms of the Labour party have centred on the perceived alterations of ‘party politics’, or official discourses, during their current time in government as part of the Labour/Fine Gael coalition. Most recently, these critiques have arisen from the implementation of a water charge, that had been threatened by many over consecutive governments. This implementation will most drastically affect the working and lower-middle classes that Labour highlight as being the party’s priority. Because of this, Labour have perhaps been more drastically affected in the public consciousness than their more conservative Fine Gael counterparts.

Prior to their most recent election to government, the Labour party, as recently as 2010 (https://www.kildarestreet.com/sendebates/?id=2010-06-23.222.0#g256.0) had been questioned on their position on the implementation of water charges, yet had remained largely silent.

It is also worth noting that the Labour party were responsible for the abolishment of water charges in 1996 in the rainbow coalition, a move made by minister for the environment Brendan Howlin, who remains a TD (and minister for public expenditure) for the party today.

Just prior to the general election of 2011, Labour ran an ad campaign that highlighted Fine Gael’s plans to impose water charges, and their apparent opposition to this.

source: https://irishelectionliterature.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/fine-gael-every-little-hurts-labour-party-ad-from-the-2011-genral-election/

It can be seen then that the Labour party have often altered their democratic socialist discourse through particular actions, such as those referenced above. It is perhaps more telling though, to see if these discursive alterations can be measured through particular speech acts. For this purpose, we have chosen to analyse key words in addresses by Joan Burton, both in opposition and in power, with other .

(as inspired by this; http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/25/state-of-the-union-text-obama)

Joan Burton is the Tanaiste, Minister for Social Protection, and Leader of the Labour Party. Her biography page on the party’s home page reads, “She was the Labour Party’s spokesperson on Finance from 2002 to 2011, and opposed the bank guarantee in 2008. She was appointed Minister for Social Protection in 2011, and nominated Tanaiste in July 2013”. (http://www.labour.ie/joanburton/) As the current leader of the Labour party, Burton has largely been the receiver of much disdain by the voting public for her often incongruous messages. Yet, many defenders of the current government may argue that, even as the symbolic figurehead of the party, Burton has been consistent in her actions. For the purpose of analysing this quantitatively, we take here two samples of speeches, each of a significant length and spoken as a monologue, to compare Burton’s lexical choices over time. Ideally, a large corpus could be selected of monologues, but the public records of these speeches, as discussed in the paradata section, are difficult to search, extract and correct. Instead these two samples come from immediately before the last election (her post-budget 2010 address) and the same address, given this past December.

Full keyword analyses will be attached in the appendices, the following are selected points of possible interest and wordles as visual representations.

Wordle created from post-budget 2010 address

In her December 2009 address (budget 2010), Burton’s most frequently used word was ‘people’. She used this word 31 times in her address, usually with reference to low-income workers or parents. This excerpt from the speech, particularly laden with ‘people’, is particularly interesting in terms of discourse;

It is a pity that such slimming of income has been applied to working people and those on middle incomes because they are the people doing the heavy lifting in this budget. I daresay the Minister must be aware that people with children took the biggest cuts this year and last year. Let us remember child benefit is paid almost universally to women. I suppose that is a comment on how few women are Members of this House and what little political power women exercise compared to bankers. The Minister always says ‘Yes’ to bankers but in his different budgets he always finds it difficult to make payments in respect of children.

This excerpt obviously places Burton’s use of the word ‘people’, as centring on concern. Particularly, Burton utilises both feminist, and socialist discourses when she places herself within the roles of both mother (juxtaposed with the emphasis on cuts to child benefit), and minority woman in the workplace. This positioning, of course, incites an empathetic reaction to both Burton and her party. Whilst, simultaneously, this emphasises a blame of the elected government from which she separates herself.

Burton’s next most frequent lexical choice is the word ‘Euro’. In all 28 examples of the utilisation of this word, Burton is referring to currency. Specifically, she details examples of cuts to the financing of departments and initiatives that directly affect the working class, or vulnerable groups in society, such as children or the disabled. Burton highlights, extensively, the social ramifications of cuts on these groups, contextualising them as being contradictory to her party’s policies. In relation to cuts on social welfare departments, Burton says, “That is a really heavy hit on a particular sector which, more than any other, encompasses the notion of social solidarity and need. We should remain a one-Ireland society. Yes, we had our billionaires but we should remain close to that notion. The principle of the Labour Party is that we are a one-Ireland society and those who have most should contribute most”.

Again, Burton highlights the focus of the Labour party’s discourses, emphasising socialism and the politics of inclusion. It should be noted that the automatic transcription did not recognise the symbol ‘€’ as would be represented in a more inclusive character set. Instead, when making manual corrections, I adjusted this symbol to be read as ‘euro’. However, regardless of this correction, ‘euro’ does not appear in any other context than as currency, framing a figure.

Fifth, is ‘austerity’, which frequently appears alongside other top keywords such as ‘billion’, ‘banker’ and ‘developers’. It is particularly obvious where Burton places the blame for the economic recession that frames this budget. Again, this framing highlights a socialist discourse that removes a level of autonomy from the workers, and centres on the most wealthy, most corporate to connote most negatively.

wordle created from 2015 statement on budget

We justapose the above sentiment analysis with Burton’s use of discourse in her statement (as published on Labour.ie and her personal website), as released in December 2014. This statement obviously comes five years after the above, and is released by Burton as the now Tanaiste and leader of the Labour party.

In this keyword analysis, Burton most frequently utilises the word ‘will’. Whilst this might seem like a commonly used word that might usually be excluded from keyword analysis, I chose to include it. Predominantly, as it denotes intention and overlexicalisation (a term used to define when a text contains a plethora of particularly ideologically laden or contested terms and their synonyms,further explained in ‘terms of discourse analysis’), ‘will’ states a determination and intention that is purposefully chosen lexically as a sign of accountability. This emphasis on the onus of responsibility can again be seen in the word ‘people’, the second most frequent lexical choice. ‘People’ occurs eighteen times in the speech, predominantly referring to ‘people with disabilities’ and ‘vulnerable people’. So again Burton highlights the plights of similar social groups, yet frames her actions as a defence, rather than her previous speech which attacked the sitting government’s actions on these same marginalised groups.

As we can see in the visualisation above, ‘welfare’ is also frequently referred to in this speech, Burton reiterates that the actions of the government in this budget will not negatively affect welfare recipients, in fact it is this iteration that she begins her speech with. ‘Welfare’ is used 13 times, usually to refer to welfare recipients, but also to refer to the more general ‘well-being’ of citizens in relation to this budget. By emphasising what she sees as the benefits of these actions on the vulnerable, she emphasises much of the same empathy that was present in her previous speech, but reframes it as a personal and party defence.

So what can be read from the juxtaposition of these two speeches? Particularly, the framing of the speeches is most interesting. Whilst the focus on the marginalised in society is consistent, out of government Burton uses her representation of these people as being victims of governmental practices. Conversely, Burton uses these same groups to highlight the focus of perceived ‘positive’ actions of her own government. Personalisation (again as we explain in terminology) here is employed as a tactic to position and unite. Social actors here are utilised to centre the purpose of Burton’s discursive acts as being to empathise with the marginalised, regardless of her personal political position. This reframing of a socialist discourse then highlights the fluidity of discourse itself, here positioning and personalisation are used greatly to reinforce contradictory discourses of neoliberalism that are imbued in the act of cutting departmental budgets and tax reliefs.

***

I will attach wordsmith/antconc files and corrected .txt files (or maybe .docx files for readability?) to the appendix of the report. Let me know if you’d like them now. Also the wordles can be remade with Voyant if necessary.

Very unparliamentary language ; On multimodality and processes of transcription

For the past two weeks I’ve been spending an untoward amount of time with sixty seconds worth of Paul Gogarty, ex deputy of the now defunct Green Party. Unfortunately for Mr.Gogarty, on a December afternoon post-budget 2010, his ‘unparliamentary’ outburst at another deputy in the Dail survived both his own position in the Dail and the existence of his political party.

The man, the myth, the metadata.

By The Green Party of Ireland Comhaontas Glas (Flickr: Paul Gogarty TD) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sorry, I realise that image is absolutely huge, but I really think it adds something. Anyway, you might wonder why I’d be re-watching this minute-long clip so many times, and that will be explained after this next section (skip ahead if you have no interest multimodality). I mentioned in my last post that I would be taking a ‘multimodal’ approach in my internship to discourse analysis. But what does that mean? Continue reading

DH Internship, Pt. 1 (on critical discourse analysis, natural language processing and indecisiveness)

While I maintain that my intentions to consistently update the content on this site were good, I have been otherwise preoccupied.

Between group projects and general assessments from my three modules, this semester has been certainly stacking up to be a busy one. Despite this,  I’ve been enjoying immersing myself in research for the subject of this blog, my internship at CNGL.

Before I tell you what I am personally researching, I’ll briefly explain CNGL and why I was particularly interested in working in their particular institution.  Continue reading

Digital transformation and digital inclusion

I thought that for the final blog of this term I might write on something that I came across when searching for a postgraduate course. My only real requirements for a new field of study (and I did specifically want to learn something wholly new to me), was that the subject could incorporate both practical skills (big fan of employment) and elements of humanism and social justice. That sounds like a mean feat, right? I come from an interdisciplinary humanities background, it was the ‘humanities’ that led me to DH. With a pretty rudimentary search early last summer I had thought I had decided what the digital humanities were, without knowing that this was the central joke upon which all great DH debates are built. I personally saw DH as an opportunity to marry technical skills with personal passions, for me that was always feminism and social justice. I can’t deny that I was pleased to locate feminist ideology and politics within the digital archives, however small it may seem in comparison to academia that aims to improve the standing of the field and the research that furthers industry (not that these concepts remain incongruent or exclusive). The idea of a post-theory, post-empathy form of digital humanities was abhorrent to me, and alarmingly seemed possible from what little I had read within the field. The concentration of the field on the intersection between industry and academia seemed to concentrate on a particularly privileged minority to whom access to digital scholarship would be realised with the ease it is so often the case within all fields of academia.
It appears that cultural studies and the digital humanities have only just begun to intercept; with the global recession taking centre-stage, the discourse of the digital humanities has been required to be increasingly self-reflexive, focusing on a combination of employment and inclusiveness, the centres of ethical debates within any post-crisis field of academia. How might DH work towards being a transformative field of study, one that does not exclude minorities or focus merely on the privileged, white, middle-class members who are the overwhelming majority within the academy. In response to these, and more queer-centric critiques of DH, the #transformDH group was born (http://transformdh.org/). #transformDH are a collaborative group (often cited, indeed self-cited, as a ‘guerilla’ group, linking them to radical queer political and academic movements). The group aims to transform Digital Humanities into a space that is inclusive of race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality and class through introducing digital critical narratives across their strong social media presence and highlighting digital projects that are both created by members of these minority groups or centred around these groups’ digital actions. #transformDH was established in late 2011, and has received both massive commendation, and biting criticism amongst DH academics and scholars.
Roger Whitson’s post “Does DH really need to be transformed? My Reflections on #mla12.” Whitson’s critique seems to lie predominantly in the oppositional rhetoric of #transformDH, by which I mean that Whitson seems to interpret the movement as being opposed to what he calls, “the collaborative good will”, of the digital humanities. Below is an excerpt from that post;

Do we really need guerrilla movements? Are war metaphors, or concepts of overturning and redefining, truly the right kind of metaphors to use when talking about change in the digital humanities? It seems to me that the word “guerilla” reappropriates the collaborative good will of the digital humanities, making it safe for traditional academic consumption and inserting it into the scheme Stanley Fish and William Pannapacker highlight. Yeah, we see the cool kids at the theory table, but we want to be the cool kids, so we’re going to fight them until we can be the cool kids. But if my experience with the MLA is any indication, the digital humanities doesn’t need to be changed. I can already see it changing the atmosphere of the MLA, making it easier for people to connect with each other, enjoy their time together, and conceptualize new and exciting work. It’s not perfect – as the job crisis still lingers, humanities programs are still threatened with cuts, and too many adjunct teachers suffer from job insecurity, a lack of benefits, and too much work for too little pay. But, the MLA I saw this year gave me hope that more people were interested in working together to deal with these issues in a productive way – rather than worry what table they were sitting at.

I do have a particular aversion for the above sentiment. I think it is a misinterpretation of both the #transformDH movement’s motives and the field of Digital Humanities itself. To me, digital humanities does exclude, to a certain extent, discourses that are subversive. The voices of the marginalised are just that within DH, marginalised. Despite the ‘good will’ that is quite evident within the vast collaboration and open-sourcing within the field, the openness and willingness for constructive, discursive critique is incredibly important. Natalia Cecire explains that she does not believe that DH believes itself to be beyond critique, indeed her response to Whitson’s post points out articles that are highly self-reflexive and critical. It is important that this critique is always welcomed, and that it influences the types of collaborative projects and research that is undertaken. Cecire explains her position thusly, “Germano reflects that “[s]omeone once remarked to me that scholarly publishing in gay studies was a conflict between the nerdy and the naughty.” This conflict seems to me to have re-emerged in #transformDH’s invocation of oppositional rhetorics, in a way that I believe to be productive. Sometimes we need collaboration, and sometimes we need solidarity. And perhaps even such fine adjustments require some transformation in the way we understand our work”.
Imagining a future for DH which is not reflexive on whom it benefits, who it assumes to speak for etc. is not in any way defending the field. Instead it leaves Dh consistently open to disparaging critique. DH can easily become in itself an exclusionary grand narrative, like religious discourse, which serves particular world views and little else. Movements like #transformDH make the Digital Humanities cast an eye inwards, acknowledging it’s own socio-cultural position of privilege and highlight projects of a DH nature that may otherwise go unnoticed (just this week, they have shared on their Tumble articles and apps surrounding public and DH collaboration to combat police brutality and QR codes to donate to various funds for the people of Ferguson, see below)

.ferguson

I personally hope movements like #transformDH and others like it become central to DH developments, and that social justice and general ethics is always a concern for those who develop projects and receive funding within the field.

Bibliography

“Queer Technologies: Automating Perverse Possibilities.” Queer Technologies. 2012. <http://www.zachblas.info/projects/queer-technologies/.&gt;

Bailey, Moya Z. “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave”.http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/all-the-digital-humanists-are-white-all-the-nerds-are-men-but-some-of-us-are-brave-by-moya-z-bailey/

Natalia Cecire, “In Defense of #TransformDH“<http://nataliacecire.blogspot.ie/2012/01/in-defense-of-transforming-dh.html&gt;

González, Isela, Margaret Rhee, Allyse Gray, and Kate Monico Klein. From the Center: Facilitating Feminist Digital Theory and Praxis in a Digital Environment (blog). 2012. <http://hastac.org/blogs/alexislothian/2011/12/02/hastac2011-center-facilitating-feminist-digital-theory-and-praxis-dig.&gt;

McPherson, Tara. “Why is the Digital Humanities So White?, or, Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 138–160. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2012.

Redmond, Jennifer. “Thoughts on feminism, digital humanities and women’s history”.
http://greenfield.blogs.brynmawr.edu/2013/05/20/thoughts-on-feminism-digital-humanities-and-womens-history/

Roger Whitson, “Does the Digital Humanities Really Need to be Transformed? My Reflections on #mla12“<http://www.rogerwhitson.net/?p=1358&gt;