Understanding Face-To-Face Interaction: Issues Linking Goals and Discourse

Understanding Face-To-Face Interaction: Issues Linking Goals and Discourse

Understanding Face-To-Face Interaction: Issues Linking Goals and Discourse

Understanding Face-To-Face Interaction: Issues Linking Goals and Discourse

Synopsis

Challenging current work in communication and social psychology that assumes face-to-face interaction can be adequately understood without attending to discourse expression, this volume examines how people's goals, concerns, and intentions can be related to discourse expression. The text discusses discourse-goal linkages in specific face-to-face encounters such as courtroom exchanges, marital counseling, and intellectual discussions, as well as in more general theoretical dilemmas. Because it poses a new set of questions about social actors' motivations and pre-interactional goals, this volume offers a new direction for discourse study -- one that seriously considers the thinking and strategy involved in human communication.

Excerpt

Robyn Penman Communication Research Institute of Australia

All discourse analysis is concerned with making sense of a fundamental human phenomenon: communication. At the heart of discourse analysis is the assignment of meaning to communicative practices. This chapter is concerned with how we can assign meaning to communication occurring in a particular context: courts of law. This chapter is also concerned with doing so from a particular point of view, based on new developments in ways of thinking about social practices. These new developments have been taken to reflect a paradigm shift from modern to postmodern science (e.g., Bernstein, 1983; Toulmin, 1982).

Central to this new point of view is the recognition that the meaning of something does not reside in any outside, objective, or independent reality; rather, meanings are created out of our communicative practices (e.g., Gergen, 1982; Penman, 1988). Any account or explanation we give of communicative practice cannot be taken as a discovery in the real world but as the creation of a story to make sense of our world (Shotter, 1987). the issue here is what sort of story? in particular, what sort of story can we generate to make sense of the communication process in courts of law?

As a starting point, I propose that it needs to be a moral story. I have argued elsewhere (Penman, 1988, 1989) that the new metatheoretical framework being used here inexorably leads us to ask moral questions. These questions have been neglected in past research because of the old paradigm belief in scientific neutrality and distance from the object of study. Within that conventional framework, the researcher and writer was expected to act as a dispassionate chronicler and analyst of observed events, not as a proponent of, or commen-

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