Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis

By Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard; Malcolm Coulthard | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Technologisation of discourse

Norman Fairclough

In this chapter I use ‘discourse’ to refer to any spoken or written language use conceived as social practice, a position I have elaborated elsewhere (Fairclough, 1989a), and ‘order of discourse’ (a term adapted from Foucault) for the overall configuration of discourse practices of a society or one of its institutions. 1 I want to suggest that contemporary ‘orders of discourse’ have a property which distinguishes them from earlier orders of discourse, or which at least has not been manifested in earlier orders of discourse to anything like the same degree; and that this property is of particular significance for the orders of discourse of various types of work, specifically because it is an important factor in changes which are currently taking place in workplace practices and ‘workplace culture’. I focus below upon workplace culture, and the constitution of social and professional relations and identities at work.

Contemporary orders of discourse are, I think, becoming deeply and distinctively affected by what I want to call a technologisation of discourse, whose central and defining characteristic is the embodiment in institutional forms and practices of circuits or networks which systematically chain together three domains of practice: research into the discoursal practices of workplaces and institutions, design of discoursal practices in accordance with institutional strategies and objectives, and training of personnel in such designed discoursal practices. I am characterising an emergent tendency, whose contours are only becoming clear, and are more clearly defined in some places than in others. Elements of this development can easily be attested in earlier orders of discourse, but it is their tendency towards systematic and institutionalised configuration that justifies seeing technologisation of discourse as a distinctively contemporary process. My main point of reference will be contemporary Britain, and a few particular types of work therein; I refer most to one domain of professional work, higher education. But technologisation of discourse is, I suspect, a widespread accompaniment of changes in workplaces, in industry as well as professions and services, and no doubt on an international scale.

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