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2023 Vol. 14 №1

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Levels of context: how textual analysis becomes discourse analysis: the case of Internet lifestyle media



Today the so-called problem of discourse should boil down to (1) identifying relevant con­textual variables, (2) matching these to specific linguistic categories, and (3) operationalizing the former vis-à-vis the latter. Having posited this, the purpose of the article is twofold. In a more theoretical sense, the purpose is to outline one possible model of context each 'tier' of which is potentially related to certain linguistic categories and linguistic analytical toolkits. The suggested model has five tiers of contextual variables and two dimensions cutting through the five tiers. These dimensions are discourse (in the most general sense — as one of the 'moments' of social practice) and individuals (theorized here in two ways — in terms of cognition and as a complex of semiotic resources used to 'perform' identities). In a more prac­tical sense, the purpose of the article is to use (certain fragments of) the model to analyze dis­course. The discourse used for such analysis is a lifestyle instruction video from YouTube. Methodologically, the analysis draws on (1) the category of engagement as described in the Appraisal Model within Systemic Functional Linguistics and (2) the interpretation of dis­course/text as simultaneously invoking different discourses and genres, as suggested in the Faircloughian approach to discourse analysis. When seen as a complex semiotic happening, the discourse is analyzed in terms of it being part of the YouTube media platform. It is con­tended that as a result of the communicative technology in question, which has drastically changed participatory frameworks for mediated communicative events of this sort, a minimal discursive unit of analysis and interpretation should include, in addition to the text and ac­companying modalities (the discourse of the original video), comments made by other users (collaborative discourse). When seen more through the Foucauldian lens, the discourse of the video is analyzed as a discursive and generic hybrid invoking several social practices associat­ed with consumer culture, which can (to a certain extent) be shown to have (pre)defined the contents, the language and possible interpretations by the tentative addressee.


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