Potter, J. (2012). Discourse analysis and discursive psychology. In Cooper, H. (Editor-in-Chief). APA handbook of research methods in psychology: Vol. 2. Quantitative, qualitative, neuropsychological, and biological (pp. 111-130). Washington: American Psychological Association Press.Potter (2012b)
Edwards, D. (2012). Discursive and scientific psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology 51, 425-435.
Wiggins, S., Potter, J. & Wildsmith, A. (2001). Eating your words: Discursive psychology and the reconstruction of eating practices. Journal of Health Psychology 6(5), 5- 15.
I’m picking up on an insistence that discourse analysis (DA) is real. It is naturalistic. It is not staged (p. 1). We can find the stuff of life in discourse analysis. Having just read DC Phillips’ (1996) article on metaphors and circularity, I am looking for the ways or ideas that Potter puts forth that indicate his preference for discourse analysis as a method. “Discourse is the fundamental medium for human interaction” (p.4). Another place I’ve seen fundamental in the past is physics. I majored in physics in college and we always said that physics was fundamental. We did this to feel elite. I don’t feel so much an elitism as a kind of explanation that this discourse analysis stuff is “fruitful” (p. 5).
He points out three strands: 1. The critical strand: this looked at ideology and power relations through interviews and “repertoires.” The thing about scientists is particularly interesting to me since I’ve seen some mention of the sociology of science in some of the literature I looked at this spring. 2. It seems like this strand is where the natural setting is more important. Instead of looking at interviews, folks looked at newspapers and I guess recorded conversations for better ways to understand social construction of knowledge a la Berger and Luckmann and/or some concepts from cognitive psychology. It’s not super clear to me. 3. Not very distinct—deeper conversation analysis, I guess reliant on the Jeffersonian transcription? Here he uses words like nuance and sophisticated. Maybe a bit editorial?
Next we get the 4 key characteristics. 1. Discourse is action-oriented. I guess he’s saying discursive psychology (DP) doesn’t try to see what’s in people’s heads through language, but look at language itself cuz it’s indicative of what’s happening? Discourse is the primary medium for action, he says. I think action is the primary medium for action. Not discourse. Discourse is a kind of action, I think, but, for example, running is action. Talking about it is another kind of action that isn’t nearly as active. 2. Discourse is situated. I like this one. Context matters. Not just in time and place, but also rhetorically. I like the distinctions he makes here. 3. It’s constructed and constructive. I like this too. Reminds me of Wittgenstein’s quote that language is not just the vehicle of thought it is the driver. 4. Discourse is psychological. I don’t really see much depth to this point. Saying it’s psychological isn’t saying much. I understand the point about legitimate and illegitimate but are there other examples?
And now the 7 stages of a study. Straight forward and unexciting until we get to transcription. Although I have done a little going back and forth from transcriptions to original recordings, usually I’m pretty content with what I have transcribed. Also the whole Jeffersonian thing is totally overwhelming. Time is not on my side. I would definitely hire that out if I was doing a DA study. I was also surprised that developing questions starts at stage 5, but I like it, since it’s based on the idea of emergence. How can you know what you’ll ask until you know a little of what you found? I imagine this makes for a lot of Form Ds with IRBs, however. The analysis of the crying is so detailed it turns me off. This kind of atomization seems to make the same kind of assumptions Potter criticizes earlier in the article. Saying that where the apologies occur in sequence tells you they mean one thing instead of another seems terribly presumptuous. But maybe I’m not seeing something. It reminds me of being turned off of geology when I saw my friend analyzing tiny layers of mud for his senior thesis when I was a freshman in college. I like the second example better. It seems less presumptuous and more born out by the sample of dialogue they include.
I like his overall summation at the end and his criticism of mainstream psychology. The hypothetico-deductive model is a sham. And I like that DA is almost completely emergent.
Edwards is rounding out what DP is. His main focus so far seems to be that psychology was trying to replace common-sense notions with science. But DP looks at how people use the common sense notions to live their lives. Also in the beginning he’s saying it didn’t start out with any intention to critique mainstream psychology, but after a string of insults, it was necessary to define what they were doing as a different kind of contribution. I enjoyed the section on the interpretive gap, mainly because of the kind of example they pulled from the psychology text about complaints. It doesn’t seem necessary to bring psycholinguistics to bear on the passage, there is a common language being spoken. But one problem I see with DP/DA, and really all attempts at scientific enterprise, is that people don’t always mean what they say. They’ll say things for no reason, what they say won’t line up with any intention or thought, it just happens. That is, coincidence is much more prevalent than academics are willing to admit. (But here I am getting a PhD.) I also enjoy the Mars analogy. His claim that conversation analysis shows that Chomsky is wrong is like saying it’s in the bible.
Wiggins et al.
As I read the abstract I’m trying to figure out which strand (Potter) of DP this research lies in. It seems to be a bit of strand 1 and 2? The point made in the first section about food being constructed differently is interesting, but it kind of makes me think about some of the criticisms of DP. So what if it’s constructed differently? Does it really call into question all the surveys that pre-define food in one category? Do we really learn nothing from experimental studies on food? I can agree that their argument shows weaknesses of experimental psych, but the examples they present do seem quaint, common sensical, and make me say so what?
What we get in the second part, however, seems far from quaint and I, as a future father, can immediately see the value in the transcript because I can relate to it. Kids can exercise a kind of power by saying they’re full. Parents can complain, but they can’t really force food down their throat. In a way, kids can exert some kind of power by refusing to eat. Very interesting to me. But here I see the utility of the lab: asking random people about when they are full, yes, obscures how fullness can be used differently, but possibly gets around family dynamics.
That was a good example, a nice little taste of DP/DA at work. :)