Drivers of change: investigating routine and emergence in newswriting

Tuesday 3rd December 2013 (12:00-14:00)
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  • English Language research seminar series: The sociolinguistics of writing

Speaker: Daniel Perrin, Zurich University of Applied Sciences

Venue: To be confirmed

Linguistics first considered written language, later focused on conver¬sations as processes, and only then rediscover¬ed written language from a process perspective. Whereas psycholinguistic research on writing focuses on key logging and eye tracking to analyze micro processes, such as planning, between linguistic units in experimental settings, sociolinguis¬tics and applied linguistics relate writing practices in the field to social macrostructures and problems such as social diversity and change. In doing so, they understand microdevelopment as a methodologically accessible activity that stands for similar, but less accessible developments on higher levels and timescales.

In my presentation, I discuss the epistemological and methodological potential of research frameworks in “real-life” writing research, focusing on newswriting as a field of application (Perrin, 2013). After a short overview of three more traditional research frame¬works in the research on newswriting, I focus on combining Realist Social Theory (RST) with Dynamic Systems Theory (DST). I argue that combinding RST with DST fosters approach¬es appropriate to the complexity of writing in multi-layered real-world contexts. On the one hand, the framework provides conceptual metaphors needed to understand why and how it makes sense to systematically analyze a world in which everything is connected. On the other hand, it enables researchers to develop empirically grounded models of processes at the edge of chaos – processes such as dealing with time pressure, poor quality pictures and emergent ideas when routinely writing a piece of news.

I will refer throughout to a multilingual newswriting process by an experienced journalist about demonstrations in Lebanon, as a case of such real-world writing. On an empirical level, I exploit data from this Lebanon case to show that changing a single word in an emerging news text can mean overcoming routines by reframing both the writing process and the text product. On a theoretical level, I draw on the Lebanon case to explain how and why RST and DST help researchers conceptualize and model the complexity of newswriting.

Perrin, D. (2013). The linguistics of newswriting. Amsterdam, New York et al.: John Benjamins.