Tracing Networks of Discourse

Tracing Networks of Discourse

Jason Swarts, North Carolina State University

Our reliance on mobile, networking technologies means that we can no longer expect writing and discourse to be traditionally situated in stable settings of use among groups of people with reliably understandable motives. Increasingly, we use information in polycontextual settings, distributed across people, spaces, times, and activities, where coherent and focused use is an accomplishment of coordinated effort.

This workshop will help participants analyze discursive activity in networked settings through the data analytic technique of  “tracing,” a concept that borrows theoretically from Actor Network Theory and methodologically from Discourse Analysis.  Tracing entails identifying actors and tracking them to see how they interrelate and intermediate in the emergent technological context of some discursive action, often mobile.

Workshop participants will be led through a process of analyzing data using systematic techniques of discourse analysis, tailored to fit theoretical assumptions derived from Actor Network Theory and associated qualitative practices of network analysis.  Specifically, we will learn how to:

·      determine the motive and exigence of networked activity,

·      observe changes in a discursive object,

·      track its use and transformation through stable and ad hoc networks, and

·      recognize the constructive roles of discourse and technology in forming networked rhetorical situations.

Participants will learn how to formulate analytic questions and code data with the aim of uncovering meaningful quantitative patterns that can support a qualitative network analysis connecting to concepts from Actor Network Theory. We will work together through sample data (API data and structured interviews) and then participants will be encouraged to work through their own data or additional sample data.

Prior to the workshop, participants will be asked to read 2-3 articles to establish an understanding of key theoretical concepts from Actor Network Theory. Participants will, ideally, have research projects in process and possibly data of their own to bring for analysis. Laptops loaded with Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or some other spreadsheet program are required.


You can find the complete call for participation in the ATTW 2012 Research Methods Workshops at:

Workshop Call:

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