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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

(Con)text 

Political speeches, presentations, ritual invocations, announcements, radio broadcast and so on are closed one-to-many forms of communication in which interaction is constrained through the ways in which the speaker occupies a position of power in relation to the audience. Often enough, although not exclusively, their textual power is achieved through appropriation of the linguistic structures of writing and in fact part of the process of their production may involve the use of scripts, notes, prompts, the inclusion of quotation from written sources, or the memorisation of sacred texts. Casual conversation,with its diversions, its vagueness, hesitation and the prevailing condition of incompleteness is tinctured by provisionality and is in contrast more open, more democratic and more context-dependent. These contrasts, however, are extremes on a continuum and perhaps, because of this, the in-between ground is as interesting as the extremes. We often use the context dependent/independent continuum as a way of differentiating between texts, but really we have to accept that text must always have a context. Perhaps it's more a case of foreground and background. In much of the casual traffic of texts it almost seems as if the text (by which I mean, in this case, the linguistic element) is an elaborating detail that surrounds the action. When we're fixing something perhaps, we are involved in action and that's foregrounded. The linguistic detail attaches to that. In other instances - reading a novel or writing a paper, it seems that we work the other way round. The linguistic content is central and reference moves both within the text as well as to the world, real or imagined, that is outside it. It can be no different with digital text, except that it may be the case that there is more possibility for extra-linguistic material to become part of the situation. Perhaps, by moving away from a text-centric way of looking at things we are simply becoming more interested in action, activity and relationship, and maybe they are the underplayed dimensions of communication.

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