Discourse and Theosophy, by George McNamara

3. Context Analysis

Imagine a politician who spends the day debating new farming regulations in Parliament. She calls into the supermarket for some groceries on the way home, and then goes to a restaurant for a meal later. The politician will have approached food in 3 entirely different ways -

at work as a matter for regulation,
in the supermarket in terms of price and attractiveness,
and in the restaurant in terms of service and sophistication.

These three different contexts have involved the same food - the potatoes in the shopping basket are the same as the potatoes on the plate in the restaurant, and the same potatoes in the regulations. The same potatoes are evaluated in different ways, and different discourses are used about them in the different contexts.

Another approach is that a person takes on different roles (or sub-personalities) regarding food: e.g. as historian, investor, politician, consumer, gardener, etc.

  • A historian would look at how food and food production has developed (or remember previous decades of their personal history).
  • An investor would look at the investment potential of companies in the food sector.
  • A politician may look at campaigns, trends and public opinion
  • A consumer might approach food in terms of price, or health, or as a gourmet.
  • A farmer or gardener would see the work involved in growing crops, and consider the dangers of pests and diseases

We step in and out of these roles during the day, and collectively, we step into similar roles as members of organisations, lobbies and businesses, for example, these corporate entities look at their "markets" and "operations", differently to the way individuals do. We subordinate ourselves to the organisation, and think on its behalf.
The way we are affected by contexts is well worth studying - sometimes they condition us in ways that are a problem - we become 'programmed' by circumstances and by repetition in the media

I have developed a Context Survey technique can be used for any topic of interest. The web pages include an overview of recent developments in food production, web pages from different organisations, which together form a "map" of the food sector, drawing all their different perspectives into one system of "the field and the players". This can be examined for patterns and further information. HERE is a direct link to the start page of the survey

Context analysis is the key to using my other techniques - without a rigorous examination of the context, it is easy to fall into a "for - against" discourse about any topic. Examination of the context helps us to shift from this to a more inclusive overview.

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