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,
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.
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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