Discourse vs. conversations

I had the chance to re-read Elmine Wijnias text »Understanding weblogs: a communicative perspective« where she applies Habermas’ theory of communicative action to weblogs. I agree with the conclusions of Wijnias’ text at large.

But then I stumbled across a dispute of a claim of me that I totally overlooked the first time. Elmine disqualifies my argument (made here) that generally »discourse« is not media-specific. Wijnias wrote:

Does the weblog serve as an ideal speech situation?
Wrede (2003) is not right when postulating that discourse can only take place across different media, by which Wrede primarily thinks of traditional media. Especially the high access capacity of weblogs is a large gain compared to traditional media like television and newspapers. Communication through these media is largely determined by a small group of people, television producers and journalists, and not accessible to others. Weblogs open up the opportunity for discourse to all.

I said here: »The common format to discuss online is a forum with topics, replies and threads. But discussion is not “discourse”. The latter is usually spread over several media (books, articles, TV, magazines), many interest groups, spanned over many years or decades and often is not even expressed verbally.«

I don’t really see what makes my argument wrong. My understanding of discourse is that it is defined by its omnipresence and transgressing nature. So there is no point in trying to claim the opposite. In other words: if it is constrained to one medium it is likely not a discourse – it may be a discussion or debate. My paper »Weblogs and discourse« therefore does reflect the speech act theory only to claim that weblog writing may include a very broad subtext and that we may think about hinting that subtext to the reader to improve the relevance of weblogs for the discourse. It is like we may be able to learn to use manual, facial and verbal gestures to enhance our speech.






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