TEXTUALITY AS A MEAN OF JUSTIFICATION FOR ALTERNATIVE REALITIES

Sona Nahapetyan

sona.nahapetyan@gmail.com

I. Introduction

When dealing with the information from online sources the main statements that we come across is that they do not correspond the reality. This is being proved by the content analysis and various comparison studies. But there’s one point, which is not being considered, and that’s the reason why people are tend to believe the online sources. According to Berger and Luckmann mass media do not reflect the world in any empirical sense, but instead help construct and maintain it by re-presenting particular meanings and understandings of “reality”[1].

The main assumption of this paper is that the “alternative reality”, which is constructed by the media is being justified in a manner to make people believe in their possible existence.

II. Peculiarities of Texts

The media content takes elements of culture, magnifies them, frames them and feeds them back to an audience, thus, “imposing their logic in creating a symbolic environment.” In their analysis of the role of the media in the understanding of reality, the authors used Lippmann’s concept of stereotypes to emphasize the important distinction between “reality” and “social reality”—that is, as Lippmann termed it “the world outside” of actual events and our mediated knowledge of those events.[2]

While there are various means of naturalizing their own perspective, including language, images and sounds, the main emphasis in the paper will be devoted to the language. Here the media consciously and unconsciously (which might be a topic for another research) creates a new scheme of categorization, which is capable of replacing the existing one. Here the categories correspond to the larger context applicable to their perspective, while each of the categories is thoroughly justified in all forms of linguistic possibilities both according to the qualitative and quantitative dimensions.

Textuality

To explore the situation with media texts, the concept of textuality is being used. This is a basic socio-linguistic concept, which is frequently used in text linguistic, which is a branch of linguistics which deals with texts as communication systems.. As cited in Oxford dictionary “textuality is strict adherence to a text; textualism.

Textuality is determined according to seven standards, which are cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativity , situationality and intertextuality[3]. For this paper the standards serve as tools for  the analysis of the data.

 

III. The main findings of the research

The research is based upon data (articles) about incidents in army gathered during September 2010- Septermber 2012. The sampling is based upon the popularity of the electronic media according to the statistical website www.circle.am: top 20 most popular websites have been included in the research.

The texts have been analyzed according to the 7 seven standards. The findings are the following:

Cohesion: This concerns the way in which the components of the surface text, i.e. the written words are interconnected into a specific sequence. The dimensions of this standard used in the analysis are the “full and partial reoccurrence of the words” and “parallelism of the words and tenses”.

The words used in the army-related text can be gathered in three main groups: “dominance”, “atmosphere” and  “situation ”group. In the first group you will find mainly words proving the context of dominance relationship in the army “uncontrolled dominance”, “Non-real subordinate dominance”, “poor soldier” and “poor children”.

A special attention here should be drawn to the term “poor children”, as in our culture children are described in two basic characteristics- they do need care and they are not responsible for their actions, while the adults are. This creates and justifies an entirely new image of army top-level officers-soldier relationship, as the commanders should be soft with the soldiers, and they should not punish in cases of disobedience. Both of these approaches create latent conflicts as soldiers assuming to get such attention come across the situation of strict rules and communication based upon direct multi-level dominance.

The atmosphere in the army is described with the following terms: “atmosphere of unpunishment”, “no cases of punishment” and “lawlessness”. All of these terms are used to describe the absence of law-based actions in the army. And though there are various cases where the participants of the incidents are punished, those are not even largely covered by the media, while the questionable cases are not only covered by the media, but are frequently seen as the main media event. As for the third group, here we have a total reconstruction of the real event. The words and phrases of  “in the conditions of peace”, “peace situation”, “cases of violence in peace conditions”  misrepresent the context of the army. The reality is that Armenia is currently involved in latent conflict with neighboring state, thus the incidents occurred in the army should be described with the term “non-combat incidents”.

As for the parallelism, we have an interesting case. Pushing the questionable cases the electronic media gives an impression that the time change doesn’t effect the situation, allowing to have a parallel of past and present and identifying them as the same.

Coherence.  This concerns the ways in which the components of the text, i.e. the configuration of concepts and relations which underlie the surface text are mutually accessible and relevant. Here we are dealing with the concepts put forward in the text. When talking about the army the basic concepts are “security and insecurity”, “disciplined-undisciplined”, “responsibility-irresponsibility”, while in media texts those are replaced with “war-peace”, “dominance and subordination” , “punishment-award” concepts, while in almost 89% of cases tending towards the negative pole. In any case the three concepts are mutually correlated and determine the context of the army service as a risky one.

Intentionality. This term is concerning the text producer’s attitude that the set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text in fulfilling the producer’s intentions. Here three basic tricks are used. Quality- the army incident texts are rather large, they tend to have large number of words, which give a sense of more reliability (the journalist knows so much about the case), Relation- the media is using similar terms, which means a reader seeking for an alternative comes across similarly justified text. And finally, the Manner - statements made in the articles are short and do not give a chance for the reader to argue them as they do not have enough data.

Acceptability. This is concerning the text receiver’s attitude that the set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text having some use or relevance for the receiver. This is rather unique standard. Derriving the information from the intentionality manner, we get the following situation: short statement-assumptions are given as taken-for-granted ideas, then they are followed by sentences, where the context is already created upon that same assumption, e.g. There is an atmosphere of unpunishment in the army. In such a situation it is not surprising that the case of  X X is not yet solved.

Similar sentences do not allow the reader to have enough time and data to argue that the first statement might be false one.

Informativity. This term concerns the extent to which the occurrences of the presented text are expected vs. unexpected or known vs. unknown/certain. In army cases the incidents are involving two certain actors, which are commanding staff/officers and soldiers. Even in the cases, where there are only privates involved in the incidents the commanders are still considered to be one of the accused actors, while the official statement first sees the incident actors as unknown before the charging of the accused. The reason for this is described to be their responsibility to keep order. The circumstances of the incidents are always described to be unknown and mostly differing from the official “certain” statements. Thus when adding artificial certainty to the actors of the conflicts, the media tends to remove the certainty of the situation proved by the officials.

Situationality. This term concerns the factors which make a text relevant to a situation of occurrence. To make the situations seem to be realistic timing dimension is being added. The abovementioned cases are being described in parallel the following words: “regular”, “continuous” and “sequential”. The most common of them is “sequential”. This term has two distinguishing characteristics. Firstly it shows that the situation is continuous and it’s not unique (this is why in some unique cases are mistakenly identified with earlier cases)  and then it assumes a specific timing of frequency, thus people expect to have another similar cases in close future.

Intertextuality. This concerns the factors which make the utilization of one text dependent upon knowledge of one or more previously encountered texts. And finally the texts in different media are using similar terms, similar description due not only to copying the texts, but also for not having unique newsmaking capabilities (lack of professional journalists, lack of material and human resources and etc.).

 

 IV. Conclusion

The research shows that media does not only create a certain reality of the events, but also justifies them pushing up their perspective with the help of supporting categories. And all of this is being done with the help of  the textual content, as the videos and images do not serve as main tools. The constructed reality is using alternative categories, which are well-described, adopted to the perception level and have a chance of existence.



[1] Berger P., Luckmann  N.“The Construction of Reality”, London, 1967

[2] Shoemaker, P.J, Reese S.Dl “Mediating the message”, Second Edition, White Plains, NY, 1996, p. 60

[3] De Beaugrande, R., & Dressler, W. U. (1981) Introduction to text linguistics / Robert-Alain De Beaugrande, Wolfgang Ulrich Dressler. London ; New York : Longman, 1981

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