Fisher, K. (1997) 'Locating
Frames in the Discursive Universe'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/2/3/4.html>
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Received: 16/1/97 Accepted: 9/7/97 Published: 30/9/97
115 Saving jobs is more important than any abstract principles involved.
116 Opponents of government aid are kicking a victim when he's down.
117 Opponents of government aid are antibusiness obstructionists (1992: p. 220).
Far from reflecting either behaviour or the social structure, a representation often conditions and even responds to them. This is so, not because it has a collective origin, or because it refers to a collective object, but because, as such, being shared by all and strengthened by tradition, it constitutes a social reality sui generis. The more its origin is forgotten, and its conventional nature ignored, the more fossilised it becomes' (Moscovici, 1984: 13).
Is President Clinton planning to lift the ban on gays in the military because of a genuine commitment to a campaign promise, or is he just creating a smoke screen to hide his failure to introduce an economic plan? Where are your priorities, Mr. President? As your campaign slogan put it, 'It's the economy, stupid!' (Sakach, 1993).
|Where are your priorities||(strong select)|
|to introduce an economic plan||(strong select)|
|Mr. President||(strong select)|
|It's the economy stupid||(strong select)|
|a smoke screen to hide||(weak select)|
|his failure||(weak select)|
|As your campaign slogan put it||(weak select)|
|to a campaign promise||(weak select)|
|President Clinton||(weak select)|
|a genuine commitment||(weak delete)|
|Is planning because of||(weak delete)|
|or is he just creating||(weak delete)|
|to lift the ban||(weak delete)|
|on gays||(strong delete)|
|in the military||(strong delete)|
as examples of typical frames or scripts that define the stereotypical knowledge of language users. Such a frame would then consist of the major categories and formation rules of the superstructural schemata. We have, however, some doubts about this frame-like nature of superstructures. Not only are they very much different from the `real-life' examples for frames, such as `eating in a restaurant' or `going to the movies,' but also they may be much more implicit than the traditional knowledge about social episodes (van Dijk, 1980: p. 131).
It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980: p. 4).
Where the state enshrines 'rights' as the crucial legal claim that trumps all others, both individuals and social movements will conceive of the claims they make as 'rights'. And where legal claims are tied to group identities, as they long have been for American Indians and increasingly have become for women, the disabled, and members of many ethnic and racial groups, identity becomes a central focus for social movements' (Swidler, 1995: p. 37).
Some Institutions/Tasks Are Not For Everybody|
Everyone Deserves an Equal Chance
Women/Gays Are Important Actors in Society
Militarism Harms Society
2 Snow and Benford outline ways of framing grievances which inhibit collective. They warn that movements should not frame a problem as hopeless, or as resolvable by advanced technology or another force over which most members of the public have no control. Additionally, they caution against framing a problem in a manner which leaves the action people might take unclear (Snow and Benford, 1988: pp. 203 - 4).
3 People must be able to identify a concrete target for their anger to develop an injustice frame. Nevertheless, people need not 'correctly' identify the cause of the problem to perceive it through the lens of injustice. As long as people can focus on a target, whether or not their anger is misplaced, they can develop an injustice frame (Gamson 1995: p. 91; Snow et al, 1986: p. 474).
4 Gamson stresses that 'this message comes through more equivocally on some issues than on others' (Gamson, 1995: p. 97).
5 In reviewing the literature on the psychology of language, Harley rejects the Chomskian notion that language and cognition function separately, the Piaget theory that language development depends on a person's passage through stages of cognitive development, and strong (but not all weak) versions of the Sapir-Worph hypothesis that language structures thought (Harley, 1995: see Chapter Ten in particular).
6 Van Dijk notes a special case of texts or texts fragments in which microstructures and macrostructures coincide, such as the command 'go home'. Van Dijk contends that such cases operate according to a 'zero rule', that is, the selection and deletion process does not operate as the whole message is selected as indicating the macrostructure.
7 Swidler attributes the term 'tool kit' to Hannerz (1969).
8 Cultural frames could also be said to resemble myths, depending on how one defines the latter concept. Roland Barthes defines a myth as follows:
It can be seen that to purport to discriminate among mythical objects according to their substance would be entirely illusory: since myth is a type of speech, everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse. Myth is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utters this message: there are formal limits to myth, there are no `substantial' ones. Everything, then, can be a myth? Yes, I believe this, for the universe is infinitely fertile in suggestions (Barthes, 1972 translation: p. 109).
Barthes definition of myth differs from cultural frames in two respects. First, myth, for Barthes, centres around a specific, or at least partially specific object, person, or event (the properties of milk, the face of Garbo, the world of wrestling, or Romans in films). While myth, as a form of discourse, 'is not defined by the object of its message', some specific object nevertheless serves as the focus of any particular myth. While one type of cultural frame, the object analogy frame, entails a comparison between one thing and another, cultural frames do not necessarily revolve around discussion of a specific object, person or event ('no gain without cost', 'everyone deserves an equal chance'). Object analogy frames function metaphorically, while Barthes does define metaphor as a necessary part of myths. Secondly, the myths which Barthes describes have limited application to other objects, persons or events outside the myth story. People use cultural frames, on the other hand, to understand new information which they have not previously encountered, as well as to make sense of things with which they are already familiar. Barthe's understanding of myth, however, does share common properties with cultural frames. Barthes argues that everything, potentially, 'can be a myth' as 'the universe is infinitely fertile in suggestions'. I see no reason to reject the possibility that any concept or object could be included in a frame. Likewise, cultural frames, like myths, are 'a type of speech' (as Barthes defines this term) which 'is conveyed by a discourse'.
9 I deliberately leave the term philosophical perspective unspecified. While most readers would likely presume that this position could be identified as a pacifist philosophy, some recent anti-militarist writings from people such as Cynthia Enloe and Nira Yuval-Davis question the legitimacy of the binary opposition of peace and war implicit in the concept of pacifism.
10 Scholars representing a wide range of perspectives have discussed the ability of exceptional individuals to significantly transform societies. Weber ascribed such power to charismatic political leaders, while Trotsky contended that the Russian Revolution could not have occurred without Lenin, even if no other participant in that revolution had been indispensable.
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