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Three discursive predicaments I wish there were terms for

These are points I feel I reach relatively frequently, as identifiable discursive predicaments lead discussions between people who might otherwise agree to instead break down:

  1. Agreement with an argument in principle but concern about the practical implications of that agreement. For example if a particular issue has suddenly become prominent in public debate, it will inevitably be argued that there are other issues worthy of attention or other facets of the issue in question that might be rendered invisible by the currently dominant framing. This is a problem if, for instance, there are others seeking to suppress the issue which is now visible and recognising the current framing as lacking comprehensiveness might inadvertently strengthen the case of those seeking to engage in this suppression.
  2. Agreement with a argument in principle but concern about the context within which it is being made. There might be a critique of a current state of affairs which is persuasive on its own terms, while nonetheless being liable to lead to action which will bring about less desirable outcomes than the original state of affairs. The context qualifies the agreement with the argument but it is still agreement, at least in principle.
  3. Regarding an argument as intrinsically prone to overstatement, while nonetheless accepting a kernel of truth at its core. The argument is usually made in a hyperbolic way, often for self-interested reasons but one of the things that explains this repetition is the fact there is a degree of accuracy to it in at least some contexts.

These discursive predicaments can often be negotiated in face-to-face communication, with initial misunderstanding giving way to an appreciation of the subtle forks in the road which prevent unqualified agreement. However this is much less likely to happen on social media. Would have terms to describe these discursive predicaments contribute to a marginal increase in the likelihood that the conversation would continue?

Categories: Digital Sociology Digital Universities Social Media for Academics

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Mark

2 replies

  1. I have recently been thinking along the same lines. We could well use a set of terms of even a map for such “predicaments”.

    Regarding discourse “predicaments” (I like the term) — I was thinking they could be regarded as a kind of flaw for communication logic, analogous to the popular idea of “fallacies” in argumentation. The problem is that argumentation logic is traditionally aimed at “winning” and thus terminating the “debate” rather than at continuing it. So your concern is out-of-paradigm (there’s a term) for typical discourses, especially the ones that have some accompanying theory and terminology deployed for strategic use.

    The following is a question I posed on the Quora site — I use it mainly for question-posing, which is a little outside its intended scope as a community question-answering or crowd sourced knowledge retrieval capability.

    https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-common-flaws-in-the-logic-of-communication-that-are-analogous-to-cognitive-bias-and-logical-fallacies-in-rhetoric-Are-there-terms-that-classify-such-flaws

    Apropos of the question you just posed, here is a new one I added:

    https://www.quora.com/unanswered/What-are-some-common-ways-that-discourses-break-down-when-they-could-otherwise-continue-and-be-useful-Are-there-terms-for-these-events

  2. This is really interesting, thanks! Also reassuring to realise it’s not just me thinking like this. Will read the links and write a follow up post 🙂

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