Home > Alessandro Duranti, metodoloogia, teadus > Alessandro Duranti “On Theories and Models”

Alessandro Duranti “On Theories and Models”

Duranti, Alessandro 2005. On Theories and Models. – Discourse Studies, Vol 7(4-5): 409-429

The first thesis I proposed is called ‘the primacy of interaction’, that is, the idea that interaction is the presupposed ingredient and product of any human affair. In other words, we need interaction to be who we are and, in turn, our ways of being produce further interaction. […] Speakers are constantly evaluating their about-to-be-uttered words vis-à-vis their about-to-be-addressed audience. The audience is always part of the message even before it does anything (and it always does do something). (411)

[…] an important question to address in this context is whether we can distinguish between interaction and communication at all, regardless of how they have been defined in the past. (412)

General criteria should be identified to assess not only whether a given description is valid (as opposed to misleading or mystifying) but also whether it is better than other possible descriptions. Such evaluative criteria may include: (1) the ability of a given description to provide a characterization of the phenomenon in question so that we can easily differentiate it from others, whether or not intuitively similar, phenomena; (2) the capacity of an analysis to offer generalizations; and (3) the potential to offer a measure of comparison of phenomena that appear different but turn out to be the same or appear the same but turn out to be different. (416)

the centrality of interaction presupposes an interest in the kind of ‘work’ that interaction gets done or that is done through interaction. Crucial in this endeavor is the dimension of temporality. We do not just ask ‘why this feature/expression/act/turn/exchange/activity etc.?’ but ‘why this feature/expression/act/turn/exchange/activity etc. now?’ (416)

Let us think of a theory as a set of propositions, preferences, and attitudes toward a particular set of phenomena or entities. We are thus always engaged in theorybuilding whenever we are concerned with the logic of our research, the paradigm-in-practice that we use, or, rather, that we must use in order to get to talk about anything (I am using ‘must’ here in both the epistemic and deontic sense). Hence theories include an epistemology, that is, what we think we can know and what we think we should be able to know. And theories also include an
implicit or explicit ontology, particular assumptions on the nature of the phenomena we are trying to understand and a set of associated practices (i.e. way of implementing those assumptions and, in turn, reinforcing them). (418)

Let us think of models as entities that are good to think-with. They are worth pursuing if they provide us with a conceptual apparatus that can be used to describe, and thus (better) understand or explain a given range of phenomena. Models are often thought of as representations but only in the very general sense of ‘standing in’ or ‘standing for’ the phenomena themselves or the logic of their functioning. (419)

One of the advantages of ‘models for’, like all metaphors, is that they have a life of their own which frees them from our own original assumptions. We can explore the model in ways that are more adventurous than the ways in which we can explore something that we control very tightly. One possible generalization here is that there might be a tendency for ‘models of ’ to be more constraining and closed areas of inquiry and a tendency for ‘models for’ to be more open-ended frames of inquiry. (421)

THESIS 1 OR THE PRIMACY OF INTERACTION
We believe that human action (from the lifting of a spoon in preparation for testing the content of a dish to the declaration of war) always involves some form of interaction and that therefore any model, theory, and method
aimed at explaining or simply describing what humans routinely do in the course of their everyday affairs must have some way to include ‘interaction’ as a dimension that needs to be referred to, theorized, and empirically reckoned with, e.g. ‘captured’ or ‘inscribed’ through some form of documentation […] (422)

THESIS 2 OR THE RECOGNITION OF THE HISTORICITY OF CURRENT TERMINOLOGY
‘Interaction’ has not had the same intensive critical scrutiny (outside of the criticism of ‘interactionism’ in sociology) perhaps because of its taken-for-granted or, alternatively, its underanalyzed status in past and current debates (including theoretical debates on contemporary socio-ethical-political issues). (422)

THESIS 3 OR THE PROBLEMATIC RELATION TO ESTABLISHED DISCIPLINES (E.G. PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY)
Any empirically founded study of human interaction must attend two needs: (1) the need to refer to or take into consideration human consciousness – which includes intentionality as well as human awareness and self-understanding – and (2) the need to avoid assuming a theoretical-methodological stance exclusively or even primarily founded on cognitive processes (assumed to be) lodged within the (individual) mind. (422-423)

THESIS 4 OR THE INEXTRICABLE LINK BETWEEN ANALYSIS AND DOCUMENTATION
We may have a commitment to a continuous updating of our documentary techniques depending on the type of
phenomena we want to capture (phenomena →technique) or a commitment to experiment with different techniques to see what kind of phenomena they can reveal (technique →phenomena). (423)

THESIS 5 OR THE COMMITMENT TO EXPLICIT UNITS OF ANALYSIS
We must first commit to making our units of analysis explicit and then to assess their potential for crosscontextual, cross-cultural, cross-linguistic analysis. (423)

THESIS 6 OR THE NEED FOR EXPLICIT EVALUATIVE PRINCIPLES
Among students interested in an interactional approach, there is a recurrent call for clear statements regarding the criteria for the acceptance or rejection of a given analysis. For example, we need to say what constitutes evidence for asserting that feature f does a or is used to accomplish a. (423)

THESIS 7 OR THE REFLEXIVITY OF INTERACTION
Reflexivity transfers the omnipresent political and ethical dimensions of human affairs to the context of researchers’ choices. (424)

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