Archive

Defining the movement

Defining Occupy Wall Street: How the Wall Street Journal and Activist Blogs Define The Movement as Legitimate

Group 9: Alexa Fiander, Caitlin Rindal, Christine Moloney, and Somin Bach


Introduction

The media can play a pivotal role in the development of social movements and reforms.  Studying the ways in which different media sources talk about the legitimacy of the Occupy Wall Street Movement (The Movement)provides an interesting lens into how opposing media platforms portray the movement and influence readers.  Specifically, our group compared how the Wall Street Journal, a traditional media source, and 99% activist blogs defined The Movement’s legitimacy.  The comparison between traditional and nontraditional media sources allowed us to analyze discrepancies found in the reporting and portrayal of Occupy Wall Street in relation to legitimacy.  Because the general public is primarily exposed to traditional media sources, any discrepancies found between our discourse genres can have powerful implications about the public’s knowledge and understanding of The Movement.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and activist blogs differed significantly in their portrayal and representation of Occupy Wall Street as a legitimate movement.  Specifically, the WSJ de-legitimized The Movement by depicting protesters as criminals, favoring quotes from non-protesters, and by establishing The Movement as disorganized and leaderless. Contrary to our traditional media source of study, we found that activist blogs used similar discourse strategies as the WSJ; however, they were used in a way to legitimize The Movement and the protesters’ actions.

Our research paper will analyze each pattern noted above using two specific Discourse Analysis methods.  We will begin by discussing Discourse Analysis as whole as well as the methods we selected for the project.  We will then move into the examination of our three patterns chosen, providing examples and analysis for each.


Methods:

The practice of language construction gives meaning to specific events, circumstances, things, or people (Wodak and Meyer, 2009).  Language use is highly intertwined with identity construction, as one develops and defines whom they are based on certain interactions, symbols and value systems that are often shaped by discourse (Gee, 2005).  The construction or use of discourse itself can provide interesting insight into inequalities, power stratification, or other deeper connotative meanings within the text.  In order to assess and evaluate texts, discourse analysts employ specific tools that facilitate critical analysis of discourse.

Specifically, discourse analysts draw from two broad approaches when evaluating data: Corpus Linguistics and Qualitative Coding (Gill, 2000). The first is generally considered to be more quantitative, as analysts draw on word frequencies, collocation table, concordance lines, etc., that often provide interesting insight into word choice, cotext, context, etc. (Sinclair, 1998). The second approach, qualitative coding, can be used to draw on patterned themes throughout a corpus to highlight interesting observations about how language is used.  Specific tools such as grammar, syntax, semantics, backgrounding, etc., are all examples of qualitative coding (Wodak and Meyer, 2009).

For the analysis of our project, we will employ both corpus linguistics and qualitative coding methods.  In regards to corpus linguistics, we will primarily focus on a lexical analytical strategy for studying word choice.  We will specifically use word frequencies and context as tools to analyze my corpus. These tools will reveal interesting insights into meaning construction, especially in regards to the association words can develop based on the context (Sinclair, 1998).  The second analytical strategy we will use is a qualitative coding method that evaluates the use of certain grammatical strategies that can be used to legitimize or de-legitimize certain people, institutions, and processes of ideas. This tool is highly useful for revealing stratified power relations (Fairclough, 2003).

Our group focused on two contrasting discourse genres: The Wall Street Journal for our traditional news media outlet and activist blogs including ThisBlogThis!, Gothamist, Political Machine, Act Now!, Down With Tyranny, Pacific Free Press, Barefoot and Progressive, and Jobsanger for our non-traditional media outlets.  We selected our articles based on their relevance to The Movement within the date range of September 1st to October 31st, 2011.  We chose our specific media outlets because they are news sources that appear to have a profound impact on their demographic’s view of the legitimacy of The Movement.  Comparing the discourse between our contrasting publications reveals much about the power structure in the United States and how those ideologies are reproduced through certain texts.

Analysis:

Pattern 1: Depiction of Crime/illegal behavior of protesters: WSJ focused heavily on arrests/criminal behavior of protesters. BLOGS: referred to the movement as peaceful, with very few arrests.

One way the WSJ authors reproduced images of The Movement being illegitimate was through the portrayal of protesters as criminals.  The authors frequently used language to refer to the activists’ social deviance and illegal behavior.  Even though many of the authors may not have been outwardly implying that the protesters were criminals, the word choice, specifically in regards to the lexical forms of ‘arrest,’ and ‘illegal’ were commonly used throughout the corpus.  We specifically used the corpus linguistic tools word frequencies and key word in context to evaluate the significance and meaning of the words ‘arrest’ and ‘illegal.’  First, our group noticed that the lexical forms of arrest (including arrested and arrests) occurred 53 times in the corpus.  The KWIC excerpts also revealed that the lemmas of arrest were generally referring to protesters and their socially deviant behaviors.  The second example that supports our pattern of WSJ portraying the protester’s behaviors as criminals is the use and frequency of the word ‘illegal.’  The word frequency table below shows that ‘illegal’ showed up 8 times in my corpus.  See below for word frequency/ KWIC tables for both ‘arrest’ and ‘illegal.’

On the contrary, blogs turned the story around by portraying protesters as victims of illegal police practices such as the infamous pepper spray incident or arresting activists without warrant. Unlike WSJ, the blogs did not have to imply negative descriptions but used the fact that it was unrestricted to fully criticize the police. When the blog posts were put through the collocation word analysis tool, the lexical forms of “arrest” and “protesters” were commonly juxtaposed together throughout the corpus. “Arrest,” and other lexical forms of “arrest” (see above), occurred 5 times in the corpus. The KWIC excerpts showed that protesters were arrested either wrongfully or in large numbers. This amplified the effect of “illegal” police behaviors towards protesters, especially when numbers (i.e. “dozens” “hundreds”) were added to emphasize how protesters were affected by this. Also, the KWIC excerpts revealed that police were enforcing “wrongful” arrests and civil rights violations.

Words take on meaning in relation to how they are used, their context, and the frequency of their use.  Word frequency lists and KWIC tables are especially important tools for providing a general picture of a text or selection of texts (Adolphs, 2006).  Therefore, in light of the Adolphs reading, the use and frequency of the word ‘arrest,’ ‘illegal,’ and ‘protesters’ give powerful revelations regarding the WSJ and blogs’ portrayal of what it means to be an Occupy Wall Street protester.  Significant usage of a word or similar words, especially if they are used in a consistent context, can greatly shape and affect the ways audiences understand a person, event, idea, etc. (Adophs, 2006).  Both the words ‘illegal’ and ‘arrest’ are commonly used in the WSJ corpus to reference the protesters’ criminal activity, creating a pattern of portraying activists as criminals, thus delegitimizing The Movement.  Furthermore, references of illegal/criminal activity were almost non-existent in the corpus for actors other than protesters, which enhanced the association of activists being synonymous or connected to criminals. Meanwhile, using words ‘arrest’ and ‘protesters’ together effectively helped portray protesters as victims of police force. Interesting references to history also created the effect of legitimizing the victimization of the protesters.


WSJ: Word Frequency for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Illegal’ (+lemmas)
Word: Count:
Arrest 3
Arrests 13
Arrested 15
Illegal 8
Blogs: Word Frequency for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Protester’ (+lemmas)
Word: Count:
Arrest 5
Arrests 18
Arrested 35
Protester 3
Protesters 104

WSJ: Selection of KWIC Examples for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Illegal’ (+lemmas)

Officers arrested 85 protestors over the weekend after they marched
Checked for outstanding arrest warrants then released
But also for resisting arrest, obstructing government administration and in one instance for assault of a police officer
Dozens of demonstrators who have vowed to “occupy” Wall Street were arrested Saturday on the seventh day of the social media-fueled protest
There were approximately 80 arrests Mainly for disorderly conduct


BLOGS: Selection of KWIC Examples for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Protester’ (+lemmas)
Accusations of wrongful arrest and civil rights violations
Over 1,000 protesters have been Arrested . I stand with the protesters…
Hundreds Arrested Across country
Largest mass Arrests In U.S. history
The event quickly turned into one of the largest arrests Of non-violent protesters in recent history.

Pattern 2: Quoting discrepancies

Not only did the WSJ lack quotes from protestors, but it also rarely gave adequate attribution or titles to those activists who were allowed to speak in the texts.  In contrast, however, non-protesters, who consequently often had opposing opinions to The Movement, were often given significant credit and background information before or after their quote.  This discrepancy between accreditation can have a great effect on how the readers view the legitimacy of a person, process, or idea.  One article from October 3rd, titled “Potluck Amid the Protest” reveals the contrasting representation for both protesters and non-protesters.

Non-protester: “ ‘You assemble a large mass and there is going to be some sort of party atmosphere,’ said Andrew Krucoff, a 40-year-old Internet entrepreneur who runs the website Young Manhattanite.  [He was] partaking in a potluck Shabbat dinner and toasting the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana at Zuccotti Park.  They sipped apple juice and ate challah, fruit, hummus and potato chips. There was even a brief prayer service.”

Protester: “The setting also attracted singles. ‘I’m here to protest the wars we’re in,’ said Yvonne Gougelet, a theater actress hanging out with the Shabbat crowd. ‘It’s a lot of work; we’re all educating one another. But I’m not going to lie: I’ve also been looking for a really hot guy with a beard to offer him a shower.’

In contrast to the WSJ articles, the activist blog articles had a greater amount of quotes from protesters than those from non-protesters.  In fact in the articles that were collected, there was just one quote from a non-protestor. When presenting those people giving the quotes, there was more detail about them and their backgrounds, especially those who held some position of authority than those of non-protesters. These differences can be seen in the September 18th article from Act Now! titled “#OccupyWallStreet: Searching for Hope in America” and in the September 17th article from Gothamist titled “Anonymous’s Occuptation Of Wall Street Begins At Noon,” respectively.

Protester: Matthew is a 40-year-old father of two who says he is attending the protest because he had no other recourse. “My home has been seized, I’m unemployed, there’s no job prospects on the horizon. I have two children and I don’t see a future for them. This is the only way I see to effect change,” he says.

Non-protester: Mayor Bloomberg told his eponymous news organization, “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it. As long as they do it where other people’s rights are respected, this is the place where people can speak their minds.”

The contrasting quotes above show the significant difference between the accreditation protesters and non-protesters receive when being quoted in both the WSJ and blogs.  Using the Discourse Analysis tool for Legitimation, it becomes obvious that the publications that we analyzed used specific grammatical relations to establish legitimacy for certain social actors, while delegitimizing others.

The first WSJ quote primarily used moral evaluation to give accreditation to Andrew Krucoff, the entrepreneur and active member of the Jewish community.  Moral evaluation refers to the authorization or legitimacy given based on moral values or association with a system of moral values, such as being a member of the Jewish community (Fairclough, 2003).  Krucoff was also given a rather lengthy background paragraph that portrayed him as intelligent and civilized member of society who “sipped on apple juice and ate challah […].” Gougelet’s quote, however, received a significantly less descriptive and detailed accreditation.  As a result, she lost credibility, and her statement appeared less legitimate.  According to the excerpt, Gougelet was a “theater actress hanging out with the Shabbat crowd.” The author could have easily added legitimacy to Gougelet’s statement by using authorization (tied to institutional status) or rationalization (tied to institutional practices) grammatical strategies, such as listing her education or known roles in plays (Fairclough, 2003). The WSJ often uses these specific grammatical strategies to legitimize or delegitimize certain social actors.

The quote from the blog Act Now! gives Matthew credibility by revealing his background information, as well as, his reasons for being active in The Movement. Although only having his first name cited lessens the power we see this protester having, the background information that we are given portrays him as credible because he has legitimate reasons for participating in The Movement. This can be attributed to the method of moral evaluation mentioned above. Protesters were given much more background information as to why the specifically joined in/supported The Movement. Mayor Bloomberg’s quote, for example, simply listed his name, and consequently his occupation, which depends solely on authorization by tying him to the governmental institution that he works for (Fairclough, 2003). This gives him credibility because of the power associated with government institutions making his statement legitimate. The lack of background information gives the impression that his statement appears less legitimate than those of protesters because readers are able to relate to them through that personal information.

By not giving protesters adequate or fair representation, the WSJ is significantly exacerbating stratified power relations between activists and non-activists, as legitimacy is not fairly allocated to both sides. Blogs give protesters adequate and fair representation while limiting the information given about non-protesters in order to allow readers to focus on the legitimacy of the movement. This creates a more equal allocation of legitimation to both sides, but is not perfect.


Pattern 3: Portrayal of the movement’s purpose

The third pattern observed throughout these articles about The Movement was the different portrayals of The Movement’s purpose. More specifically WSJ dismisses The Movement as disorganized and leaderless while the blogs attempts to surface the true purpose behind The Movement.  In our qualitative coding of the corpus, we observed over ten instances where the critiques of The Movement deemed it as leaderless and therefore illegitimate.  This clearly indicates the high level of intolerance for a group which clearly lacks the traditional form people are accustomed to in the United States.  As a result, WSJ is deeming this nontraditional structure as unacceptable and illegitimate.  Some examples of this particular code include describing The Movement as having “no clear-cut goals” and having “few signs demonstrators were coalescing around a set of demands.”  The protesters were merely “a leaderless, unpredictable group” with “no one [who] could offer me a coherent explanation of why they hated Wall Street.”  One article blatantly stated, “The Occupy Wall Street Movement needs to sit down, focus and come up with a list of demands that might conceivably be met.”  While the articles argued that the “huge numbers of confused and directionless young people” had “merely a vague idea to end injustice,” they “asked how long a leaderless movement could last.”  If the protesters’ “demands are free-floating, [and] hazy,” how can a solution be found?  If they don’t “seem to have a coherent or identifiable agenda,” how can they change the system?

All in all, WSJ has made their position on the subject very clear: a leaderless and illegitimate social movement will fail.  In our capitalist society, WSJ and other publications like it, maintain control of its subjects’ ideology through a hegemonic culture where certain values are seen as common sense and therefore create a culture of consensus where people only seek to maintain the status quo.  According to Peter Ives in Language and Hegemony in Gramsci, this idea of hegemony was outlined by Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist Antonio Gramsci (2004).  The hegemonic ideal is outlined by WSJ and the people follow it, accepting it as common sense.  In the field of Discourse Analysis texts are considered socially constitutive.  In other words, texts serve to organize society.  This implies that because WSJ is held in high regard by much of society, they in turn have the power to institute, establish, or enact their own agenda.  This power is manifested through WSJ articles, where their texts serve as a method to organize society.

Bloggers, on the other hand, portrayed The Movement with a specific purpose and focused on group collaboration rather than having a leader. All of the blog articles in the corpus referred to the reasons why the movement was occurring, which mainly pointed to issues with relations between wealth and power. In the thirty three excerpts identified during the open coding process that dealt with reasons behind the movement and therefore legitimate, all thirty three illustrated the negative effects of power being given to the wealthy: corporations in this case. The bloggers are clearly portraying that the movement is legitimate through the exposure of the power stratification between corporations and citizens as stated in one article that “what unites them all is the opposition to the principle that has come to dominate not only our economic lives but our entire lives: profit over and above all else”. Some examples of this include “the influence of big money in politics” and describing our current government as not by the people, for the people, but “a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. And it is killing this country.” Many power relations spoken of in the corpus followed the same theme of corporations influencing American politics through their wealth making their voices louder than those of citizens. This pattern is demonstrated through one article stating that “they didn’t just funnel more money and power to the corporations — they actually let corporate executives write all of the laws relating to the economy and economic regulations.”

Protesters have attempted to make it very clear what they are hoping will change with their actions. One article, in fact, actually lists several demands that they have included in the overall “one demand” statement which has been adopted as a general term rather than describing literally “one” demand. Through the recurring theme of wealth and power we can see that they are strongly related using the Discourse Analysis tool of semantic reversal: deriving the meaning of a word or idea from its cotext (Sinclair, 1998). Specifically, semantic preference shows that a trend towards collocation with words that are associated with negativity and power gives the same semantic features of those words to the words or ideas in question (Adolphs, 2006). The bloggers use this to show that the movement is legitimate through the negative effect and overuse of power by corporations. Their focus is on revealing that there is a significant separation in the power among corporations and citizens simply based on wealth, taking away citizens’ voices, which is the root of the problem in which the quality of life of Americans is deteriorating.

By condemning the protesters as leaderless criminals, WSJ produces the institutionalized power relations through its discourse; this is known as functionalist structuralism. By establishing the hegemonic ideologies through discourse and specifying the protesters as powerless and leaderless criminals, WSJ succeeds in delegitimizing The Movement in the eyes of its mainstream, traditional readers and therefore the majority of middle to upper class Americans. What readers may realize by reading the blog articles, though, is that they work to expose those power relations that the WSJ reinforces in their wording. Some even say that this difference in presentation is because it is “a problem that the corporate-owned mainstream media is not going to cover. They won’t cover it because they are owned and controlled by those same corporations, and they are part of the problem.”


Conclusion:

In conclusion, WSJ succeeded in de-legitimizing The Movement by establishing it as disorganized and leaderless while portraying protesters as criminals and failing to properly represent the protesters through their choice of quotations. In contrast, the blogs succeeded in legitimizing The Movement by portraying the activists as victims, properly representing the activists through quotations and by successfully communicating the purpose behind The Movement.  It is clear that there is a very strong distinction between the two genres of discourse.  In this paper, we used methods of corpus linguistics and qualitative coding to support our claim.

The findings support the idea that an established institution like WSJ uses its power and affluence to establish the hegemonic idea that The Movement is illegitimate. In a capitalist society, where society is ruled by corporations and large companies that oversee the vast majority of mainstream media, it is certainly easy for the majority of the public to be susceptible to their influence. It is difficult to imagine a world where major newspapers, like WSJ, are not controlled by the wealthy and affluent. If we lived in a society where the gaps between the classes weren’t so vast, where the rich just keep getting richer and the poor are just getting poorer, then maybe these hegemonic ideals would not be so strictly ingrained in our media.

On the other hand, the world seems to be changing.  The wealthy and the affluent are not the only people with a voice.  The concepts of blogging and social media sites give voices to those who made have never been heard otherwise.  Previously marginalized groups are realizing that if they speak, someone just might listen.  This is precisely what The Occupy Wall Street Movement proves.  Even though large mainstream media sources, like WSJ, continuously refuse to support a movement that completely condemns all that makes them a successful and important corporation in this capitalist society, there may come a time where all that ceases to matter and regular people like you and I create the hegemonic ideologies in our own society on our own terms.  Who will have the power to establish these ideologies?  Right now we are at a tipping point, but unfortunately we will certainly still see the powerful enforcement of hegemonic ideologies through the media for many years to come.  However, this may be a glimpse into a future with a world of change. The Occupy Wall Street Movement declares that we are not alone, we are not silent, and together we have a voice.

References:

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Meaning relations between sentences and clauses (pp. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Gee, James, P (2005). “An Introduction to Discourse Analysis Theory and Method.” Chapter 3: Tools of Inquiry and discourses (pp.20-23). London: Routledge.

Gill, Rosalind. “Discourse Analysis.” Chapter 10 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and      Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 172-190.

Ives, P. (2004). Language and Hegemony in Gramsci. London: Pluto Press.
Pustejovsky, James, Sabine Bergler, and Peter Anick. “Lexical Semantic Techniques for Corpus Analysis.” Computational Linguistics – Special Issue on Using Large Corpora: II 19.2 (1993): 331-58. The ACM Digital Library. Association for Computing Machinery. Web. 25 May 2012. <http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=972476&picked=formats&CFID=85122205&CFTOKEN=20224902&gt;.

Rose, G. (2007). Chapter 5: Semiology: “Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful.” Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (pp.74-106). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Sinclair, John. “The Lexical Item.” In Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Ed. Edda Weigand. Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : J. Benjamins, 1998. 1-24.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

Advertisements

Waging War against the Poor: Representing Wealth in Activist Blogs

Group 17: Jessica Heinmiller, Ali Ladoba, Eric Leung & Erika Samson

Photo By Gretchen Robinette

Introduction

Our topical focus looks at the phenomenon of wealth, which is an important topic to explore because economic inequality is directly tied to other forms of social inequality. Wealth produces many of our common views and stereotypes about social character, power and prestige. Above all, wealth affects everyone. We are mainly interested in the strategies activists use with language to construct representative identities of members of both the 99% and 1% groups, as implicated by wealth. We examined the strategic use of language by activists to position supporters of the Occupy movement in a way that helps them understand who they are and who they are against.

One of the main themes that we found was the activists’ construction of meaning by classifying specific positive or negative attributes to one of the two separate wealth groups. Activists seek to legitimize the 99% by selectively emphasizing differences between the 99% and the 1%, however, they inadvertently reinforce and effectively reproduce dominant institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth, thereby creating vast differences amongst people, perpetuating stereotypes about people of certain classes.

We begin by first looking at the discourse genre of activist blogs and website, and reviewing the strategies that we used in our analyses of the texts. We will then be able to further our examination with a more comprehensive analysis of the patterns that we considered to be the most significant to our thesis.

Methods

Generally, discourse analysis methods are ways for us to understand abstractions and the “reality” of which we live in through language use. We are able to read things through a different lens, as well as on different levels (micro, meso, and macro analysis). The Occupy movement is about how the majority of this country, the 99% middle-/lower-classes, are wanting to close, or at least minimize the class-/income-gap more between them and the nation’s wealthiest people, the 1%. By using discourse analysis methods we are able to take a step further and expand our understanding of the movement by looking at how and why articles and essays are written the way they were, and how those certain strategies connect to the movement.

One strategy we used extensively was qualitative coding, which is the process of constructing “meaningful patterns of facts by looking for structures in the data” (Kelle, 2000). This strategy of coding was the basis for our research. Qualitative coding allowed us to foreground the patterns that came up repeatedly throughout our discourse texts. We also used the strategy of critically viewing the representation of social actors, in order to determine the “socially significant choices in representation of social actors” (Fairclough, 2003). Throughout our research, we were able to find instances where the 99% would represent themselves as the in-group and the 1% as the out-group, emphasizing themselves as the main focus for the movement. Another part of our analysis was to see who was written about through a more personal standpoint, who were active participants in the movement, and who weren’t. This has helped us look further into how wealth has created and enforced characterizations of the upper -and middle-/lower-classes and how it is shown throughout the Occupy movement. We enhanced this strategy by also examining equivalence and difference, which recognizes that “the ‘work’ of classification is constantly going on in texts, with entities being either differentiated from one another, put in opposition to one another, or being set up as equivalent to one another” (Fairclough, 2003). Since we are interested in how activists use language to represent the two different identities of the 1% and the 99%, I employed these two strategies together with the goal of exposing the hidden ideologies that seek to legitimate social inequalities (Rose, 2007).

Since many activists claim to be misrepresented by national and local news media, we wanted to see how the activists represent themselves and their opponents in activist blogs and websites. Activist blogs are extremely important to look at because not only are they politically important, but also they are influential on activists worldwide. Activists are able to express their thoughts and opinions candidly, without anyone from “the outside” to filter their words, showing the public who may be seeking more information what their objective is of this movement. Other activists and supporters of the movement use these texts to understand who they are and who their opponents are.

Our specialized corpus includes texts from a variety of activist blogs and websites, namely, Occupy Everything, Occupied Stories, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, The NeoConArtist. In addition, our group looked at texts from Occupy Seattle, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Boston. We collected a total of 232 texts. All of the texts were produced by activists from September 2011 to May 2012, allowing us to see how the articles have evolved or remained about the same with their language choices. There are a total of 155,960 words in our corpus and a type/token ratio of 0.0842. Our search parameters included the words: Occupy, activist, 1%, 99%, inequality, income and wealth. By having a diverse set of articles that share a common theme of being from activists part of the 99%, we were able to find patterns as to how the activists represented themselves differently from their opponents.

Although activist bogs and websites strive to empower members of the 99% by embodying a call to action, these texts actually reflect the dominant ideology that more wealth is better.

Pattern 1 – Activists use activation and passivation by portraying the 1% as the actors and the 99% as the beneficiaries of the act.

The first pattern that we observed is the activists’ portrayals of the 1% as the actors and the 99% as the beneficiaries of the act. As a result, readers perceive the 1% as the ones with power and the 99% as the powerless ones. I will explain three kinds of activation and passivation techniques which I found to be prevalent. The following is an excerpt that emphasizes activation of the 1%:

(This article, “Why We Need Free Media”, was posted on Occupied Wall Street Journal on April 11, 2012).

“Minneapolis police charged a peaceful march, beating protesters and arresting a dozen people. As described by Occupy Minneapolis: Videos show officers pulling several people off public sidewalks, slamming one violently into the street and deliberately censoring the mainstream and independent press. […] We had hoped to reestablish an occupation to bring attention to social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the foreclosure crisis, but instead were met with a crackdown by the Minneapolis Police Department.”

In each clause, police are the social actors who are acting by beating, arresting, pulling, slamming, and censoring the activists. Here, the police, representative of the 1%, demonstrate their “capacity for agentive action, for making things happen, for controlling others” (Fairclough, 2003). The 1% have the power to act, in contrast to the 99%, who are depicted as powerless. Now, consider an excerpt that portrays passivation of the 99%:

(This article, “Occupy Turns Up The Heat”, was posted on Cynical Times on March 25, 2012 by Victor Epstein).

“A cop grabbed Messiah and dragged her to the sidewalk by her arm, and then I was pushed on top of the cop who was cuffing her. Another cop was holding on to her by her shirt and then dragged her away, which is when her shirt ripped open, exposing her to the crowd.”

Here, 16-years-old activist Messiah is shown in passivation. She is acted upon by the police, who grabbed, dragged, pushed, and cuffed her; her shirt even ripped by itself, further subjugating her. Her subjection to the processes and eagerness to be affected by the actions of others is accentuated so much that she resembles a victim (Fairclough, 2003). Next, is an excerpt that demonstrates simultaneously, activation of the 1% and passivation of the 99%:

(This article, “11/15 And Moving Forward”, was posted on Occupied Stories on November 18, 2011).

“This man demanded, repeatedly and very clearly, to speak with their supervising officers about the actions they were taking. I saw that man pushed by an officer behind a riot shield, and I caught him before he could fall over a fire hydrant and seriously injure himself. I saw that man bent over a nearby car and arrested with zip ties, and then I saw a woman chanting in defense of the Occupation pepper sprayed in the face.”

The strategic use of activation and passivation reveals the power dynamic of the relationship of the 1% and the 99%. As seen in the excerpt, one activist tries to act, but instead receives a push from the officer. Another activist displays her support for the movement, only to be pepper sprayed. Every action from the 99% prompts a reaction from the 1%. And the reaction appears to be justified merely on the basis of possessing more wealth.

Pattern 2 – Activists create a clear separation among the two wealth groups by categorization.

A second pattern that we saw is activists placing people into different categories within the social world, in this case the categories of wealth, in order to create meaning. Meaning is made through classificatory systems. Examine the following excerpt, which exemplifies categorization:

(This article, “Blogging Occupy USA, for October 1-2: Over 700 Arrests in NYC, Protests Spread Elsewhere”, was posted on The Nation on October 1, 2011).

“2:45 Thanks to @DhaniBagels for noting this, which unites my two current main issues, a sign at protest yesterday in NYC:   “I won’t believe that corporations are people until #Texas executes one.”

Here, an activist claims that corporations are not people because they cannot be executed. This statement visibly differentiates the two wealth groups into two categories. In one category, there are the privileged 1% corporations who cannot be executed by Texas’ laws. In the other category, there are the 99% people who unfortunately can be executed by the laws. The process of categorization shows that the wealthy are more advantaged than the poor. Next is an instance of categorization with a similar classification scheme:

(This article, “November 17: Historic Day of Action for the 99%”, was posted on Occupy Wall Street on November 18, 2011).

“Tens of thousands took action Thursday, November 17 to demand that our political system serve all of us — not just the wealthy and powerful”

Classification and categorization can have a great influence in shaping how readers think and act as social agents (Fairclough, 2003). Like the previous excerpt, this excerpt provides a clear separation of the two wealth groups; it says that our political system serves only the rich and not the poor. Thus, it is better to be wealthy. When activists make demands for equality, like in this excerpt, the result is an emphasis of differences between them and their opponents. And the differences usually reflect the institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth.

Pattern 3 – Activists often portrayed themselves in an impersonal way, disregarding the ideological square.

The following excerpt demonstrates the strategy of personal/impersonal representation:

(This article, “Deep in the Heart of Occupy Austin: Chapter 1”, was posted on Occupied Stories on January 4, 2012).

“The occupy group was as serious as any I’d ever seen, and true to Austin’s form, the homeless alcoholics who peppered the crowd were being surly and uncooperative. When a list went around for people to sign up and speak, a shirtless bum named Tommy signed up, but when his name was called to speak-at least five times-he awoke from a drunken slumber, and then slowly and clumsily sat upright. He wiped the slobber off his chin with the back of his hand and mumbled, “You gonna have to give me a minute,” then he fell back and passed out again. His hairless white beer belly was aglow in the slanting afternoon sun. He looked like a dead goldfish floating belly-up in an old fish bowl, dusty and forgotten on the bottom shelf of humanity.”

Here, the 99% occupiers are associated with the terms: homeless, alcoholics, surly, uncooperative, shirtless bum, drunk, slow, clumsy, beer belly, dusty and forgotten, all of which are negative and impersonal descriptors. As a result, the 99% group gets delegitimized. It becomes hard for readers envision themselves in these representations. The following excerpt shows a similar representation of the 99%:

(This article, “Occupy Wall Street Protesters Win Showdown With Bloomberg”, was posted on The Nation on October 14, 2011).

“We don’t win! We’re the ones who get the shit kicked out of us!”

In this excerpt, 99% occupiers are depicted in an impersonal way. This impersonal representation reduces legitimacy for the 99% by drawing focus on them in a negative way. The impersonal representation dehumanizes the 99%, removing the focus from them as people and representing them as elements of institutional structures (Fairclough, 2003). It is important to note, as well, that the excerpt uses the strategy of in-grouping to make readers feel a part of the 99%. But since the 99% group is represented in an impersonal manner, it makes readers less willing to join with the 99% in-grouping.

Pattern 4 – Activists separated the 99% and the 1% through the strategy of in-group and out-group by using pronouns.

The following excerpt demonstrates an instance where activists refer to themselves as part of the in-group, using the pronoun “we” and the 1% as a part of the out-group by using the pronoun “they”:

(This article, “The Unwinnable War on Dissent”, was posted on Occupy Wall Street on March 20, 2012).

“They want to prevent us from making this spring huge. We won´t let them. When they evicted our encampments, we merely went elsewhere, delved deeper into community organizing, perfected our tactics, and built-up our infrastructure. The police use violence to preserve economic inequality, but this will backfire. Every time they attack us, we grow. With every bloodied Occupier and evicted peaceful protest, the number of people who are disgusted with the status quo rises. The war on dissent is inherently unwinnable. Through sustained nonviolent resistance in the face of escalating repression, their legitimacy wanes and our power grows. The whole world is watching. Spring is coming. We are getting ready.”

The activists tended to refer to the 1% with a negative tone attached whereas referring to themselves as peaceful and innocent in comparison. For example, “Every time they attack us; we grow”. The clear use of ‘they’ and ‘we’ represent the in-grouping and out-grouping along with paradigmatic choice by using words like ‘attack’ when referencing the ‘out group’ (the 1%) portrays them to be violent and malicious. This pattern represents how the 99% portray themselves as to be a part of the in group by referring to the 1% as ‘they’ and themselves as ‘we’ or ‘us.” Additionally, this excerpt displays the strategic use of activation and passivation explained earlier, in which the 1% evidently have agency in the excerpt and the 99% are subjected to that agency. This juxtaposes the image of the two groups, where the 1% are violent and capable of acting, and the 99% are peaceful and only receive the effects of acts. Consider the next excerpt that ties paradigmatic choice with in-group and out-group:

(This article, “Occupy Wall Street and the Importance of Creative Protest”, was posted on The Nation on November 21, 2011 by Allison Kilkenny).

“And the one percent find such evolved protest—this kind of global awakening—absolutely bone-chillingly terrifying. If the elites can no longer exploit xenophobia, red state–blue state civil war, racism, sexism or homophobia, how will they keep the underclass bickering while they run off with the country’s wealth?”

Based off of what Wodak and Mayer said about paradigmatic choice, the fact that in this example the 99% was questioning the out-group’s intentions and thoughts, leads you to believe that they are bad and that they plan to act on it. You as the reader are led to this idea by the discourse around the specific words and text we are analyzing, unaware that this language is allowing you to paint a picture in your mind generating ‘they’ as the “bad guys.” In the excerpt, “they” are also marked by the descriptor of “elites”, while the 99% are distinguished as “the underclass”. This was a paradigmatic choice by choosing to portray the two wealth groups in these particular terms. It also reveals which group is valued by society and has power. Once again, the 1% are depicted as the actors with agency in this excerpt. The in-group and out-group clearly show that the two groups are separated by wealth.

Conclusion

Although activists try to legitimize the 99% by emphasizing certain differences between the 99% and the 1%, they unknowingly reproduce the dominant institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth. Each of the patterns that I explored throughout the essay supports this notion. First, wealth enables actions: the 1% are activated, while the 99% are passivated. Second, wealth justifies social groups: the 1% are classified as a privileged group within the system, while the 99% are classified as an excluded group from the system; the 99% in-group is overlooked by the system. Third, wealth legitimates social groups: the 99% are shown in negative and impersonal representations. Now, we must consider the implications of these claims on a broader scale.

We come to understand the phenomenon of wealth by viewing its representations in media. As with any phenomenon, our understanding of wealth is cultivated over time, by our repeated exposure to the same messages. If we continue to see typical representations that mirror the dominant institutionalized ideologies, from traditional news media as well as activist blogs and websites, sooner or later, we may unintentionally adopt those belief systems and come to believe that the wealthy are better than the poor. This study reveals how activist blogs and websites serve as an instrument that conversely strengthens the status quo by positioning readers to embrace the institutionalized ideologies.

References

Fairclough, N. (2003). Meaning relations between sentences and clauses (pp. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hien, D., & Honeyman, T. (2000). A closer look at the drug abuse-maternal aggression link. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 503-522. Retrieved from http://jiv.sagepub.com/

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Nielsen, M. E. (n.d.). Notable people in psychology of religion. Retrieved from http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/psyrelpr.htm

Kelle, Udo. (2000). Chapter 16: Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound, Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell, (282-298) London: SAGE.

Robinette, G. (Photographer). (2012). Retrieved from http://www.cynicaltimes.org/articles/occupy-turns-up-the-heat-222.htm

Rose, G. (2007). Chapter 5: Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful. Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (74-106). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Wodak, Ruth, and Michael Meyer. “Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis.” sagepub.com. Version Second Edition. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2012.

Occupy Movement: How Hip-Hop is Taking Center Stage
Group 18: Sarah Velling and Hilary Nyberg

The influence of hip-hop musicians on the occupy movement is an important genre to study because of the sheer impact and stimulus that both music and celebrities can have on ordinary citizens.  What resources and actions are the game changers of the rap world utilizing to shine light on the occupy movement to their fans and bring about change? How are they connecting to a sub-culture and encouraging its members to band together to make their voice heard? Generally speaking, the hip-hop culture is comprised of young minorities, a demographic that is not often associated with Wall Street and politics.  The awareness and calls for action that hip-hop moguls are bringing about though their unparalleled influence with the hip-hop culture and community is an important social phenomenon that should be carefully studied. Hop-hop artists’ involvement raised visibility of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement which was beneficial to the salience of OWS, unfortunately when covering these artists’ involvement in OWS journalists focused much more heavily on the artists themselves rather than the movement they were supporting. In this paper we will elucidate on how we used an analysis of word frequencies using our personal corpus of over forty texts to more closely examine the hip-hop artists influence with OWS.  Additionally, we will specifically focus on rap artist Talib Kweli in order to more closely examine syntagmatic choices in texts written about hip-hop artists and the Occupy Movement.

Discourse Analysis research methods cover an incredibly large range of ways to approach and think about problems.  There is no way to qualify Discourse Analysis as “qualitative” or “quantitative” research, because, rather than examining and finding answers to a single problem, its focus is on allowing us to understand the socio-cultural conditions that lie behind a certain problems and challenging the assumptions that allow the problem to exist and continue being perpetuated (Olson). The first discourse strategy for analysis that we used was word frequencies, which create a list of all the words utilized in the text paired with how frequently they occur.  As explained in Word Frequencies and the Study of Roman Law by A. M. Honore, “A scholar may wish to find out how often a given author uses a word or phrase or a group of words or phrases either generally or in a particular work.  He may wish to do this for groups of authors belonging to a historical period…or to a geographical region….To confirm impressions gained from reading the texts, or to acquire fresh insights”  (280.)  Word frequencies are a useful tool for the analysis of a corpus collection.  Additionally this method was valuable in comparing the frequencies of certain lexical items in our personal corpus against the occurrences of the same lexical items with the group’s larger corpora.  As explained in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis A practical Guide for Language and Literary Studies by Svenja Adolphs,  Adolphs writes, “norming techniques can facilitate the comparison of individual items across two corpora in terms of overall frequency of occurrence” ( 43).   When looking more specifically at coverage of Kweli, we examined the relationship between sentences, clauses, and social actors (Fairclough) in coverage of Kweli’s appearance at OWS and the syntagmatic choices that gave Kweli power and authority through activization and simultaneously passivized OWS participants.

We chose to research the discourse genre of any written texts on hip-hop musicians and the occupy movement that were published after September 1, 2011.  Rather than focusing on a specific set of publications we chose to focus on any texts concerning the four most influential and well-known “game changer” musicians and hip-hop moguls of the occupy movement: Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, and David Banner.  We gathered texts from numerous world-wide publications as well as blogs dating from September 1st until the present.  Our goal was to gather as much written textual evidence as possible documenting the four hip-hop game changers contribution and actions regarding the occupy movement in order to understand the vast influence sphere that is generated through hip-hop culture.  We collected over forty published texts concerning the game-changers.  The majority of the texts were from online publications and the average length of the articles was approximately one page.  The overall tone of the texts was positive, although some were written from a negative standpoint towards the four hip-hop moguls being studied.  We feel that the texts utilized served as a valid set of data for analysis because they were taken from a wide variety of online and written publications over a nine month time period, ensuring that a range of viewpoints and evidence could be taken into account.

One of our main findings that was relevant to our central research question of how (and if) hip-hop artists can utilize their music in order to make a positive change in the occupy movement was that the four game changing artists Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, and David Banner are always mentioned in the texts with an introductory explanation of either their hip-hop credibility or their latest hip-hop/ music endeavor in order to give legitimation to both the moguls and the movement.  For example, in The New York Times article Protest T-Shirt Generates Anger Russell Simmons and Kanye West are introduced through the sentence, “Russell Simmons is currently touring with Kanye West to promote their album, ‘Watch the Throne.’  In the Musical Express article Tom Morello Plays the Occupy Wall Street three of the four hip-hop moguls are introduced using their music careers to bring legitimation to their appearances.  “Kanye West visited the Occupy Wall Street protests alongside Russell Simmons, the co-founder of record label Def Jam earlier this week. Visiting the Zuccotti Park camp on October 10, the hip-hop star (West) walked through the crowds, but did not take the opportunity to perform a set for the protestors, unlike rap artist Talib Kweli.”  The corpus’ tendencies to use hip-hop to legitimize Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, and David Banner’s work with the occupy movement is arguably the key component to the four moguls bringing a positive influence to the occupy movement through the use of the hip-hop culture.

While it is admirable that hip-hop moguls are utilizing their celebrity to call attention to and positively influence the Occupy movement, these efforts are often lost in translation when journalists focus too heavily on the artists themselves rather than the movement. This became apparent when closely examining coverage of Kweli in relation to his work with the movement.

Throughout coverage of Kweli’s support of OWS, writers reproduced power relations between celebrities and the citizen who are responsible for organizing OWS by activizing Kweli in sentence structure.  For example, in coverage published on the Village Voice blog, writer Nick Pinto wrote a short article about Kweli’s appearance at OWS. Out of the 9 instances where anyone was activized, 8 of those were Kweli.

“Talib Kweli showed up in Zuccotti Park Thursday night…”

“…to perform for the protesters of Occupy Wall Street.”

“Kweli arrived and stepped up onto the stone bench…”

Only once were the protestors referred to in a way that described them as taking any action in the event at all. The people who are actually participating in the OWS protests are almost completely excluded from this coverage, and the audience is therefore asked to read Kweli as the most important participant in this case. Another example of how protestors at OWS are reduced to passive participants through coverage of Kweli is in the choice of quotations used when writing about Kweli’s visit. In 9 out of the 12 articles that included quotations from Kweli himself, he was quoted in giving instructions to his audience, the protestors. The most frequent of the quotations was Kweli ordering “everyone with a camera, computer, phone, or voice” to to “do [their] job” and spread the word, finishing with the sentiment that “this is the end game, we have to grow” (Haykes). By consistently representing Kweli in this way, he is constructed as someone with the authority to give instructions while the protestors are reduced recipients of instruction. Overall, the passivization of protestors and the activation of Kweli are a means through which coverage of OWS reconstructs the idea that celebrities carry an innate authority that allows them to speak about social movements.

We believe it is important to note that the findings described above are not unique to coverage of OWS. In fact, one could say that they are merely an reflection of greater patterns in discourse surrounding social phenomena. The analysis done on our corpus regarding hip-hop culture and the four “game changers” of the occupy movement confirms our theory that hip-hop has in fact positively influenced the occupy movement.  Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, and David Banner’s involvement and action with the movement is transmitted in the corpus by the stating of the four hip-hop mogul’s music credibility in almost every text introduction of the artists to bring legitimation and relevance to the movement.  The awareness and calls for action regarding the occupy movement that hip-hop moguls are bringing about though their unparalleled influence with the hip-hop culture and community is an important social phenomenon that should be carefully studied. It is important to examine these patterns on a smaller scale in order to understand how they might work on a larger scale within the discourse surrounding movements like Occupy Wall Street and other social activist causes. Knowing that hip-hop moguls have so much power to influence social causes while also knowing that coverage of celebrities often minimizes the actions of the non-celebrity protestor provides readers with power. The power to read and think critically about these issues is crucial in our successful navigation of discourse surrounding social phenomena and helps us be more responsible, informed participants in them.

Resources:

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Fairclough, Norman. “Representation of Social Events.” Analyzing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. New York, NY: Routledge, 2003. 134-15. Print.

Honoreì, A. M. (November 01, 1972). Word Frequencies and the Study of Roman Law. The Cambridge Law Journal, 30, 2, 280-293.

Olson, Hope. “QUANTITATIVE “VERSUS” QUALITATIVE RESEARCH: THE WRONG QUESTION. “ University of Alberta School of Library and Information Studies, 8 May 1995. Web. 30 May 2012. <http://www.ualberta.ca/dept/slis/cais/olson.htm&gt;.

Pinto, Nick. “Talib Kweli Plays Occupy Wall Street.” Web log post. Politics: The Village Voice. The Village Voice, 7 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 May 2012. <http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2011/10/talib_kweli_pla.php&gt;.

Image Compliments of TheBlogOfProgress.com

Say What You Mean: Defining The Occupy Movement
Group 13: Khani Le, Jordan Nugent, Hanna Fjortoft, Melissa Albrecht, and Lindsay Hudson

   Our group has focused heavily on the language used by the 1% in comparison to that which is used by the 99%. We sought to explore the different languages that are used in regards to the Occupy Movement on blogs from September 2011 to January 2012. We chose this area because we believed that the informal arena of blogs represents the mainstream view of the issue and is a strong proponent in the continuation of the Occupy Movement efforts. The words and patterns that the two binary social classes—those who present themselves as the 1% and the 99%—use is crucial in our understanding of the complexity of the Occupy Movement. Our goal with this research was to explore how these social groups consider themselves and those around them through blogs about the Occupy Movement.

It is our goal to illustrate that the language used by those in the Occupy Movement is heavily focused on positioning themselves within the social structure of the United States by Othering and that the use of collocation and concordance lines illuminate the impact that language surrounding the Occupy Movement has.

   As far as the corpus linguistics methods went, this was where we used concordance lines, collocation tables, and word frequencies to further carry out our data and understanding of the terms we have chosen to word with. For the concordance lines, we used a program that arranges all instances of a particular search item in a way that makes the search item appear in the center of the page. Using a word or a phrase can generate KWIC, key word in context. We did this with our whole corpora and then individually selected the term we each wanted to focus on. As for the collocation tables, these were the co-occurrence of words with no more than four intervening words. On the paradigmatic dimension it is defined rather differently, because items can only collocate with each other when present in the text and two items in a particular paradigm are by that arrangement classed as mutually exclusive (McCreless).

   A quick glance at collocation lines for the corpus shows that of the top 10 words collocated most closely with “protesters,” “peaceful” is the seventh most popular descriptor. The other words in the top 10 list are all unbiased descriptors: words like “the” and “occupy.”

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

the 79 8 6 9 2 30 protesters

street 12 0 1 0 1 7 protesters

some 9 0 0 1 0 5 protesters

and 22 3 2 2 2 3 protesters

of 26 0 6 3 7 3 protesters

peaceful 4 0 0 0 0 3 protesters

occupy 8 0 0 5 0 2 protesters

other 4 1 0 1 0 2 protesters

park 11 1 3 0 2 2 protesters

    This indicates that the majority of what is being said about the protestors in this corpus is slanted toward the positive, “peaceful” being a description aimed at increasing favor towards the protestors and the movement. After a careful examination of the instances where “peaceful” was being used, it became increasingly obvious that those blogs that described protestors as being peaceful were blogs that were pro-Occupy.

Just as pro-Occupy blogs identified themselves through their sympathetic descriptions of the protesters, so too did the anti-Occupy blogs with critical, demeaning descriptions. The most common discourse methods used to produce meaning for “protester” in anti-Occupy blogs were othering (i.e., “liberal progressive socialist Marxists”, and “their anti-American progressive socialist behaviour…,” etc.), us-versus-them pronoun usage (through the use of “them” and “their” coupled with negative descriptions), and, most strikingly, the seeming refusal to actually use the word “protester.” In these anti-Occupy blogs, lexical choices favored “occupiers,” “hippies,” and even “idiots” over the more neutral “protester,” suggesting that the authors wished to prescribe a more negative view of the Occupy movement (Chandler, 2007). Additional negative descriptors were often layered on top of these “protester”-substitutions, as the collocation tables below show:

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

blaming 1 0 1 0 0 0 occupiers

chumming 1 0 1 0 0 0 occupiers

failing 1 0 0 1 0 0 occupiers

loathsome 1 0 0 0 0 1 occupiers

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

occupy 3 0 0 2 0 0 idiots

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node

dirty 1 0 0 1 0 0 hippies

libertarians 1 0 0 0 0 0 hippies

#occupywallstreet 1 0 1 0 0 0 hippies

ragtag 1 0 0 0 0 1 hippies

smelly 1 0 0 0 1 0 hippies

   All blogs utilizing such descriptors identified themselves as being anti-Occupy.

   Another way this pattern is perpetuated is by the use of in-grouping the protesters and out-grouping their opponents. This is done by othering, using quotations to discredit unfavorable protester descriptions, and us-versus-them pronoun usage. Othering is also apparent in pro-Occupy blogs, targeting the police and members of the 1%. Descriptions like “smart-mouthed” and “infamous” are aimed at these out-group members alongside the positive and sympathetic descriptions of the protesters. Combined, these paradigmatic choices lend specific political alliances to the blog posts.

Concordance lines can be particularly useful and, “the advantage of using this technique in such contexts lies in the unmediated nature of corpus data, which allows the analyst to tap into the way which certain words are used in real-life contexts” (Adolphs, 2006). By entering these excerpts, many words including, ‘I, our, their, they, and we’ were exceptionally high with ‘they’ as the highest with 25 times. This shows that by repeatedly using these words it can form this artificial boundary between these opposing groups. Using these particular pronouns creates an in-group/out-group effect and produces a stressed illusion of reality. 

Analyzing the different blogs and how often the author used particular language that formed the artificial boundary of the 1% and 99%, between good and evil. Many words, such as ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘they’, and ‘them’ are widely used in these blogs to create the sense of unity, defining the ‘other’ to define themselves and what they stand for. Van Dijk explains this concept by noting that, “the way in-groups and out-groups are represented in text and talk, prototypically represented by the ideological pronouns Us and Them” (Van Dijk 2006). By locating these types of words it accentuates the tactic of othering to create a boundary between these two groups. Analyzing the 1% vs. 99% comparisons excerpts, and highlighting words throughout the corpus demonstrate this method.

Othering was also prevalent in the texts we analyzed. In the Real Truth, we identified an othering statement: “The corporate media people are so comfortable, and so ensconced in their position, they do not believe there is any significant dissent; the situation is ingrained, routine and habitual.” This form of in-grouping/out-grouping puts the problems in America on “corporate media people” shoulders and effectively denounces any responsibility from the rest of the population, and even goes as far as to suggest that those who are responsible for the movement are ignorant to real situations. In the blog The Generation, it states, “Rather than a voice representative of the American people, the US is instead offered with…millionaires and billionaires that don’t represent the rest of the country.” It’s an interesting cultural note here that “millionaires and billionaires” are conceived so differently from the rest of us that they are not able to speak as anything other than their net worth. This is an example of othering that vilifies humans based on a truly frivolous aspect of their life, and reflects upon American society the idea that everyone else is absolutely different from you, and therefore to blame for the problems of life. One of our key findings was that people, regardless of where they stand regarding the Occupy Movement, think of the “other” people as the problem, and that if only they changed, everything would work out.

Our research—along with the patterns that we’ve identified—aids in the understanding of how people react in the situations that the Occupy Movement places American citizens in. The different excerpts help illuminate the way that different people in the movement use language in order to further their individual intentions—which was what our research sought to prove.

Resources

Canales, M. K. (2000). Othering: Toward an Understanding of Difference. New York: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse and Ideology. In T. A. Dijk, Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction (p. 396). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

M. Hauser, F. C.-X. (2007). A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justifications. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Russell S. Tomlin, L. F. (2006). Discourse Semantics. In T. A. Dijk, Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction (p. 42). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

Fairclough, Norman, Jane Mulderrig, and Ruth Wodak (2006). “Critical Discourse Analysis” Chapter 17, pg. 358. Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction.

Fina, Anna De (2006). “Discourse and Identity” Chapter 13, pgs. 269-270. Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction.

Kramarae, Cheris and Michelle M. Lazar (2006). “Gender and Power in Discourse” Chapter 11, pg. 233. Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction.

McCreless, Patrick. “Syntagmatics & Paradigmatics: Some Implications for the Analysis Chromaticism.” JSTOR. Web. 23 May 2012.<http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/745896?uid=3739856>.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Chandler, D. (2007). Semiotics, the basics. (2 ed.). Psychology Press.

Sinclair, John. “The Lexical Item.” In Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Ed. Edda Weigand. Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : J. Benjamins, 1998. 1-24.

Rose, G. (2007). Chapter 5: Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful. Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (pp.74-106). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Image

IDENTITY of the 99%: How the activists represent themselves through Tumblr

Group 14: Garrett King, Lauren Mitchell, Megan Liu, Brannen Jennings, & Yiyan Luo

1. Introduction

Activists involved in the Occupy Movement claim to be part of the 99%, whereas the other 1 percent of the nation represents the wealth and power domination that the 99 percent lacks.  Our group thought it would be interesting to study the identities of the activists who are involved in this movement and how the average activist defines him/herself therefore we did.  Some of these activists post their statements and stories on a Tumblr blog claiming their identity in the 99 percent.  For our group’s purpose, it is important to analyze how the participants represent themselves so we can better understand their participation in this movement and the Occupy Movement as a whole.  We wanted to examine their identities by looking at their representation of their age, income, education, employment and emotion.  Our goal was to find patterns or trends among those who are pushing force behind this social/political movement.  The ways in which the activists represent themselves go hand in hand with the words they choose to use and how they construct them in their discourse.  The words the activists choose to use can also influence the media and persuade or mislead the public from their prior beliefs of equality and equal opportunity in our country.  Activists of the Occupy Movement are representing themselves as hopeless and helpless through the language they use regarding education, finances, and employment.

This analysis will include a discussion of our research methods, including a description of our discourse genre and corpus.  Following the discussion of methods we employed, we will review key findings regarding the participants’ discussion of education, age, employment, finances, and emotion and how they used it to form their identities as helpless.

2. Methods

As discourse analysts, we used a mixture of Critical Discourse Analysis, Corpus Linguistic, and Semiotics methodology to analyze the way in which the participants identify themselves.  “Many CL methods are quantitative and/or make use of statistical tests, which are performed by computer software. However, most CL methods require considerable human input, which often includes qualitative analysis (such as examining concordance lines)” (Baker et al, p. 274).  We examined the syntagmatic, or grammatical, and paradigmatic, or lexical, aspects of linguistic choice among the activists.  After collecting a corpus of texts, we used computer software Key Word in Context (KWIC) to quantitatively analyze the texts for keyword frequencies, concordance lines, and collocation.  According to Adolphs, key words “are often identified intuitively as prime candidates that may facilitate the process of uncovering a certain type of ideology in language” (p. 84).  These KWIC methods allow us to analyze the context around specific keywords.  After our quantitative analysis, we analyzed our findings and produced a descriptive word analysis of how our individual word (each group member chose a keyword) was used in our corpus.  Diving deeper into qualitative analysis, we then used the Dedoose.com software platform to perform two rounds of coding our corpus.  When coding, “in the initial stages it should be done as inclusively as possible, so that all borderline instances can be counted in rather than out” (Gill, p. 180).  The first round was an inductive process of open coding to find general patterns in our corpus and the second round was a deductive process of structured coding that allowed us to narrow our analysis to focus on five codes: education, employment, money, age, and emotion.  Upon coding the entire corpus for these five patterns, we used a process of hermeneutics to further qualitatively interpret our findings.

The discourse genre we focused on was the Tumblr blog from September 2011 to May 2012.  Tumblr is a website/blog that has facilitated over 21 billion postings made and created by individual people of the public.  Their goal is to create the perfect platform for self- expression, so that people can share their opinions and have a place where it is seen or heard.  Tumblr is millions of people sharing the things they do, find, love, think, or create.  The reason why this is an important genre for us to use is because our study is focusing on the perspective of the people who are involved and active in this movement.  Tumblr is a blog that helps us to see messages, text, and pictures directly from the source we are analyzing.  We will be using the letters and pictures submitted and posted by individual activists to see how they identify themselves.  Taking a sample of the postings over the range of time this movement has been occurring is how we will find the demographics and the identity portrayed by the activists in the occupy movement. Within the blog, we selected and transcribed 150 of the images from September 2011 to April 2012 to form our 21,549-word corpus. Each of our group members analyzed 30 of the 150 texts.

3. Analysis

 3.1 Activists take no “real  action” to change their unemployment situation

One of the activists says that “I am 26 years old, I worked since I am 16 and I cannot find full time job. I am the 99% and I want change.” This activist uses the phrase “I want change” instead of “ I want TO change”, which shows s/he is passive that s/he is waiting for others to help him/her. The only action s/he takes is speaking out his/her situation but not willing to change the situation by him/herself. Another example which is related to another keyword our group has: education,

“I finished my college and currently apply to grad school so that I can further my education and hopefully obtain a better paying job…I am the 99% looking for change.”

Many activists on Tumblr are at least high school education level and some of them are even college educated but having no job. They really have the abilities to change their situations. However they choose to speak out their problems and wait for others’ helps


3.2 People age 20-30 are concerned more about their college debt

         Out of all the participants who stated their age in their posted blogs, 21% is under the age of 20, 50% exactly is between ages 20 to 30, 11% is between 30-40 years old, 10% is between the age 40-50, 8% is between 50-60 years old, 1% is over the age of 60. According to the data percentage, most people who participated in the online 99% blog posting are between the ages of 20-30. The reason why half of the participants are between 20-30 is unknown. It might because they have better access of the Internet so that they have more information about this occupy Wall Street protest. It might also because they really are in a economic disadvantages. Each age group associates with education, employment and unemployment, emotion and their debt level in different degrees.
The first pattern we found under this part when relating age together with other factors our group is studying is that people in the age of 20-30 who claimed they are the 99% are heavily in debt from their college student loans. Most of them have college degree. Also, people in this age bracket are just entering the workforce. They have not paid back their student loans yet, and many of the loans are up to 60,000 dollars. It is a burden to people who just entered his work force for couple years. Another reason that they have hard time paying back their debt is that they either have no job after college, or their wage is extremely low that can barely pay their monthly expenses. They mostly blame the economy that responsible for the situation, which they cannot find jobs that they are majored in, or jobs that pay well. Emotions in this age bracket appear mostly positive. They think the economy is going to be better with better system. Yet, there are few outliers who think that his life is not worth living, or scared of the future. It appears that different age groups have different problems to face, but all the problems are overlap with each other. The degree of their concerns is different. People in their 20s concern more about their student loan, leading a heavy debt after graduation. They also concern about their job and how they are going to pay the debts back. People after 30 concern more about their mortgage, their job, their family and their children. The findings support my theses because they prove in words how they describe their life situations are. In conclusion, people who claim they are the 99% are seem to be in financial disadvantages. Most of them have certain degree of education but they cannot get jobs that satisfy their needs. The economy has put them into even worse life condition with no job and income to pay their living expenses.

3.3 Participants use emotive language to describe their circumstance and invoke action from viewers.

Many of the participants use language that refers to fear, and many times it is referring to their living conditions or basic survival needs, they are using very strong and open ended adjectives, like afraid, scared, or tired to get the attention of the reader.  As Fairclough stated, “the whole process of social interaction of which a text is just a part. This process includes in addition to the text the process of production, of which the text is the product, and the process of interpretation, for which the text is a resource. (Fairclough)” (Poole, Article).  The interesting thing about analyzing the discourse this way and using the context is that we as the viewer are the ones who will interpret what they are really trying to say and express.  All of these participants are afraid that no one will help them, they expect for other people to change their situations and circumstances, while they are really the only ones who can truly change

“I am AFRAID.  Even if I live within my means, NOT having: children, buying cars, designer clothes, vacations, fancy gadgets, mortgages, jewelry, or any other non-necessity items, that when I come out of this Education, I will not even have the chance to get a job. I am afraid, that when I can’t afford the non-necessity AND the necessity items….like food, and shelter, that nobody will be there to help me.”

“I’m afraid of the debt I will have in the future, and of the chance that I won’t be able to find a job out of school. I’m afraid that I’ll have to work minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life, even though that’s all I’ve been doing since I was 15 years old. Who’s supposed to help me?”

3.4 Activists define themselves as helpless due to their inability to attend college or to finish college

Many of the activists used the Tumblr blog to express their frustration in their inability to attend college.  They often used their lack of education as a justification for their life circumstances.  It was apparent that many of the Tumblr activists talked about college in relation to being a “dropout.”  Collocation and examining concordance lines were critical tools of analysis behind this finding.  According to Adolphs, collocation “refers to the habitual co-occurrence of words” within a corpus (p. 56).  Collocation is important because “intentionally combining two (or more) lexical items requires the insight that each element makes a separate contribution to the overall meaning and function of the utterance” (Schmid and Handl, p. 126).  When collocating for the node “college,” one of the most common words in proximity was “dropout.”  For example, one activist said, “I am a college dropout…who is all but destroyed by that one mistake.”  Another said, “I attempted to go to college but was forced to drop out due to lack of money and I ended up with a $20,000 loan debt which took me 5 years to pay back and this was community college.”  Through collocation, it was apparent that other negative words surrounded “college” such as “burdened,” “destroyed,” “mistake,” “struggling,” and “terrified.”  These words enhance emotions of pity in the reader, which, therefore, supports their feeling of helplessness.

3.5 Activists represent themselves as in a bad financial situation because of something or someone else.

In analyzing my corpus, through collocation and concordance tables, I noticed a pattern of shifting the blame of a bad financial situation to someone or something else.  Furthermore, they represent themselves as participants that are powerless. To fully understand how they represent themselves as in a poor financial situation I looked at causal semantic relationship that was occurring quite frequently. When they wrote about being in debt or having no money it was always because of school loans or the recession or some other factor. Moreover they represent themselves as the victims instead of ones responsible for their bad situations by being passivated, which simply means they are “the Affected or Beneficiary (loosely. The one affected by processes)” (Fairclaugh Norman, 2003). Here are a few out of many excerpts from my corpus that exemplify this relationship and representation.

“In massive debt because of that once ‘dream degree’”
“debt because of the recession.”
“had issues paying the rent, because his boss was late in paying his wages.”
“because education is the first thing to get cut.”
“because I had been unemployed for over 3 years already and needed the money.”

Collocated by the word debt very often is the word because explaining why they are in debt. The word because occurs 111 times in my corpus of 150 blog posts. Almost every blog post has this causal relationship and in not one instance is the cause because they made a poor decision, it is always the cause of other factors such as the economy, government and or other circumstances requiring loans. Looking at this causal semantic relationship is of value because it gives meaning to the clause. They are in debt or financial downfall for a reason and this causal relationship uncovers that reason. The process by how we create this meaning can be explained by “equivalence and difference – what laclau and Mouffe (1985) identify, with respect to political hegemony, as the simultaneous operation of a ‘logic of difference’ and a ‘logic of equivalence’. These are respectively tendencies towards creating and proliferating differences between objects, entities, groups of people etc. as equivalent to each other.” (Fairclaugh Norman, 2003) This is simply the process our brains go through to make sense of what this relationship means.

3.6 Gaze

Although these activists are representing themselves as helpless, they are doing one thing, and that is posting on tumblr. They do this through the pictures of themselves on tumblr. I noticed a pattern right away of the gaze of the participants in these pictures. “When represented participants look at the viewer, vectors, formed by participants’ eyelines, connect the participants with the viewer. Contact is established, even if it is only on an imaginary level” (Kress Gunther & van Leeuwen Theo, 1996). This is a demand gaze and when that connection is made it requires involvement and demands some from the viewer even if just for a split second. Not only are these participants demanding something from the viewer but also they take it a step further by being within arms reach in the picture. This is within the personal space and therefore it is harder to just turn away from. Not only that but the angle is frontal further requiring involvement. Although they are representing themselves as helpless through their discourse course they are doing something with their images and that is requiring involvement and demanding action from viewers. Below are some of the pictures from our corpus the exemplify this.

4. Conclusion

 Our findings combine to exemplify the helplessness that the 99 percent portrays.  Although their circumstances may in fact be bleak and they feel helpless, their voices can only go so far; action must be taken to combat their circumstances.  Many activists of the movement are using their voices to push for political and social change when they could be making progress through making individual changes and taking action. Activists of the Occupy Movement are representing themselves as hopeless and helpless through the language they use regarding education, finances, and employment.  Overall, most of the participants represent themselves with emotive language to describe their age, education, financial status, and employment situation.

References

Adolphs, Svenja. “Electronic Text Analysis, Language and Ideology.” Chapter 6 in
Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 80-96.

Baker, P., Gabrielatos, C., KhosraviNik, M., Krzyzanowski, M., McEnery, T., & Wodak,  R. (2008). A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and      corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK   press. Discourse & Society, 19(3), 273-306.

Gill, Rosalind. “Discourse Analysis.” Chapter 10 in Qualitative Researching with Text,
Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000.
172-190.

Schmid, Hans-Jorg and Handl, Susanne. (26 Mar, 2010). Cognitive Foundations of
Linguistic Usage Patterns: Empirical Studies. Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.

Van Dijk, Teun A. (2011). Discourse Studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. London:
SAGE Publications Ltd.

Wodak, Ruth and Meyer, Michael. (2009). Critical Discourse Analysis: History, Agenda,     Theory and Methodology. In Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: SAGE    Publications Ltd

Barbara Johnstone. (2002) Discourse Analysis. Blackwell Publishers.

John Poole.  (2010) Commitment and criticality: Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis evaluated. Blackwell Publishing.

Fairclough, N. (1989) Language and power. London: Longman.

Fairclaugh Norman, N. F. (2003). Analysing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. (pp. 135-155). New York: Routledge.

Fairclaugh Norman, N. F. (2003). Analysing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. (pp. 88-104). New York: Routledge.

Kress Gunther, G. K., & van Leeuwen Theo, T. V. L. (1996). Representation and interaction: Designing the position of the viewer. (pp. 376-404). London, England: Routledge.

Frohmann, Bernd.  “The Power of Images: A Discourse Analysis of the Cognitive Viewpoint.” Journal of Documentation 48.4 (1992): 365-386.

Adolphs Svenja, S. A. (2006). Introducing electronic text analysis:a practical guide for language and literary studies . (pp. 51-63). New York, NY: Routledge.