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Students & Education

Fight for Equality: Student Protest in Occupy Wall Street Movement

Group 23: Kelly McNemee, Ryan Jorgensen, Anna Nikolova, Stanley Sha, Jason Quan

Topical Focus

 Our topical focus is to critically analyze how student protests in the Occupy Wall Street movement are portrayed by national journalism. Today, college serves as crucial pathway for individuals who wish to become an expert in desired field of study as well as for those who wish to obtain a respectable career. However, as financial crisis unfolded in the year of 2007, the cost of higher education increased sharply as colleges raised its tuition due to continuous cuts in federal funding. In exchange, burden on students was at large with poor and middle-income families were left with little alternative to pay for high tuition. Furthermore, students without enough earnings or savings to afford higher education became severely indebted with financial loans. With frustration and fear towards their inability to pursue higher education, students became primary participants in the Occupy Wall Street Movement as to demonstrate this unequal and unfair opportunity provided by the society.

 In reflection to this dilemma, our project is focused to examine this Occupy Wall Street Movement through the perspective of student protesters and examine how they are being portrayed by the chosen media. This involves in examining the “image” of student protesters being portrayed in this social movement. Furthermore, we are interested in examining how the media reflects upon the issue of such unfair and unequal burden among social classes to obtain higher education in the United States. As students ourselves, examining this subject would give us insight to how our peers, and interests, are positioned in social discourse. This is important because national media is very influential in society, as it represents and creates positions of power.

Thesis Statement:

 Mainstream journalists from the New York Times reproduce the classification of students through generalization, low competence, and low priority. This pattern will be examined throughout the period of five months. (November 2011 – March 2012)

Outline:

 The following Research paper will explore the New York Times and the way that journalist’s represent students and the arising cost of higher education. The first section will be the methods we used to support our thesis, and following that will be the patterns we used and analyzed in our corpus.

Methods:

 This paper implements both corpus linguistics and qualitative coding to analyze the patterns. We used concordance lines with “student(s)” as the node to analyze collocates. The purpose of this is to gain a better understanding of how the chosen word in the discourse is used by interpreting its meaning through the words that surround it and give it context rather than the definition of the word that can be derived from the dictionary (“Concordance overview”). Using electronic analysis was important because it uncovers descriptions of individual words that stand for greater ideologies (Adolphs, 2006). We used paradigmatic analysis which is the use of words with in the movement concerning the students and syntagmatic analysis where we examined the sentence structure around “student(s)” and concordance lines (Adolphs, 2006). We also read through the excerpts created in our coding rounds to search for reoccurring patterns of importance. We used the combination of these techniques to narrow down the areas of interest and then allow for a detailed analysis of the patterns (Baker, 2008) and also to look at omission (Huckin, 2002).

 For instance, we looked at how social actors were represented within the texts. Specifically, we looked at how excluding the representation of social actors in the text can say a lot about the language. The two types of exclusion are: “suppression” which means that the text purposely does not mention anything about the actor and “back-grounding” which means that the primary actor involved (students) are sometimes mentioned in the text, but have to be inferred by the reader to make a connection between what is happening and the people involved (Fairclough, 2003). Looking at this can help us answer why people are left unnamed or questions left unanswered.

Another strategy that shows us how we should interpret a text is noticing when something is being legitimized. For instance, one particular strategy for legitimation that is prevalent to students in the 99% movement would be rationalization. This looks at how institutions are used to rationalize action because society believes there is a certain amount of validity and credibility behind its claims. (Fairclough, 2003).

Discourse Genre:

 Accordingly, our discourse genre will be to identify and analyze the portrayal of students in the occupy movement through examination of mainstream journal The New York Times. It is important for us to use this national media because the cost of higher education is a national issue, so we believe the widely distributed forms of discourse genre are most relevant to its portray in society. We do not believe that a local newspaper has the resources to cover all these issues with the same details and timeliness. The coverage on this topic is influential on our views of acceptable distribution and the underlying power that is attached. It is our goal to fully utilize the theory and practice of discourse analysis to understand the significance found in the media attention to this topic.

Corpus:

 Our data was collected searching through the online data bases available to us such as LexisNexis and the archive of the New York Times. We searched key words such as, “occupy wall street,” “occupy movement,” and “protests”. The time frame for our group was November 2011 to March 2012. Our corpus consisted of 136,815 words and a type/token ratio of 9.09% (12,443/136,815). This created a valid data set because there were a large number of texts from a current and relevant time frame. Also the texts were written by a number of different authors lessening the chance of a dominant personal view to skew our research patterns. 

Analysis:

First Pattern (November): “Grouping Students as Social Groups, Instead of Individuals”

Another pattern is how students are represented as merely objects in the media, rather than actual people within the movement. In various articles, the word “Student(s)” is used more as an object with nothing really connected to it. There is a generic usage to it. In a few instances, the students are actually specified to individuals and they are described in a little more detail. They are used to be more of a represented group rather than a active group, they are not specific people doing things, but a group thrown in certain areas to provide a variety when some of the authors are showing a large number of different groups of people that are participating.

Some examples are: “Union workers, students, unemployed people and local residents joined the crowds in many cities, adding to a core of Occupy protesters.” Where they are just a group put in with a couple other group to show a variety of people in the movement, or “There seems to be little on the specific descriptions on the students or even acknowledging them as individuals or separate people. It seems that institutions or people associated with the institutions get to be recognized and get their input included in the article, while the students do not really.

An example is, “Mark Lake, a Morgan Stanley spokesman, said in a statement…” This is an excerpt from an article where there was input from both sides, but this statement was highlighted. Other instances have quotes from the student, included with a description of that participant. In an article by Norman Fairclough, he talks about authorization and legitimization, saying this “Legitimization by reference to the authority of tradition, custom, law, and of persons in whom some kind of institutional authority is vested.” (Fairclough, 2003, Representations)

This quote should begin to show how through authorization and more specifically legitimization there is an establishment of authority to the persons of focus. In this the focus, when being used is mainly put to the person talking and is the link to an institution, in the earlier examples, the spokesperson for the university.

Second Pattern (December): “Middle-Class Students are Portrayed as Having More Priority than Low-Income Students”
Middle-class students are portrayed as a class of citizens that hold more priority on the government’s agenda than low-income students that lack exposure in media. We can see this through the attention and severity that a mainstream publication exposes on an issue when “1/5th of American children live in poverty” (Ladd & Fiske, 2012). The voices of the Occupy Movement are not heard because there is a lack of exposure in mainstream publications like the New York Times to the problems of the least wealthy class. There is an article by Jennifer Medina that was published in December 2011 that discusses how the University of California, Berkeley, is now setting a new precedent for public universities to give more aid to middle-class students. She states that:

“For the most part, public colleges have focused on merit scholarships to lure top students and aid for the poorest families to ensure access, but many now worry that approach has left out a wide group of families” (Medina, 2011).

When the phrase “left out” in the excerpt is collocated with the lexical bundle, a “wide group of families”, we can say that meaning is established through categorization of an in group that has already captured the media’s attention versus the out-group, which includes the wide range of families that are a part of the middle class (Sinclair, 1998). However, we know that “1/5th of America’s children are living in poverty” so it is more critical that attention shifts to families of the lowest income so the gap between rich and poor do not keep widening. As this gap grows, the number of middle-class students will follow.

Finally, a second example of the pattern is shown when the text states:

“Although there are only a few anecdotal reports of middle-class students actually dropping out because of rising college costs, the issue has become a rallying cry of Occupy protesters around the country” (Medina, 2011).

Based on the word choice used here, we can see that the journalist does not fully believe in the benevolence of Occupy protesters. Using words such as “although” before a statement like “the issue has become a rallying cry …around the country” shows a sense of disbelief from the author regarding the protests. Furthermore, the real issue lies in the protests by the low income students, a small portion of the 99% population that is shoved aside by the New York Times to address the needs of a class that society is persuaded to see as having more potential.

Third Pattern (January):“Students are Portrayed as Having Low Competence”
When journalists discussed what students are protesting income inequality and rising tuition costs were dominant in the corpus. They claim that students have sided with the greater movement in bringing income inequality to national awareness. We reviewed this more carefully by retrieving the original texts where we found the occurring theme to more closely examine it (Kelle, 2000). We found that the articles branded income inequality as inseparable from the movement, yet they directly divided this from student quotes. Students were spoken about nearly three times more often than students were allowed to speak out in my excerpts of the New York Times for the month of January. However, when students spoke out, the journalists did not quote them specifically discussing financial inequality. Instead, students talked about how they organized their Occupy movements on campus and sometimes about greater underlying issues such as politics and the future. For Example, an article written by Cara Buckley on January 22, 2012 called

“The New Student Activism” states:

Mirroring the broader movement, students have taken aim at widening income disparities and the cozy symbiosis between Washington and Wall Street.

Later in the same article a student, Marina Keegan (a senior at Yale) is quoted:

”I’m not sure it would’ve happened if Occupy Wall Street wouldn’t have started. Definitely people are starting to think more critically about their choices after graduation and how they affect not just themselves, but the world.”

As the reader we cannot know if Marina talked to the press about financial inequality or any specifics about these “choices” students make. However, if she did the media chose to exclude it from the article. A freshman from Harvard, Gabriel Bayard, was quoted:

”With [Occupy Harvard] 2.0, we can focus on specific actions and protests instead of using energy toward sustaining an unpopular occupation.”

Again, this is just a general statement without any mention of inequality. The corpus also quotes Angus Johnson, a historian at the City University of New York who says:

”What you have with the Occupy movement is a criticism of global capitalism and the American financial system, but also a critique of policing on campus, tuition policy, the way universities are run.”

As a professor, he is portrayed as qualified enough to be speaking about these issues specifically. Omission is very important because it is sometimes reflective of greater ideologies (Huckin, 2002). Quotes from students about inequality and tuition could be intentionally omitted in order to portray students as not yet capable of discussing the complex issues of economic inequality and its causes. This argument is also supported by describing students as “mirroring the broader movement,” implying students are simple minded and their campus movements are a case of monkey see, monkey do. Low creativity and low intelligence are translated to characterize low competence (Abdollahi & Fiske). Therefore readers, and society, are positioned to see students as having low competence.

Fourth Pattern: (February): “The Voice of Students Are Silenced”

As the discourse analysis was being conducted, it was interesting to observe that the actual representations of student protesters were in fact not in line with my initial expectations. That is, rather than being portrayed as “heroic” figures with positive images, the significance of student protesters were often dimmed and were considerably insignificant compared to other actors in the article.

For example, the article titled 2-Year College, Squeezed, Sets 2-Tier Tution, examines the role of community colleges to offer courses with different prices to resolves issues of overload of students in a class. In this issue, students who could pay the added money were able to secure a seat in a particular class. Interestingly, this unfair strategy to collect money by the community college neglected in including a “voice” of students. That is, the article did not include any quote made by students to express their opinion on the matter. (Despite the fact that image on the top of article shows student demonstrators protesting the issue with a sign that reads, “Education is a right, not just for the rich”) Instead, all the quotes in the article were formed by the representatives of community colleges with their opinion leaning toward supporting or neutral on the new strategy. Furthermore, the quotes by the faculty were enforced with legitimization strategy with their full names and occupations were purposely added to earn credibility in the argument.

Interestingly, other articles also followed similar pattern with silenced voice of the student protesters. For instance, another article titled Occupy Movement Regroups, Preparing for Its Next Phase includes a phrase, “The group included a mix of ages and races, with graduate students, teachers, older labor veterans and some full-time activists.” In the article, there are various quotes made by political figures, writers, and other social actors with their opinion in the movement however, the quote by students are nowhere to be found. Additionally, the student protesters in Wall Street Movement were often found clustered with other social groups (i.e., teachers, labor veterans, and full-time activists in this case) or were categorized simply as “protesters.”

These reflections certainly do not promote positive images to the student protesters but rather, the opposite. The lack of students’ voice and their categorization as “protesters” promote a sense of out-group to the audience of articles. These observations show that our thesis is not true, and many instances, student protesters as a social group were not gaining enough coverage as they may have deserved. This is lack of coverage for student protest is significant to acknowledge, as “with less visibility, the movement has received less attention for the news media, taking away a national platform.” (Moynihan, 2012) That is, with little visibility, student protesters’ as a social group obtain limited power and weak position in the occupy movement.

Fifth Pattern (March): “Anonymity of Student Protesters”

After analyzing the corpus, we have found that New York Times Journalist are effectively anonymizing students with the presentation of statistical data and seemingly not representing students. We state this because as reader’s numbers and statistics rarely position the reader as the group being represented. Therefore with no in depth description or personal accounts readers merely pass off the certain articles as just another conflict in the United States.
Granted, when speaking about issues it is usually acceptable to leave out the participants being spoken about. Yet at what point do the represented group get lost or become irrelevant in the discussion of an issue.

Below is except that clearly states student plans for occupy movement, but these statistics seem to convey one message, which is equal right to education:

“While all actions will begin at college and university campuses, some have incorporated symbolic efforts like marching to the department of education, assembling in front of administration buildings, creating “tiny-tent” cities, holding teach-ins, re-occupying evicted Occupy campgrounds and collaborating with students, parents and teachers of all education levels at neighboring Occupy demonstrations. Fifty-nine colleges and universities have registered as of today. All registered institutions have at least 100 participants attending this call to action. Among the registered schools are Temple University with 700 participants, California State University – Long Beach with 500 participants, Ohio State University with 400”. These students are not tomorrow’s leaders. They are today’s and on March 1 they will demand change not just be pontificated from podiums to generate cheap votes, or made slogans, but that change actually take place now”.

 The only participant in the article is the journalist, speaking about what will be happening when they protest the cost of higher education. No other voices are present and the only real representation is of the number of participants at each public university. There seems to be a lack of representations with no student’s commentary or interpretation of issue. (Adolphs 2006).The statistics and presentation seem to dilute the overall meaning of students and their representation in the occupy movement. Since each group of student are protesting for their unique cause why does the journalist leave this essential part out.

Conclusion:

Mainstream journalists from the New York Times reproduce the classification of students through generalization, low competence, and low priority. This pattern became more evident throughout the period of five months, through November 2011 until March 2012. As each member of our group analyzed our corresponding month, we started seeing an alarming pattern. Students were not being quoted speaking about income inequality, and journalists leveraged this to portray them as having low competence. That is, the voices and opinions of students were being completely left out. Student’s representations were being overly generalized and often clustered together with other social activist groups. Furthermore, the students were often a topic of being spoken about in the New York Times, however students themselves were rarely speaking for themselves. This paper helped us understand the social phenomenon after finally realizing that the voices and opinions of students were being left out. Since the media is such a big part of the interpretations of everyday people having this type of representation in such a nationally read newspaper like the New York Times truly gives students injustice. The paper has the ability to illustrate the true representation of student’s protesters and what they are standing up for.

References:

Adolphs, S. (2006). Electronic Text Analysis, Language, and Ideology. Introducing Electronic Text Analysis (pp. 80-96). London ; New York : Routledge.

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). Representations of social events. (pp. 134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social researc. London: Routledge.

Polanyi, L. Van Den Berg, M. Ahn, D. (2003) Journal of Logic, Language, and Information , Vol. 12, No. 3, Special Issue on Discourse and Information Structure, pp. 337-350

Huckin, T. (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis and the Discourse of Condescension. In E. Barton
and G. Stygall (ed). Discourse Studies in Composition.

Kelle, U.(2000). Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing. In Martin Bauer & George Gaskell (ed). Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound (pp. 282-298). London: SAGE.

Moynihan, N. (2012) Occupy Wall Street, Times Topics. The New York Times, 2 May 2012. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/o/occupy_wall_street/index.html

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The College Option: Protrayal of Upward Mobility in Tumblr and New York Times

Group 21: Bryan Austin, Jamie Christianson, Cassandra Hathaway, & Roberto Whyte

Introduction

The specific focus that we have chosen to tackle is “education” and the ways in which it has been a topic of inequality throughout the Occupy movement. While the Occupy movement has revealed many topics of inequality, we as college students are especially conscious of the ways in which it has impacted our own lives, and the lives of other college students. Our mission for this project is to further research these topics of inequality—such as the rising cost of higher education, both in financial and personal terms, and to truly understand how the experiences of college students have been portrayed throughout the Occupy movement. Students experience inequality in education through the rising costs of attaining a college education, both personally and financially; these costs are then worsened by the state of the economy which makes a college degree less valued. Our group decided to use Tumblr and New York Times to look at the topic of upward mobility in regards to inequality. We chose these forms of discourse due to their popularity and the historical significance each share as a space to gain accurate and up-to-date conversations concerning current social events. Through the study of these two discourse genres, we have found that debt is a major topic that is often intensified when discussing education, lack of job opportunities create an expression of fear and disappointment regarding the education of graduates, and an over-arching ideology that is being challenged, which will change the meaning of higher education.

Methods

Discourse analysis is the way that we study language usage, spoken, written, and visually, in an effort to make sense of the choices made by the author. Every author presents a story in a different way, using many options they have. Discourse analysis gives us tools that help us to understand lexical and grammatical choices. Some of the tools we have used to analyze this corpus are: key word counts, collocation, and concordance. Key word counts simply allow us to see how prevalent a word is within a corpus, which can be turned into a ratio to compare to other corpora. According to Svenja Adolph, our project mainly focused on “positive keywords” (words that occur significantly more than others), with my own interest falling on ‘debt’, being one of the most frequently used words (Adolph, 45). Concordance lines allow us to choose a key word and view the 5 words before and after, in order to see the context that the word falls in. Collocation tables show us the frequency in which a word occurs within 5 words of a keyword, allowing us to see patterns in representation (Sinclair, 15). The collocation was also a significant tool in our analysis of Tumblr. I also used the theory of ideology (a way of viewing social phenomena), as this was a key tool in understanding the reasoning behind the stories depicted in Tumblr. (Van Dijk, 384).

Prior to the ’99% Occupy Movement’ and student movements that are occurring throughout theUnited States, New York Times had already been dealing with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, many would agree that students did not become noticeably involved until October and November of 2011. As OWSM grew in popularity, students joined in. The social network site Tumblr began receiving personal stories from people all over the country. These stories were of the utmost importance to us, as we wanted to look comparatively at howNew York Times discusses educational inequality, versus those that actually experience it first hand. For us, the personal experiences of education (fear, failure and disappointment regarding higher education) seemed more significant than commentary by a journalist.

When we were choosing which texts to include in our corpus, we decided to only use articles from October and November of 2011, in order to capture the beginning of the movement. Since our group had two corpora, Jamie and I focused on the documents from Tumblr. We each collected 30 images with descriptions from one of the months, so that we would have a total of 60 articles. From the Tumblr corpus, the total number of words was 6141, with 1289 types of words. This corpus had a type/token ratio of 0.21. We have decided to use these parameters because we wanted to see the initial reasoning for following the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and how education was being talked about with those initial reasons.

Analysis

Student loan debt has been a major issue when discussing education on Tumblr. Most of the individuals who posted about themselves discussing education made a comment about their debt involved with this education. While a few stated that they were lucky enough to leave school debt-free, this was not the case for the majority of posters. Because debt was one of the ideas that interested me, I used concordance lines of the lemma ‘debt’ and found that an overwhelming number of individuals had used a number to express the depth of the problems they are experiencing. Of those who did have student loan debt, 23 out of the 38 excerpts involving student loans had used a concrete number to express how much debt the individual had. One individual wrote:

I have $90K in student loan debt. My payments are 20% of my income. By the time I pay off my debt, I will have paid the government double what I borrowed.

This individual had a very large amount of debt, and was very detailed by telling the audience that the payments on her loans are a major portion of her income. Stories of large amounts of student debt were not at all uncommon on Tumblr, as another individual writes:

I am a 26 year old graduate with $120,000 in student loans.

This process of using concrete numbers is intensification. These numbers allow the reader to have a better idea of how significant the amount of student loan debt. If these individuals would have simply stated that they have student loan debt, the reader would not have understood the issue to be as grave as it is.

Students who posted their stories on Tumblr have related higher education to success and power. When sharing their personal stories, though all very different, a commonality seems to be the over-all disappointment that each individual feels in their degree and/or education, themselves, the economy, and their government. People are seeing education costs rising, both personally and financially, and cannot overcome the debt they take on to achieve their goals. As we pulled excerpt after excerpt, I began seeing references to the “American Dream.” We soon became fascinated with this illusive “American Dream” and counted how many times the word “dream” appeared in our corpus. Despite having a fairly small corpus in comparison to other groups, the word “dream” still came up a total of 9 different times, with other words such as “debt” appearing 38 times. From the excerpts we pulled, combined with our knowledge of the greater ideologies at play—we began to see the connection between the “American Dream,” success, and education. These ideas were interconnected, and we couldn’t help but acknowledge how many people seemed to be basing their worth off of social ideologies regarding education as means to achieve success and the illusive “American Dream” (Van Dijk, 384). Growing up in this country, we are constantly reminded about the American Dream. The American Dream is an ideology that we can use as a lens to look at the world. We are taught that if you work hard and are educated, success will be yours. Our educational system is built upon this idea. However, the Wearethe99% Tumblr questions this ideology, with its evidence that the American Dream is a falsehood for many. Because of the debt individuals expressed, as well as the high rates of unemployment of college graduates, these individuals believe that they were told a lie. Qualitative coding allowed us to read through excerpts and identify them as having this theme regarding the American Dream, from this alongside concordance lines of ‘dream’, I was able to see that many educated people are not achieving the dream:

Now what? I feel completely misled – I was always told that if I worked hard I could have that “American Dream”. Now I’m just loaded in debt, so those degrees are worthless.

It is almost a type of moral evaluation, because the success expected through the American Dream is deeply tied to being the ideal citizen, and it calls the morals of the storytellers of the American Dream into question as well:

I was raised to believe that if I went to college and worked hard, I could get a job and a living wage. Maybe it was true once, but now the American Dream is a lie.

Another pattern we want to discuss illustrates the use of re-occurring lexical units such as “fear,” “terrified,” and “scared” when discussing the future. As gathered from Adolph, these re-occurring words are considered “positive keywords” and hold much significance (Adolph, 45). We found this pattern to be worth mentioning because of how common it was, but also because it was contradicting it was to America’s over-arching ideologies, which suggest that education will bring success and power. Though each individual presented a very different set of circumstances and context, there were common themes of a fear for the future, and a sense of helplessness for their fate, as we saw these terms appearing about 8 times combined. While we cannot assume that our analysis of these particular texts will be representative of all texts for this social event, we have begun to attribute these common feelings of fear for the future as something closely related to the theory of ideology (Van Dijk, 384). As mentioned earlier, we believe we (U.S.citizens and non-citizens a-like) are all living under larger ideologies that shape our perspectives so that we believe higher education has the ability to bring us success and power. When these connotative assumptions are wrong, or do not pay off—we become fearful for the future, and seem to experience a sense of helplessness in our own lives. As Van Dijk argues, “ideologies, thus informally defined, are general systems of basic ideas shared by the members of a social group, ideas that will influence their interpretation of social events and situations and control their discourse and other social practices as group members” (Van Dijk, 380). Perhaps then, the ideologies at play, though they may be false notions, are reinforced by society to make us think that education is our key to success. So now, when this is no longer working, our helplessness and fear for the future are accentuated when our only key to success and power (education) does not work.

In the excerpts studied, college students are very much contemplating on the value of their investment in education. Often the meaning of a clause or phrase is derived from the sum of its lexical units. John Sinclair explains in his book Contrastive Lexical Semantics “Whenever the meaning arises predominantly from textual environment rather than the item choice, it is considered to be an instance of semantic reversal” (Sinclair, 1998). When applying this process to one excerpt it becomes clear that Gan Golan is finding less value in his education investment. In another, again we see terms that show us students are very concerned about the investment and commitment required for completing a college degree and the possible risk of getting nothing back in return. In nearly the entire collection of excerpts collected from a student’s perspective, the students carry the same message education in today’s society holds less value than just a decade ago. Then you have many economists predicting that new job growth will continue to be hampered by emerging economies such as China and India and that U.S. companies will be creating more jobs in these markets rather than at home. This information continues to discourage many young adults coming out of high school to seek higher education. If we continue to apply the process of semantic reversal it becomes clear that we can now see the shift in attitudes towards higher education. What this is doing to younger Americans is placing them in the middle of social conflict. Signing up for the armed services was once a wise choice for offsetting some of the expense of getting a degree however with America involved in many conflicts around the world this option is also less appealing. Youngsters really are running out of options. It is understandable why they may begin to feel apathetic.

Conclusion

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been a topic of interest for several months, and many have entered into this discussion. Through our analysis of Tumblr, we found many personal stories, and found a lack of personal stories in the New York Times. However, both corpora showed similarities. Students experience inequality in education through the rising costs of attaining a college education, both personally and financially; these costs are then worsened by the state of the economy which makes a college degree less valued. Through the study, we have found that debt is often intensified when discussing education, lack of job opportunities creates an expression of fear and disappointment regarding the education of graduates, and the over-arching ideology of education is challenged, which will alter the meaning of higher education. Through our careful analysis, we have seen that higher education is coming to mean less and less in the job market, which will eventually cause a shift in ideology, if things continue in this manner. Students and graduates struggle with the idea that their success did not come as it was assured to us.

References

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

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: A practical handbook.Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Bauer. , Martin, , & Bas Aarts, (2000). Corpus construction: A principle for qualitative data collection. (Vol. 2, pp. 19-37).London: Sage.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analyzing discourse; textual analysis for social research. (pp. 87-104).London: Routledge.

Laura, V. (n.d). Grads: Pursue a realistic dream. USA Today.

Sinclair, J. (1998). Contrastive lexical semantics . (171 ed., pp. 1-24).Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

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

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. (2nd Ed.) London,UK: Sage.

Education factory

Education factory

Reproducing “education” within the occupy movement: How mainstream media reproduce and reflect the changing and contradictory nature of “education” in current society

GROUP #20

INTRODUCTION

In 2007 the United States economy was well on its way to a historical down turn and was quickly heading to reach record highs in individual states along with national unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. Corporate America quickly began seeking ways to control this situation. In the beginning companies began restructuring benefit packages, freezing pay, and limiting hiring. As financial analysts continued to report that the future would continue to look bleak for several more years to come, many employers had no other option than to begin reducing their workforce. At the same time, a record number of young adults (18 to 24), about 40% of high school graduates, were enrolling in colleges and universities nationwide (USA Today, 2009). In September of 2011 many American college students enduring extreme economic woes, mounting educational debt, and no hope of finding gainful employment even after obtaining a college degree, organized and joined the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’. During this period of time, we began seeing various modes of dialogue that is reproducing and transforming how our society is now portraying education. This has led to interesting and diverse power relations that is proving to be very prevalent in the midst of our country’s unemployment status, specifically within the discourse surrounding the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Accordingly, although education has been commonly prophesied as a means to success and greater opportunities, through the analysis of the language use within USA:Today news, as a widely popular news media throughout and around the U.S. (“Gannett: 2011 Annual Report”, 2011), we see an interesting dichotomy forming where education is affiliated with the opposite results; hence the importance of deconstructing, and re-examining influences of public and personal values, ideologies, and sentiments about this issue. (E, G. P., 2000) Consequently, a critical discourse analysis of these texts seems to suggest a mutual negative sentiment of students as participants in the Occupy Movement, in association with the financial demise and the betrayal of the promise of “education”. Here, we will discuss the ways in which education is represented through language, in the context of varying elements such as finances, which help us to understand its nature, value, and meaning within our current society.

METHODS

Discourse analysis is increasingly referred to as a cross discipline composed of many methods quantitative and qualitative, rather than a single method of research. This is due to its interdisciplinary and eclectic nature as a postmodern “school or paradigm” utilizing a problem-oriented approach characterized by an interest in “demystifying ideologies and power through the systematic and retroductable investigation of semiotic data (written, spoken or visual)” (Wodak and Meyer, 2009). This view of discourse analysis assumes that texts are socially constitutive and produce varying power relations as a result, also emphasizing rigorous self-reflection on the part of the analyst due to its constructivist nature. Additionally, we took a mostly retroductive approach to this analysis moving between theory and patterns according to our topic of focus. For this analysis our group decided to focus on “USA Today” news genre known for condensing new stories down to an easy-to-read and easy-to-comprehend format. It remains the most widely circulated daily, print newspaper in the United States (“Gannett: 2011 Annual Report”, 2011). We feel that by directing our focus to “USA Today,” and “USA Today: College” specifically, we will be able to better understand how education is being portrayed in the Occupy Wall Street Movement through a very dominant, widespread, and easily accessible source. This may reveal how popular media intended for the general public is constructed and its potential influences on our perception of events, subjects/topics/issues, categories of people, and our social position or role in society. Our group collected the data through the “USA Today: College” website using the keywords (“occupy movement” or “99 percent movement” or “the 1%” or “OWS”) and (“student” or “education” or “college”), we included all the articles that we found separately according to the date ranges September to October, November to December, January to February, and February to present using the above search parameters as data in this corpus. We approximately used about 120 articles for this corpus which summed up to 91,152 words. The type-token ratio was .1104085. These parameters helped us assess specifically how “education” is associated in the current occupy movement as centered in the U.S. We believed that the words that we used in our search criteria encompassed all terms generally used in newspapers such as USA Today to indicate discourse related to education and the occupy movement. The date ranges were chosen so that it covers the time period the present “occupy movement” was and is taking place. According to the number of articles and the number of words, the size of the corpus seems average and is consistent with the readings we have read so far. For example a very small corpus, according to Baker et al. (2008) is about 2500 words. Furthermore, we could use the type-token ratio, calculated by dividing the number of tokens by the number of types (Adolphs, 2006), which is, in this case, .1104085, indicating that this is a fairly complex or dense corpus, also considering that certain symbols which did not seem to have any semantic function within the corpus were counted as different types as well. Accordingly, in analyzing our corpus of “USA:Today” articles we use word lists, concordance tables and collocation through the program KWIC to find out frequency of word occurrence, collocated words pointing to semantic preference or semantic reversal, as well as their cotext. For this purpose, we focused on words that related to education within these articles talking about the occupy movement and found useful to examine the words “student(s)”, “college” and “education”, “graduate”, “degree”, “(un)employment” or “job(s)” because they occurred most frequently (students – 314 times; college – 284 times; student – 227 times,education – 103 times, and jobs – 97 times etc…) within the corpus; as well as the overall structuring of the texts drawing upon methodologies of paradigmatic choices, syntagmatic choices, semantic reversal, legitimation and pragmatics, constituting them in theories of structuralism and functionalist structuralism, as we found applicable to this corpus.

ANALYSIS

Drawn from the data that KWIC derived, the word “college” was often used in the perspective of students, as active participants in the movement, which was a noticeable and re-occurring pattern within the corpus of “USA Today: College” articles. However, we also found that these students were also being framed as passive recipients of this information, outside the movement (also outside the text), and thus assigning a specific role encompassing attitudes and behaviors used to convey who is considered a student and what characteristics define a student in relation to the occupy movement. Not only did we find that college students were given a strong voice within the movement, but we were also able to identify a specific research topic, and specific audience. The triangle of communication looked like this: College students and college graduates, as speakers, encompass a large number of the protesters of the Occupy Movement, speaking on the topic of education, spoken to those who are interested in college. This insight allowed us to interpret what the students themselves, as portrayed here, had to say about education, within the Occupy Movement. With this pattern, we were able to be more specific about what exactly was being spoken about. Digging deeper into the texts we were able to notice several patterns that reflected the portrayals of education through student experiences and the positioning of the student in particular ways within the discourse.

The contradictory nature of the value of education as constructed throughout the corpus in relation to popular beliefs

Through meso-analysis of our texts, we were then able to focus on the trends within our corpus regarding our particular topic of study and bring to bear additional patterns (Fairclough, 2003). In some instances, college was being described as a positive and highly recommended means of success in the job market, as represented in one article stating, “Yes a college education is worth the costs.”  In other instances, the word “college” was described as resulting in a pit of debt, represented in an article stating, “I can’t find my future. I looked in college. I found debt.”  The Occupy Movement, being about the movement of the labor industry, the prominence of education proves that financial inequalities that result from college are a driving factor in the dissatisfaction with the structure of society. Regardless of the fact that the semantic preference in bigrams such as “college graduates” and “college education” that carry a connotative meaning of accomplishment and success, in the context of the Occupy Movement, “college” was frequently being presented in collocation of lexical bundles such as “college debt,” “college loan,” college tuition,” and “ college costs.” (Sinclair, 1998)

#1 “Go to school, work hard and get ahead or your money back, is what the popular conception of American opportunity might have been. Instead, millions of Americans find themselves unemployed and underemployed . . . this feeling of betrayal is expressed in backlash towards the system and towards an investment of which they have yet to see a return.”

#2 “The Occupy Wall Street movement has found support on college campuses across the country. Many of these students feel that the crushing rise in student loan debt and a weak job market makes the promise of success offered from their degree worthless.”

#3 “With so many of my peers under the chokehold of chronic student loan debt and a youth unemployment rate that nearly triples the national average, how can we not feel that our generations shot at the American dream is slipping away?”

In nearly all of the cases student protesters have voiced their concern about how the value of a college education has been or continue to be more of a burden than as a path to a better future.These findings were of particular interest because higher education has been portrayed as a road to a wealthy future, but what we were finding was a pattern of education as a contributing factor towards much of the country’s financial inequality which is associated with poor well-being. With this knowledge, we discovered a new and interesting meaning that “college” takes on based on how it is used, since meaning is contingent on shared cultural knowledge.

Positioning of students as one of the large number of competitors to limited resources or benefits available in society

Within the above pattern we see a particular reproduction of the role and position of the “student” in society. It is the construction of the student as recipients of the benefits created by the economy or by authorities constituted within social institutions. They are also portrayed to be competing for limited resources in the society with a heterogeneous group of other people. The following excerpts exemplify this pattern:

#1 Graduates are vying for jobs not only with fellow classmates, but also with workers who already have two or three years of experience, returning retirees shocked by an instability in savings and even stay-at-home moms returning to the workplace for financial purposes.

#2 Going beyond your course requirements and leaving the lecture hall can give students an added bonus when it comes to their education and their post-college job perspectives. It is no longer good enough to simply have your resume state that you received your degree. Employers are looking for workers who will stand out amongst the other applicants; they are looking for employees who know who they are and what they are good at.

#3 In order to maintain in this super-competitive world, young people have to find ways to separate themselves from applicants with more experience and more polished resumes. This is where advanced education becomes an area that gives young people a trump card. Everything from a master’s degree to a doctorate to a JD enables students to achieve employment in a field they desire.

#4 The point is, in a job market plagued by high unemployment, one sure-fire way to catch the eye of potential employers is pursuing higher levels of education.

This pattern of representation can be seen as demonstrating the socially constitutive-ness of discourse (Gill, 2000) as well as providing and establishing a certain number of positions for the audience to situate within (Blum-Kulka, S., & Hamo, M., 2011). In this case there seems to be only a very limited set of choices which all fall under the category of “one-pitted against the other”, whether it is among employed or unemployed individuals seeking to earn a decent living under limited employment opportunities or whether it is among the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest or the rest of the 99 % seeking for a fair share of the wealth. These positions can also be seen as constituting what Stuart Hall (1997) calls the relational quality of meaning, where binaries are always valued as a way of establishing meaning or identifying one from others.

Social positioning of students in opposition to established social structures or institutions.

Although, words such as “solidarity”, “non-violent”, or “peaceful”, are used to characterize the movement, this is almost always contradicted when describing actual actions of the students within the movement. For instance, the metaphorical usage of words such as “mobilization”, “stampede”, “fight”,“demand” to describe the actions of students in the movement, very often in the corpus, conveys a militaristic or violent environment where certain groups or individuals are polarized against each other. This polarization is mainly constructed in relation to established social structures or institutions (including their enforced ideologies); also creating a polarization between individuals or groups as either for or against these institutions and their hegemonic influences.

#1 In solidarity with UC Davis , UC Berkeley, CUNY Schools and all students who are defending their right to protest against rising tuition cost and out of control student debt. We ask you to STRIKE! No work, no school ¨please join together in a central area of your choosing and stand up against the VIOLENCE and SUPPRESSION that is happening in our schools,¡± the website states.

#2 For most of Wednesday, peace prevailed at the rallies in Oakland, even attracting families, some taking their children along in strollers.

#3 Occupy Wall Street protesters in cities across the nation have taken to the streets as part of a nationwide show of solidarity.

#4 The protest Friday was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were jabbed by police with batons on Nov. 9.

#5 Elsewhere in the U.S. on Saturday, protesters assembled in Albuquerque, N.M., Boston and Los Angeles to express their solidarity with the movement in New York, though their demands remain unclear.

#6 “In a country that has been plagued by misguided bipartisanship, we are, and have been for many years now, in desperate need of something that surmounts party lines and quite literally brings us together,” a staff editorial notes in City on a Hill Press, the campus paper at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “And Occupy Wall Street has done just that. The sheer quantity of individuals in the mobilization shows the American people feel like there is something worth fighting for.”

#7 Occupy Wall Street: College media join the coverage stampede

#8 With so many American students facing the uncertainty created by greed and political corruption, we must now make a choice. We can either continue partying like we just don’t care, or we can stand up now and demand a better future.

Consequently, this pattern of representation can be seen as reproducing capitalist sentiments (structuralism) of an unrelenting competition; also reconstituting the positions audience can take ( functionalist-structuralism) in relation to these circumstances (Gill, 2000). These would be to either agree with and actively engage in the occupy movement accepting all of its characteristics as represented including its violent actions framed as non-violent assembly as constructed within these texts or go against it and embrace the consumerist competition. This positioning of the audience in this particular way in the context of this movement can also be seen through the lens of pragmatics which says discourse can be realized as a social act (Blum-Kulka, S., & Hamo, M., 2011).

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, our group agrees that this analysis allowed us to see certain contradictions to how education is portrayed; specifically through the reproduction and positioning of students through the language used to represent their views, actions and role or status in society.  To be more specific, education is traditionally made to mean as a means for knowledge production which was later (historically) associated with higher status in society due to the exclusiveness of its institutions to those individuals from privileged backgrounds. However, as time passed with the emphasis on democracy and individual rights education became associated with equal opportunity, hope and justice. Although the nature and goals of education changed overtime, and with it, its curriculum and ways of instruction, these historical conceptions of education seem to have somehow accumulated through time without really adapting to its current structure. This may be attributed to its current competitive nature (especially in the U.S.) which tries to market its institutions appealing to the public, reproducing its “nostalgic” conceptions. Notwithstanding, American college students enduring extreme economic woes, mounting educational debt, and no hope of finding gainful employment even after obtaining a college degree have joined hands to  reveal, and re-examine the true nature of education (as produced by social institutions). Therefore, through a sample of texts, i.e. USA Today: College, we are able to see an emergence of an interesting new power dynamic in the portrayals of the actual participants of education, i.e. students, within a socially constructed movement, i.e. the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

This emergence could be seen as, within the context of this movement, the 99% acquiring a change to speak up against the 1% in regards to the lack of progression in the labor industry. The mere fact that college students inhabit a large number of the participants within the movement enables us to recognize that college students are struggling in the job market. After qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing the sample frame, we are able to move beyond individualized levels of understanding and provide detailed documentation of the correlation between college students and financial inequalities. The quality of this interpretation can be upheld because not only were we, as critical discourse analysts, immersed in the data on a daily basis, we were also living in the words, in reflective ways as college students ourselves. Since we experience life through “transversals,” specifically through economic and cultural ties, our personal materialized settings offer authority to our findings. As analysis with insider status’s we can resonate with what is being said and bring contextual knowledge to the interpretations. Not only in the context of the Occupy Movement, but in the context of our daily lives, we are able to validate the fact that education is proving to be a roadway to the worsening of our financial situations, rather than the betterment of.

Or these patterns of data can also be seen as establishing what is educationally possible within the confines of what is viewed to be politically and economically possible. This is understood through the consistent establishment of education as merely a path for economic advancement, while simultaneously privileging the discourse rhetoric of a consumer-driven capitalist culture through the positioning of students as one of the large number of competitors to limited resources or benefits available in society in a large portion of the corpus; also due to the positioning of students involved in the occupy movement as in opposition to established social structures or institutions in a way that constructs the power of the educationally possible as inferior to what is economically possible. Overall, this analysis seems to demonstrate discourse as socially constitutive, reproducing and reestablishing ideologies and hegemonies of the wider social structure/order that it is situated within (pragmatics and structuralism), also acting socially ( discourse as a social act) to reinforce or to re-confine social actors or participants into positions/roles already available in social structures (Wodak, 2009). This is especially true of a market-driven genre like “USA Today” regulated by a centrally regulated agency that seeks to produce objective truths about the world. Finally, in keeping with the basic premises of discourse studies, these interpretations are by no means a final word about the nature of this data; but rather a specific set of observations, that may be interpreted differently, given the same data, in a way that is consistent with the value placed on specific information, within the corpus, by the observer or analyst. However, the hope is that this would urge the reader to be critically aware of such elements and patterns within daily discourses in order to act in a critically informed way.

REFERENCES

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

Alpert, D. (2012, Feb 28). Santorum’s war on higher ed is dangerous. USA Today: College. Retrieved from http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/election2012/opinion-santorums-war-on-higher-ed-is-dangerous

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.

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: A practical handbook. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Bauer. , Martin, , & Bas Aarts, (2000). Corpus construction: A principle for qualitative data collection. (Vol. 2, pp. 19-37). London: Sage.

Bitonte, K. (2012, Feb 6). Paying student loan debt a higher priority to students, studies show. USA Today: College. Retrieved from http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/ccp/paying-student-loan-debt-a-higher-priority-to-students-studies-show

Blum-Kulka, S., & Hamo, M. (2011). Chapter 8: Discourse pragmatics. Discourse studies a multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd ed.). Sage Publications.

E, G. P., & K, N. S. (October 01, 2000). Higher Education. Russian Education & Society, 42, 10, 5-9.

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

MarketWatch Inc., (2011). Gannett: 2011 annual report. Retrieved from website: http://www.gannett.com/assets/pdf/5Z186653316.PDF

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

Hall, S. (1997). The spectacle of the ‘other’. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor & S. Yates (Eds.), Discourse Theory and Practice (pp. 324-344). London: Sage.

Piurek, R. (2005, June 24). Is equality in education just a lot of talk?. Retrieved from http://www.homepages.indiana.edu/062405/text/research.shtml

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.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd Ed.) London, UK:Sage.

Vissa, N. (2012, Jan 10). Majoring in debt, minoring in college. USA Today: College. Retrieved from http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/ccp/majoring-in-debt-minoring-in-college

Wilson, B. (1975). Education, equality, and society. (pp. 39-61). London: Retrieved from http://users.ox.ac.uk/~jrlucas/libeqsor/eqedu.html

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Class Struggle: Education and Social Class in the New York Times, USA Today and Los Angeles Times

Group 4: Chelsea Alfano, Vinly Phetsoumphou, Bunsong Phe, Sarah Chhoukdean, Stella Koh

Introduction:

While studying the Occupy Movement, our group focused on both social class and education to determine how belonging to different social classes change the way in which a person is feels about the Occupy Movement. We knew that there is a correlation between social class and education, so we knew that by looking at the highest level of education attained and comparing it to how active of a participant a person was within the Occupy Movement, we could be confident that this reflected the way in which each social class felt about the Occupy Movement.

This is important information to have when studying the Occupy Movement because it is a good starting point for figuring out who is or is not involved in the Occupy Movement. When we are able to figure out demographics, we are then able to move into more specifics about who is being heard within the movement and who is not being heard from at all. We wanted to figure out if people with different education levels were being represented differently within the texts. We analyzed texts to see who was being heard from and who was only being represented through the journalists. If there is a difference in involvement levels in the Occupy Movement between more educated and less educated people, then there will be a difference in who is speaking for themselves and who is being spoken about within the texts as well.

Methods:

Our group collected data based on Newspaper reports from New York Times, USA Today and Los Angeles Times by looking at different regions of America. Specifically, We focused on the East and West coast. The date ranges we are gathering our articles from are between January 2012 and the present. We drew a sub- sample from all the newspaper coverage on different levels of social class. We feel that this is an important set of public texts to look at because we are interested in looking at how the language was used based on the words: Education, poor, wealthy, social class, and power struggle. Not to mention, these three news sources are well established and can be viewed almost anywhere in both print and online.

Discourse analysis is a method used to analyze written, spoken, or signed language. This form of analysis was helpful in looking at news articles pertaining to the Occupy Movement because articles surrounding the movement run the gamut from violence to changes people hope to see in the near future. The two main methods for such analysis are corpus linguistics and qualitative coding; under these methods are tools for more in-depth research. Corpus linguistics includes examining word frequencies, collocation tables, concordance lines, and being able to compare corpora to the entire corpus. Qualitative coding is more general, looking into key themes and language usage relating to a specific topic, in this case, Occupy Wall Street. Discourse analysis allows people to see a hierarchy of language and people.

Corpus:

Mentioned before, our corpus consists of three major news sources, New York Times, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. At first, we started out with five news sources, but we realized we had compiled too many texts to analyze. From there, we decided to pick three news sources from different regions of the United States giving a better representation of opinions in all of the US. In order to make sure our information was up to date, we decided to analyze articles published from January 2012 and on. Approximately 20 to 60 articles came up for each news source after entering “education” and “occupy movement” into the search engine. The New York Times had the most articles written surrounding these two terms. In the end, these choices left us with a thought-out corpus ready to be analyzed more closely.

Analysis:

First Pattern: Power Struggle

“There is a lot of power struggle going on within the texts”

One big aspect of power struggle happened between the police and the protesters, with examples of the police arresting hundreds of protesters. Most of the time when journalists would talk about the arrests, they would not mention why a protester was being arrested. Rather, they would state the amount of people who were arrested by police officers. This in itself is taking power away from the protestors and giving it to the police because the journalists are criminalizing the protestors by simply stating that they were arrested and not giving an explanation as to why. With the type of linguistics used, it makes the reader feel as if the protesters who are being arrested are guilty since the text fails to explain why they are being arrested (Cameron 124). This goes along with the article Working with Spoken Discourse because Cameron talks about how wording can change the way in which an issue is framed, which can then shape the reality that is being formed (125).

Power struggle came about between the different social classes and whether or not they were able to represent themselves within the text. By choosing to include interviews from some people, mainly those who had graduated college and were now concerned about paying off student loans, and excluding others, those who do not have student loans or never went to college, journalists are creating a power struggle between people. This happens because those people who get to speak are the ones who can give an accurate representation of themselves and how they feel about the Occupy Movement. When people are not able to speak for themselves, they are stripped of that chance to be able to define themselves and how they feel about the Occupy Movement.

“Power struggle came between the upper class and the rest of society”

Throughout the texts, there are numerous examples of people being interviewed that believe we should tax the rich more and that the rich are receiving too much money in the form of bonuses. What people want to do is to put blame onto Wall Street for the economic crises that the United States is facing, so they feel that the solutions presented are ones that will solve the crises that we are currently facing. Both of these examples again go along with what Cameron says about how the wording of text can shape the reality of people (125).

Second Pattern: Social Class

“Those who are in higher social class voice their opinions more than those who are in a lower social class”

Most prevalent was that when there was someone who spoke, he or she was from a higher social class rather than a lower class. For example, in the LA Times Katehi is a chancellor at UC Davis, “As she spoke Monday, Katehi, a Greek-born electrical engineer who became chancellor at UC Davis in August 2009, ignored calls from the crowd for her resignation. But her actions and those of the police are sure to be scrutinized in the weeks ahead; UC leaders, state politicians, the American Civil Liberties Union and national education organizations have decried the incident.” Because she is of a higher social class, she has more power and is able to voice her opinions more.

In the LA Times, there are also no voices of the poor. Rather a person of a higher class is speaking on the lower classes half. For instance, “Daniel Hurley, an official at the American Assn. of State Colleges and Universities, said Monday that many schools nationwide see the pepper-spray incident at UC Davis as a ‘terrible overreaction on the part of campus police.’ Public colleges ‘have a remarkably proud tradition in this country of being venues of free speech and peaceful demonstrations,’ Hurley said.” This shows that they had an official speaking for the student body.

“Wealth” was used far more frequently than “Poor”

The term wealthy was used in a wide variety of ways, but mainly in use for describing people or regarding those of higher social standing. The words within the corpus most frequently used around wealthy were filler terms such as “the, a, in, to, for”, however, following these words more important words such as “people, Americans, economic, higher, rich” were being used. This demonstrates its popular usage to describe people, specifically Americans. Not to mention, when analyzing the KWIC results we noticed a correlation between wealthy and the best schools/students. Therefore, it re-confirms our assumptions that those with a higher quality education generally are richer; due to this they have a lower interest in the Occupy Movement.

We can see that a person’s education can affect their whole outlook on life; but it also our elicits our flaw as a nation of keeping the poor, poor because they are limited with options of a better life with their less-equipped schools. All of this information gives me a better insight into our topical focus regarding people’s social status and their involvement with Wall Street.

“Those that differ in social class and education level have different opinions of the Occupy Movement”

One way that we can see the distinguishable differences in opinions of the upper class and the middle class can be seen in the discourse provided within the text itself. The wealthy argue that they are job creators and Occupy Wall Street argues that having tax cuts for the wealthy only heightens the inequality gap. We can pragmatically witness this in their discourse. For example, a January 25th 2012 New York Times article about income inequality and the Occupy Movement included the following excerpts:

Others say that this self-flagellation is misguided. Raising taxes on high earners or restricting their pay will do nothing to increase economic growth or to create jobs, said Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, the French telecom company.

“If you are standing outside the job market today and you think inequality is the problem, you have an ugly surprise coming,” Mr. Verwaayen said. “If you want to kick the cat, kick the cat. If it makes you feel better, fine. But if the pie is not growing, we’re not, we’re not going to create jobs.”

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase: “I just think this constant refrain, ‘bankers, bankers, bankers’ – it’s just a really unproductive and unfair way of treating people,” he said. “People should just stop doing that.”

You can see that Mr. Verwaayen and Mr. Dimon are representing the upper echelon of wealth and can be what many consider the “1 percent.” Mr. Verwaayen’s discourse is especially evident of this opposition of the movement with his in-group and out-group dialogue. He constantly refers to the supporters of the movement and the movement itself as “you”; a total of five times. He is clearly not in favor of the movement and believes it is a false cause. This reinforces his social status by referring to the Occupy Movement as the pronoun ‘you’ and experiencing himself ‘Activated’ as job creators (Fairclough, 2003). Mr. Dimon also thinks that the movement is unproductive and unfair to blame the wealthy for The United States’ inequality problem. This is opposed to those who are middle class where there is a different opinion of the movement:

Yet even as Mr. Dimon was speaking, a new wave of anger was welling up, one that, over the last year, would shake up old assumption about the ultrarich, the middle class and the growing gulf that separates them.

Third Pattern: Education

“Participants who have higher education such as a college degree or graduates are likely to participate in the occupy movement”

During the Month from January to Present, New York Times interviewed and covered stories centered on people who are most likely college students or college graduates participating in the Occupy movement. For example, “Having complete college at the University of Illinois and graduated school, decided to devote herself to the moment” or “Occupy groups see a movement struggling… Jesse Klein, a graduate student in sociology at Florida State University”. These students that were interviewed were college or college graduates  who voiced out their opinions on the movement which can be an example of collocation that is used in quantitative analysis because the words next student had the word “graduate”  which a trend of proximity of “co-occurrence of words” are next to each other.

“College students who are in the top 1% have no opinion on the Occupy movement”

Those who are the top 1% are the ones that can pay for expensive college tuition and “majority of the students who attend best schools are likely to be wealthy”. According to the New York Times, in 2010 undergraduate students who graduated from a University or college graduates with $250,000 in student loans and students that were involved in the movement were activist that feel pressured financially. College students and Graduate students want ‘equality in higher education’. The occupy movement is composed of students who are low-income and middle-class individuals that are protesting to denounce corporate greed. Students who have higher education are likely to participate in the movement feeling upset due to the inequities in our economic system and that the American Dream of middle-class living is slowly falling away from them. That means equality through students with lower and middle-class economic standing should share the same footing and opportunities as those who are in 1 percent upper class.

“Majority of students support the Occupy Movement”

By the end of our research we concluded that one of the influential discourse came from students. Students are the future and lifeblood of America. Examining and analyzing the data we see that a majority of students either support the Occupy Movement and some even seem to acknowledge being apart of it. Excerpts in a January 22nd, 2012 New York Times article is an example:

Guido Girgenti, 19, Sophomore, urban and environmental policy Occidental College:

HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH A constitutional amendment banning corporate funding in politics. The most important goal, however, is transforming our society so that our deep commitment to justice becomes our nation’s first priority. Occupy Wall Street is the movement we were waiting for. In a very deep way, young people like me longed for something larger and more transformative.

This excerpt gives insight on student support of the Occupy Movement. It preaches justice in transforming our society and states that Occupy Wall Street is the movement we were waiting for. These are strong opinions concerning our current political and economic landscape. In the same interview we can see that students not only support the movement but some also feel apart of it:

BEST OCCUPY MOMENT When we had our first mass student meeting. It was, like, 45 students and 30 adults. Nobody knew each other, and we had a meeting for an hour and a half about how students can play a role in revitalizing American democracy.

Guido Girgenti is interviewed about his “best occupy moment” which associates him as a member of the Occupy Movement and its goals. The article consists of interviews just as the one given to Mr. Girgenti and all of them have students as activists with similar goals as Occupy. The fact that student interviews about the Occupy Movement have an article all on its own shows how important the student population is in discourse. We can also see the importance the lexical term “student” has in our corpus as it has a word frequency of 340 times. Legitimation is done through words such as ‘justice’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street is the movement we’ve been waiting for’ showing strategies of moral evaluation and mythopoesis (Fairclough, 2003).

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the patterns we discovered through our research showed that the people who are a part of the middle class receive the most extensive coverage within the corpus for the Occupy Movement. As education levels increase in the middle class, the more important these people become to the Occupy Movement since they have to take out student loans in order to pay for their schooling. The upper and lower classes are only referenced to in the corpus, but they do not get to speak for themselves very often meaning that they are not able to construct their own reality of what it means to belong to their social classes.

This analysis helps us understand how education affects the way people think about the Occupy Movement. It also helps us to understand the power struggle that goes on within the movement itself, showing us that the movement itself is not unified together; rather it is divided up into education and class levels.

References:

Cameron, D. (2001). Working with spoken discourse. London: Sage Publications.

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

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

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

Statistics of Education: Portrayal of Education during the Occupy Movement

GROUP 20

Introduction

The discourse on education has gained prominence in recent years through a variety of efforts to reduce illiteracy and facilitate economic development. There also seems to be a negative connotation of higher education due to the financial difficulties that result from it. The use of language, based on different ideological systems, create various modes of dialogue that contribute towards reproducing and transforming how our society portrays education. This creates diverse power relations that seem to be very prevalent in the midst of our country’s unemployment status, specifically throughout the discourse surrounding the Occupy Movement.

In 2007, the United States economy was well on its way to a historical down turn and was quickly heading to reach record highs in individual states and national unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. Corporate America quickly began seeking ways to control loses. In the beginning, companies began restructuring benefit packages, freezing pay, and had ceased hiring. As financial analysts continued to report that the future would continue to look bleak for several more years to come, many employers had no other option than to begin reducing their workforce. This comes at a time when USA Today is reporting that there are a record number of young adults (18 to 24), about 40% of high school graduates, enrolling in colleges and universities nationwide (USA Today, Oct.-2009). In September of 2011, many American college students enduring extreme economic woes, mounting educational debt, and no hope of finding gainful employment even after obtaining a college degree, organized and join the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’. During this period we began seeing the uses of language based on different ideological systems, creating various modes of dialogue that contribute towards reproducing and transforming how our society is now portraying education. This has led to interesting and diverse power relation that is proving to be very prevalent in the midst of our country’s unemployment status, specifically in and throughout the discourse surrounding the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

USA Today, being the widest circulated print newspaper in the United States, distributed in all fifty states, is an easily accessible source. Since it is known for condensing new stories down to an easy-to-read and easy-to-comprehend format, the content material is able to be explored by a broad audience. Due to the fact that USA Today is a very dominant, widespread, and easily accessible source, this particular set of texts is ideal for examining how education is being represented its consumers. The specific corpus that was used within our research was derived from an explicit time-frame, ranging from when the Occupy Movement originally started (September, 2011) to texts from present-time (April, 2011). The search parameters that were used were founded on the basis of any relevance to the Occupy Movement and education in general. To be more specific, any dialogue that had any relevance to education in any facet, such as college, students, campuses, job opportunities, employment, unemployment, and figures of finances was included in our discourse analysis. With these parameters, we collected a sample of 120+ articles that would be the basis of our study. With a unique “College” feature of USA Today texts, we were able to direct our focus explicitly to how linguistics regarding education, within the context of the Occupy Movement, is directed towards college students and from college students.

Methodology

With an overarching initial ideological belief system about education, we consciously and sensibly utilized various methodologies that helped us to understand how education is made to mean through critical discourse analysis. We chose specific lexical words that were deductively selected and sought after throughout the complete corpus of texts, including college, student, job, and education. By focusing on the linguistic features of the text, we were capable of applying microanalysis as a method for research. (Fairclough) Using a program called KWIC we were able to see the words’ frequency, as well as the collocation of it within the sample frame of over 120 articles, and we were then able to analyze the patterns of use. (Sinclair) The KWIC program’s function was to determine if there were any patterns being brought out by the collocation of certain words, that we deemed to be meaningful within the context of our study, such as education, college, job, and student.  “A simple concordance search can often provide us with a general idea of how a character [or word] is presented in a story, or what recurrent actions or features are associated with a particular character [or word]” (Adolphs, 2006).  From the KWIC program, we used coding to distinguish five Key Codes, or meaningful words, for our analysis and our group coded all the texts in our corpus for all examples of the codes. Semantic reversal was used to give meaning to the collocated words in the concordance lines and was helpful because “instead of expecting to understand a segment of text by accumulating the meanings of each successful meaning unit…a number of units taken together [was used to] create meaning, and this meaning takes precedence over the ‘dictionary meanings’ of whatever words are chosen” (Sinclair, 1998). Drawn from the data that KWIC derived, the word “college,” for example, was often used in the perspective of students, as active participants in the movement, which was a noticeable and re-occurring configuration that supported the initial postulation that USA Today: College had a definite “speaker.” Not only did we find that college students were given a strong voice within our corpus, but we were also able to identify a specific research topic, and specific audience. ) In order to better understand how this power relation is taking place it is important to look at what is being said, who is saying it, and why are they saying it. The triangle of communication looked like this: College students and college graduates, as speakers, encompass a large number of the protestors of the Occupy Movement, speaking on the topic of education, spoken to those who are interested in college. (Cook Through the various methods of analyzing discourse it is possible to discover answers related to each of these questions; “Discourse analysis is the study of text through careful, close reading that moves between text and context to examine the content, organization and function of discourse” (Bauer & Gaskell, 2000). This insight allowed us to interpret what the students themselves had to say about education, within the Occupy Movement.

Since discourse is constitutive and socially shaped, we were able to critique the traditional role of education and how it is made to mean within our society and make visible opaque aspects by using rational thinking to question the arguments and prevailing ideas. (Van Dijk) Inductive reasoning allowed us to begin with the social phenomenon of education and use that to explain our texts. Deductive reasoning allowed us to start with the social theories of education and move towards our explanations. Retroductive reasoning allowed us to move between these two methods and prove, strengthen, and advance our findings. Opposed to an open-choice model, which is the “normal” way of seeing and describing language, we adopted Sinclair’s five categories of co-selection and discovered that there was a non-random nature of language taking place. We then explored the frequencies within the text and noticed interesting patterns taking place that suggested different meanings of education were taking place. (Adolphs) The idiom principal allowed us to initially recognize and analyze the how the users of our sample frame naturally selected the content from a set of pre-constructed phrases and idioms. (Sinclair) Through these specific methodologies we, as decoders, documented re-occurring patterns and encoded how the meaning of education was made to be, within the framework of the Occupy Movement.

Analysis: Higher Education and Future Success

Education is mostly used in conjunction to higher education or college and with adjectives such as “advanced” or “higher.”  This represents a value placed on higher education within the discourse of the Occupy Movement.  Since the Occupy Movement is focused on equality, an emphasis on higher education is ideal. The reference has meaning as to point out the fact that higher education is a great equalizer.  Rich and Poor alike are afforded the opportunity to go to college.  Both the rich and the poor can roam the halls of the universities in search of greater knowledge.  The opinion article titled “Santorum’s war on higher ed is dangerous” by David Alpert alludes to the egalitarianism of higher education. In it he maintains, “Education is quite simply the key to unlocking the social mobility that comprises the American Dream. This great nation was founded in part on the notion that all citizens are entitled to a certain equality of opportunity” (Alpert, 2012). When Alpert states “all citizens,” he is recognizing the fact that everyone regardless of race, gender, religion financial status should be entitled to the opportunity for education (Alpert, 2012).  That is the substance of the Occupy Movement, the opportunity for equality regardless of race, gender, religion or financial status.

These findings were of particular interest because higher education has been portrayed as a road to a wealthy future, but what we were finding was a pattern of education as a contributing factor towards much of the country’s financial inequality. With this knowledge, we were discovered a new and interesting meaning that “college” takes on based on how it is used, since meaning is contingent on shared cultural knowledge.

Since we understand that it can be problematic to that read off of ideological significance of discourse on the basis of textual analysis alone, we took the knowledge from the patterns resultant from micro analysis, and sought to further enrich our findings through critical analysis. (Wodak) Since discourse is fundamentally interactive, we then broadened our lens by creating specific codes of pattern that served to investigate statements made about education.

Through operation of a program called Dedoose, we were able to take our initial found pattern of college students as social actors a step further by breaking down our coding into different categories. We chose to focus on students as social actors within the texts once again, but also take it a step further by coding the distinction between discourse of education as a means for financial advancement and education as a means for financial deterioration.

The lemma “student” co-occurred with “wealth” a total of 13 times and with “poor” 36 times. The emerging and prevalent pattern of the co-occurrence of “student” and “poor” demonstrates that in the context of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, students represented college as being a means to debt, rather than a means to wealth. Any mention of financial disparity, debt, loans, or financial deprivation was accounted for a total of 90 times within the sample frame.

In the following examples from USA Today, college students are marginalized through various theoretical frameworks. Often the meaning of a clause or phrase is derived from the sum of its lexical units. John Sinclair explains in his book Contrastive Lexical Semantics “Whenever the meaning arises predominantly from textual environment rather than the item choice, it is considered to be an instance of semantic reversal” (Sinclair, 1998).

“Occupy’s membership is a coat of many colors. It includes the foreclosed, the uninsured and the homeless, college students with poor job prospects and college graduates with no way to pay off their student loans.”

Youngsters are complaining about the unemployment rate among 20-to-24-year olds being more than 15 percent. According to a 2009 survey by entry-level job-search site CollegeGrad.com, 80 percent of graduates have moved back home.”

“…they went to high school, they got their college degrees and they feel betrayed that the promised ladder of social mobility was ripped from their hands.”

“The Occupy Wall Street protest is the latest face of discontent with the economy. Given the relatively unorganized nature of the movement, it’s somewhat difficult to understand precisely what the gripe of its members is.”

When applying the semantic reversal process to the examples it becomes clear on how the author wants us to view the student. Describing college students as “complaining youngsters” positions the reader as someone who is older and more mature thus placing the students as the other or the out group, he then cements this notion by stating that the majority “80% of graduates end up moving back home” typically under the care of a parent.  Students are seen as the other or out group when the author places the student in a group that includes “homeless, unemployed and uninsured”. When we apply cultural knowledge of these groups’ to the college students they then take on the same values as the other participants of the out group. In each of the excerpts above students have either been valued as victims or immature and thus their message is seen to be less valuable. The message is quite different when coming from the academic community to potential students; Marshall Vest, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona explains that “Investment in education is essential to reversing the income gap.”

However, some economists are predicting that new job growth will continue to be hampered by emerging economies such as China and India and that U.S. companies will be creating more jobs in these markets rather than at home. This information continues to discourage many young adults coming out of high school to seek higher education. Through the process of semantic reversal we can now see the shift in attitudes towards Higher education. In the following excerpts we look at what student protesters are saying.

USA Today: College staffer, Kendall Bitonte’s article on paying off college debts transitions nicely to the next pattern encountered.  The opportunity to go to college is not without its costs.  This article focuses on secondary education with respect to the costs of attendance.  Bitonte alludes to the statistic that the “college student’s proactive borrowing trend coincides with decreased funding from the federal government for secondary education. In this way, students can sign larger tuition checks only after they have more aggressively searched for financial assistance seeking help from banks and the privately operated Sallie Mae” (Bitonte, 2012).

Analysis: Education and Financial Cost

Through critical discourse analysis, this study allowed us to see a contradiction to how education is typically portrayed, proven through language and society (Van Dijk). To be more specific, education is traditionally made to mean as a means for financial improvement and opportunity, but through the actual participants of education, i.e. students, within a socially constructed movement, i.e. the Occupy Wall Street Movement, through a sample of texts, i.e. USA Today: College, we are able to see an emergence of an interesting new power dynamic. Within the context of this movement, the 99% is acquiring a change to speak up against the 1% in regards to the lack of progression in the labor industry. The mere fact that college students inhabit a large number of the participants within the movement enables us to recognize that college students are struggling in the job market. After analyzing the sample frame, we are able to move beyond individualized levels of understanding and provide detailed documentation of the correlation between college students and financial inequalities.

Another pattern is that higher education was often portrayed with financial cost or status.  An achievement of relative wealth, or lack of, coincided with the negative associations with higher education.  For example, an article posted at USA Today: College states just that, “Salaries are decreasing and college costs — along with living and medical expenses — are rising at an annual rate of 5%” (Vissa, 2012).  If the costs to attend college are rising so much that students have to borrow more money, the salaries received with a diploma in hand must make it worth your while.  However, that is shown to not be the case.

An additional editorial pronounces that “Along with concerns for their future financial solvency, students consider education costs a different sort of burden… students believe a college education is less affordable” (Bitonte, 2012).  In a time of recession, where vast numbers of the working population are unemployed, there appears to be a changing of the guard with respect to higher education.  It wasn’t that long ago when the idea of a college education was connected with a step up in the employment ladder.  Now, too many highly educated people are flooding the work force trying to procure high paying jobs, but with a relative lack of experience gives, it gives the impression that it is hurting their chances for gainful employment.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement has found support on college campuses across the country. Many of these students feel that the crushing rise in student loan debt and a weak job market makes the promise of success offered from their degree worthless.”

In nearly all of the cases student protesters have voiced their concern about how the value of a college education has been or continue to be more of a burden than as a path to a better future. This message is being voiced throughout not only this country but other parts of the world as well. This is giving validation to young student’s belief that the amount of time and energy and cost that it takes to complete even a four year degree may in the end all be just a waste and can be enough to sway a decision about continuing on to college after high school.

Conclusion

After qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing our collaborative corpus, we were able to move beyond individualized levels of understanding and provide detailed documentation of the correlation between college students and financial inequalities. It is during this period that we began seeing the uses of language based on different ideological systems creating various modes of dialogue that contribute towards reproducing and transforming how our society is now portraying education. Not only in the context of the Occupy Movement, but in the context of our daily lives. The notion that if you do well in school and you go to college and get a degree you will do well in life is no longer a motivator for pursuing the American Dream. We are able to validate the fact that education is proving to be a roadway to the worsening of our financial situations, rather than the betterment of it. Clearly, the educational system within American Imperialism is flawed and through this analysis, we have shown it to be a problem-oriented interdisciplinary research topic. Many young adults are increasingly becoming apathetic toward America and its promise. The power relations in favor of the 1% show a needed cultural change in our society in order to restore education to be a means for what it is actually intended to be, a means for or a roadway towards opportunity and financial success. A search of concordance lines and collocation tables led us to another frequent relationship concerning education and expected income earnings. We had been able to draw out the costs of education and its comparative triviality on the path to achieving qualified wealth. Within the realm of the Occupy Movement education is portrayed as having its costs outweigh the benefits within our current economy. If this trend continues, it will be more difficult to persuade high school graduates that it is important to pursue a college degree. If we begin to see a sharp drop in college enrolment we will know then that the ideology behind education has made a shift. We could then begin to see colleges and universities closing down. This would be catastrophic in that this would only continue creating an even larger gap in income levels. And so the rich will continue to get richer and the poor get poorer.

References

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

Adolphs, S. (2006). The electronic analysis of literary texts. In Introducing Electronic Text Analysis London and New York: Routledge.

Alpert, D. (2012, Feb 28). Santorum’s war on higher ed is dangerous. USA Today: College. Retrieved from http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/election2012/opinion-santorums-war-on-higher-ed-is-dangerous

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: A practical handbook. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.(Bauer & Gaskell, 2000)

Bauer. , Martin, , & Bas Aarts, (2000). Corpus construction: A principle for qualitative data collection. (Vol. 2, pp. 19-37). London: Sage.

Bitonte, K. (2012, Feb 6). Paying student loan debt a higher priority to students, studies show. USA Today: College. Retrieved from http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/ccp/paying-student-loan-debt-a-higher-priority-to-students-studies-show

E, G. P., & K, N. S. (October 01, 2000). Higher Education. Russian Education & Society,42, 10, 5-9.

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). Analyzing discourse; textual analysis for social research. (pp. 87-104) London: Routledge.

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

Sinclair, J. (1998). Contrastive lexical semantics . (171 ed., pp. 1-24). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-10-30-college-enrollment_N.htm

Sinclair, J. (1998). The lexical item. In E. Weigand (Ed.), Contrastive Lexical SemanticsAmsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd Ed.) London, UK: Sage.

Vissa, N. (2012, Jan 10). Majoring in debt, minoring in college. USA Today: College.Retrieved from http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/ccp/majoring-in-debt-minoring-in-college

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.

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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.

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