Charles. "Discursively Structured Activities." Mind, Culture,
and Activity 4.4 (1997): 296-308.
Bazerman is concerned with accounting descriptively for the roles of
discourse in structuring systemic activity. He notes that discourse is a
fundament to social structure; it provides a "regularizing force." As such,
Bazerman folds together Vygotskyan principles of situated cognition with
Activity Theory in an effort to reframe more common approaches to structuring in
the social sciences. Interest in structuring applies here both to the cause of
regularities in the technosciences and to "the discursive organization of fields
of knowledge production [i.e., disciplinary formations]" (10).
Because the existing model of the case study tends to deal very little with
tradition and because ANT (in Bazerman’s reading of it, at least) tends to focus
too much on the individual agent, we need better descriptive tools to account
for the structuring of social systems. For this, Bazerman proposes the
language of genre (as it in turn is used to articulated expectations). While
"dismantling dominations," Bazerman concludes, we are put upon to come "up with
some order we can tolerate and perhaps trust" (12).
Terms: "verbal coordination" (1), "regularizing force" (3), "actant-network
theory" (6), "descriptive tools" (7), "conscious categorization" (7), "systems
of genre" (9), "agenda-setting documents" (10),
"Because the produced discursive objects are in a sense concrete,
although symbolic–an actual utterance, a physical book, an interactive
computer program that can be run repeatedly on a computer–they provide a
concrete locus for the enactment of social structure" (1-2).
"The fact that written and archived material (whether in print or on
an electronic server) can travel to different groupings of people, over
geographic distances, and over time, means that their structuring influence
may be widespread and persistent" (2). Rel. this to the
structuring force of the writing prompt?
"To clarify, the problem is one of describing the
organization, structure, or order that exists within those activities
identified as scientific and technological, the processes by which that
order is created and maintained, the forces which influence the shape of
that order, and the consequences of that order for the activity carried
our within it" (4).
"Studies of localities tend to lose sight of the historical processes
by which individuals and groups attempt to provide continuities among locales,
attempt to draw together moments across time and space (as through
organizations, training, institutions, forums, communication)" (5).
"Unlike earlier theories of scientific and technological structure actant
network theory foregrounds individual agency, foregrounds an
historical account of current arrangements, and foregrounds the creative
response of individuals to complexity and contingency in order to create
novel arrangements" (6). Bazerman suggests that ANT (is this the same ANT Latour
writes about in Reassembling?) centers on the individual actor.
"What I am suggesting is little more than providing a structurationist
balance to our accounts of the social construction of technoscience, but the
problem remains of what terms to use to describe the persistent, though
changing, social landscape which we must come to terms with and act within, if
we are to act effectively" (7).
"That is, by looking at the symbolic tools of a discipline we can see
what it is the tools can do, while keeping in mind that individuals always find
new uses for tools" (10).
"Socialization can be seen as a series of concrete
tool/concept/artifact/mediation integrations into personal relations organized
within activities" (11).