Topic 1 The analysis of textual sentences

It is about making some first interpretations and comments that include phrases or expressions as they were said, being as faithful as possible to the way of expressing people or groups.

We can do three readings or listening to the material collected: one as a whole, another one of the themes that come up and a last one of the relationships that are revealed between different social actors and groups. To make more rigorous interpretations we can turn to an expert in Discourse Analysis.

Background reading

We can do it with part or all of the Motor Group, and it consists of reading/listening to the complete interview and writing down in the margins the ideas or impressions that are suggested to us; the fact of doing a collective audition allows us to exchange impressions with the rest of the members of the group, who, because they belong to the same environment as the people interviewed, can provide us with interesting visions that would otherwise escape us, not only because of what is says but also for what is not said. Knowing from where they are saying the things they say, the position in which they are situated, from where they are speaking, especially in relation to the place of the sample and the characteristics for which it was chosen. People not only talk about issues that concern them, but also show the “guiding thread” of their concerns, talk about themselves without meaning to or wanting to.

Reading by topic

We select from each workshop or interview the most important topics and blocks of topics (it is as if we summarized the interview or workshop in big news headlines: we write down the phrases or textual paragraphs as they were said or written). Topic by topic, for example, security, housing, transportation, etc. we try to find out what are the main topics that are being talked about (the ones we ask about and the ones that may come up in conversations). And in each of the issues we must select which are the positions, motivations and strategies at stake, and how they are expressed in each case.

Relational reading

Information on relations with other sectors and groups, on the different positions (on trust, fears, etc.) is also important. What is said about the different groups or networks in which they are related (who are they referring to when they say us and who are they referring to when they speak of them), to find out if it is possible to establish collaborations or not, and in what topics. Contradictions will appear both within each group and between each other, but it is precisely what is interesting to know: where are the points of friction and where are the common interests, precisely to highlight them in the returns, and to be able to promote common elements.

One way to group the phrases, the positions that are collected on each topic of the workshops or interviews, is by placing them along axes, highlighting those phrases that best represent each position, some that seem clearer and more graphic.

As there are usually opposing positions for each case, we will choose those that may be more at the extremes, and perhaps some more significant intermediate ones.

With this we can fill in the sentences of the dominant axis, the one with the most repeated sentences, the ones that are at the end of the “yes-no” dilemma.

But there are other types of positions and phrases that are not reducible to conventional positions. They are the ones that could respond to “neither this nor that”, they get out of the axis in which people are discussing. They provide another way of thinking that is not usual, they are minority phrases, but they serve to open a broader debate. Or we can also find phrases and positions that integrate the extremes, overcoming them, denying that they are so contradictory, because for example they are only apparently contradictory when faced with a type of question or issue, but not when faced with questions of greater depth.

To find these types of phrases that go beyond the traditional dilemma, we have to be attentive because they are not easily seen if the focus is not opened to see their possibilities. We have to open the field to other voices, try to listen to what some minority voices say, as they can be, at times, very sensible and creative.

These collections of phrases of the type that we call “tetralemmas” or “pentallemmas”, or positions on each topic, can be presented like this, on a plane (with or without arrows), in a circle, square or in a list, but in such a way that so that there are not many. Show that we have collected between 4-5 basic positions, but that can be exemplified with no more than 8-10 sentences of the many that have been heard.

Besides (for whom it may be of interest), a document can be attached with Discourse Analysis or other forms if greater precision or scientific justification is necessary.

Example of a game of phrases in a workshop on the European university reform (Bologna)

Another method, proposed by Johan Galtung, is the Trascend Method (Galtung 2008), where the positions that are considered opposite are usually presented in two coordinate axes: one vertically and the other horizontally, with a series of nuances in each of them.

At the starting point 0 of both axes would be “Neither one, nor the other”, that is, they lose both positions and a different problem arises. And in the diagonal that goes up from left to right would be the positions of mediation in the conflict. In the middle, those of “a little of each” of the opposing ones appear, and in the end, those that overcome or transcend the problem would appear because both parties win something or enough.

In all these methods, what we want is not to remain locked in the first positions that we can hear, nor in the most superficial and repeated dilemmas that are usually established in conventional conversations.

Special attention must be paid to pick up positions that are out of the ordinary, and especially those that raise deeper questions (for example, why are we asking ourselves this?) or those that point to lines of debate with deeper causes

There is always someone who gives reasoning or lines of thought that go beyond the most conventional dilemmas. If we rescue these phrases and contribute them in a return, together with the dominant ones, we may be provoking a self-diagnosis and a much deeper collective reflection.