'Doing Differences': The Emergence of Differences in Issue Framing in Multi-Actor Conversations
29 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2008
Date Written: 2007
In this paper we analyze how differences in issue framing emerge in multi-stakeholder conversations. From a discursive approach to issue framing we draw on conversational studies of disagreement, difference and conflict to build up a theoretical framework. This leads us to understand differences in issue framing as relationally significant, sequentially relevant and discursively constructed incompatibilities between two or more issue elements. In the study of multi-stakeholder conversations in the context of natural resources management in Southern Ecuador, we analyzed 8 difference emergence episodes during three interaction moments. We show that the discursive structure of the difference-initiating speaking turns is multi-layered. The differences emerge by working cautiously towards a specific but clear challenge and then adding further challenging layers of implications, and can be understood as oriented to simultaneously being to the point and being relevant. As was the case in 4 of the studied difference emergence episodes, this multi-layered structure can be exploited by interrupting a divergent movement in order to prevent the emergence of a difference. Finally, the interaction contexts in which the differences emerge can be characterized as asymmetrical, putting the burden of the risky business of initiating differences on the shoulders of the weaker parties, who proceed very prudently and produce generally weak signals of difference.
Keywords: framing, difference, multi-actor negotiations
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