Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Third Legitimation Code Theory Conference, Abstract: Knowledge and Rhetoric

The Third Legitimation Code Theory Conference (#LCT3 on twitter) is coming up this year and I have submitted a paper co-authored with Shi Chunxu (who runs the LCT Research Group in China & works on legal discourse with LCT and Systemic Functional Linguistics).  We have a couple of manuscripts in the works - so hopfully they will be published soon.  For now here is the abstract for our conference paper:

TitleKnowledge and Rhetoric:  A Specialization Analysis of Courtroom Argumentation

Abstract: Legal cultures grounded on abstract principles or rhetorical appeals to moral feelings would seem to be diametrically opposed.  Yet, in courtroom argumentation, there is a balance between interpreting events with legal statutes; and moral evaluations of character and intentions (Shi, 2017). The mix of epistemic and social elements suggests a problem: what is the basis of legitimation in courtroom argumentation and what stance-taking strategies do defence lawyers and prosecutors use to influence the outcome of court cases? These problems are not merely of theoretical interest. The judicial field is a key arena of struggle closely related to the field of politics (Bourdieu, 1986: 815) – legitimation within the courtroom is a fulcrum for the operation of power. This operation also has important pedagogic implications for legal education as understanding the social practices of the judicial field is crucial for aligning graduate qualities with the professional standards of legal practice. The rapid transformation of China’s legal system since 1979 and the corresponding expansion of legal education, credentialism, and tightening professional standard bring these issues to the fore (Zhou, 2009; Ji, 2017). 

To address this question, this paper employs the Specialization dimension of Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) to analyse transcripts of 20 court cases from the People’s Republic of China that involve several different types of criminal offenses. Specialization codes allow for insight into the basis of courtroom strategies, differentiating between claims that emphasize or deemphasize relations between knowledge and the object or method of study (epistemic relations) or claims that stress or downplay the importance of relations between knowledge and the author of the claim, either because of their ways of knowing or subjective characteristics (social relations) (Maton 2014:29).  We apply these concepts to courtroom discourse and develop a translation device (Chen and Maton, 2016) to facilitate the Specialization analysis. We operationalize epistemic relations in terms of appeals to legal principles, processes of fact construction and interpretation; and social relations in terms of evaluation of moral character and the subjective intention of defendants.  

Courtroom argumentation is orientated towards legal principles and the supremacy of the law. However, the law allows a range of strategies and the specialization analysis reveals code shifts and clashes occur in such institutional contexts. Defence lawyers and prosecutors both engage in strategies that emphasis epistemic relations and social relations, depending on the affordances of the relevant legal statutes and range symbolic resources available. Statutes that define a crime and the criteria to judge if a crime has been committed provide relatively stable technical meanings; while statutes that outline grounds for the mitigation of sentences leave more latitude for the interpretation of people.  This legal context and the facts of the case provide the constraints and resources that lawyers exploit to enact different argumentative strategies. Emphasis of the law and rhetorical appeals to moral feeling are two potential paths to follow. 

Despite the objectivity characteristic of legal language and judicial ideology (Bourdieu, 1986), Specialization analysis also reveals the social and axiological aspects of legal practice that are often concealed. This study offers an operational understanding of Specialization codes in legal discourse and provides a case study of social relations within a field that obscures or downplays these relations in its self-representation. These findings have implications for understanding the ideology of the judicial field in China and pedagogy that neglects the rhetorical aspects of courtroom argumentation.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). “The force of law: Toward a sociology of the juridical field”. Hastings Law Journal, 38, p.805.
Ji, W. (2017). “The ideal and path of legal education reform in China”, Legal Education in the Global Context: Opportunities and Challenges, London: Routledge, pp. 267-78. 
Maton, K. and Chen, R.T, (2016) “LCT in qualitative research: creating a translation device for studying constructivist pedagogy”, Knowledge building: Educational studies in legitimation code theory, London: Routledge, pp.27-48.
Maton, K. (2014). Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a Realist Sociology of Education. London: Routledge.
Shi, C. (2017) Affiliation Through Value Negotiation in Chinese Criminal Courtroom Argumentation, PhD Thesis, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.
Zhou, S. (2009). “The Reform Strategy of Legal Education in China”, Global Business & Development Law Journal, 22, pp. 69-73.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Wayback Machine: Essays from High School

I did some digging and I found a series of old essays I wrote during High School and just after published on the che-lives.com e-zine (i.e. a blog, but we were going for a digital analog of zines put out by activists and anarchist collectives).  One of the last ones, "The Concepts of Alienation and Surplus value, A brief look", was my first or second sociology essay for Open Foundation at Newcastle Uni (alternative pathway into Uni). I seemed to have liked situationlists, Cyril Smith, and Non-leninist Marxists. 

Here is my ealiest collection, under the pseudonym euripidies. And here is a second collection, later, under the name Monty Cantsin.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SSPS Magazine article on S-Club

I had short article for the SSPS Magazine published about S-Club, a data analysis workshop with the LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building.  You can find it: here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Next Talk: Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Seminar Series

Next talk is the USYD's Department of Sociology and Social Policy Seminar Series.  Details here.

Constellations of Scepticism: Contesting Climate Science and Scientists on the Blogosphere.

Discussions of the role of social media in spreading ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ often centre on misinformation. Falsehoods and conspiracy theories need to be debunked. Yet, focus on misinformation alone can suggest an arena without rules or evaluative logics. This talk engages with the case study of the climate sceptic blogosphere and how they construe, construct, and contest knowledge. Analysis of the climate sceptic blogosphere, one of the first arenas of online alternative facts, suggests that there are rules that organise legitimate knowledge. The organisation of knowledge claims in this sphere hints towards an underlying worldview that makes the arrangement of some claims and stances valued and others devalued. Missing this logic leads to an analysis that falls back into a deficit model of pubic misunderstanding of science and policy that assumes high information costs underlie rejection of stabilised facts.  This case study suggests that it is the willingness to select certain facts and misinterpret others that sociology needs to explain to understand the spread and reception of alternative facts online.

Friday, March 16, 2018

LCT Roundtable: Explanatory or Axiological Power? Determining the Basis of Cosmologies in Janus-Faced Discourses

Day of the talk. (Photo credit: Kirstin WIlmont)

I have another LCT roundtable coming on - 23rd of March, 2018. 

Title: Explanatory or Axiological Power? Determining the Basis of Cosmologies in Janus-Faced Discourses

Abstract: This roundtable will explore criteria to determine if explanatory power or axiological power is the finial basis for the selection and organization of knowledge practices on the climate sceptic blogosphere.  Climate sceptic bloggers frequently engage in political and policy discussion yet insist that the core problem of climate science and policy is the weakness of the empirical and conceptual underpinnings of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.  Explanatory power is presented as the basis for legitimacy in climate science and climate politics, yet there is a case that the code matching of contrarian position with the mainstream position on climate science serves as a basis to contest knowledge-building and delay policy action (Toll, 2017). Glenn (2016) found that representatives from think-thanks who opposed carbon pricing did so on explicitly for ideological reasons – free market and libertarian ideals. Climate sceptics bloggers explicitly engage with the social science literature and reject these kinds of ideology driven explanations of their position and knowledge practices. On the blogosphere, the organizing principles of the climate sceptic cosmology are obscured and sensitivity needs to be paid to the construction of their epistemological and axiological constellations and how various elements are selected and evaluated.  Constellation analysis reveals tendencies that suggest axiological power and not explanatory power is the basis of climate sceptic bloggers’ cosmologies.

Glenn, E. (PhD, 2016) From Clashing to Matching: Examining the legitimation codes that underpin shifting views about climate change, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
Toll, M. (2017) Hyper-knowledge codes: Contesting knowledge-building on the climate sceptic blogosphere, Second International Legitimation Code Theory Conference, Sydney, Australia, July.

Friday, August 25, 2017