Panel 16 | Legal & policy discourse

CADAAD2022 | 06-08/07/2022 | Bergamo, Italy

13 | Michele Martini & Susan L. Robertson

Network Text Analysis for the Study of Policy Discourse: the case of OECD Global Competences Framework

In 2014, the OECD approved the incorporation of a set of global competence measures to its Programme of Student Assessment (PISA). To frame the concept of “global competences”, two documents were released: Global Competency for an Inclusive World (OECD, 2016) and Preparing Our Youth for a Sustainable and Inclusive World (OECD, 2018). However, the 2016 document was later withdrawn form public readership and is currently not available on the OECD official website. As of today, no official explanation has been provided to motivate this decision.

In our study, we employ Network Text Analysis within a Critical Realist framework to underscore the deep semantic differences that occur between the two documents. The possibility of translating text into semantic networks yields both methodological and analytical advantages. From a methodological perspective, the semi-automated translation of texts into semantic networks avoids the risk of biased comparisons between unprocessed texts. Moreover, it allows the identification of deductive categories, as well as their investigation through both the produced networks and targeted linguistic analysis. From an analytical perspective, Network Text Analysis allows scholars to both map the structural selectivities that are built-into policy texts and trace their transformation in the course of time, thus highlighting significant semantic shifts and rearticulations in the discourse around global competences.

Substantively, findings highlight a dramatic change of approach between the two documents, and specifically that (a) the concept of “global competence” is radically redefined through the simplification and polarization of the semantic universe surrounding it, (b) that the concept “global” becomes a shifting signifier which enables the establishment of a functional equivalence between the two studied documents, and that (c) in this process, concepts such as “culture”, which were proposed as a solution by the OECD in its 2016 text to deal with rising social inequalities, differences and intolerances, are now erased in the 2018 text.

On this basis, we argue that the disappearance of the first document and its substitution with a new one highlights a central friction in the OECD definition of global competences which is focused on the concept of culture. We contend that the multiplicity of perspectives implied by a cultural approach eventually clashed with PISA’s own conception of culture, i.e., a culture tied to economic development. Indeed, the ideal citizen that emerges from the OECD’s Global Competence Framework is a subject whose competences can ensure a high level of extraction and exchange of value within an ideal global market; a market ruled by one single standard.

182 | Tatiana Grieshofer

Court communication on trial: Legal-lay discourse

The paper deals with a critical type of discourse in one of the most challenging and formalised settings in which the differences in institutional roles and the recourse to linguistic resources are unequal by default. The focus is on communication in small claims cases and private family proceedings, in which at least one of the parties is not represented by a lawyer. Semi-represented and fully unrepresented cases (i.e. cases where one of the parties or neither of the parties is represented) create the conditions in which the discrepancies between legal and lay discourse types are most apparent, yet effective communication and mutual understanding are key for ensuring procedural justice and judicial efficiency.

The paper draws on court observations, interview data (with lay court users and lawyers) and textual data (court forms and guidance documents) collected as part of the ongoing AHRC-funded project Language of DIY Justice: Communication Practices & Processes. While exploring legal-lay discourse and communicative practices embedded in court processes and procedures, the paper pays special attention to communicative, conceptual and discursive barriers court users experience when representing themselves and the strategies adopted by legal professionals to support lay people on their journey to accessing justice. The paper concludes by reflecting on how linguistic research can inform the administration of justice and contribute to improving elicitation strategies across different stages of legal proceedings and different jurisdictions.