A Foucauldian–Fairclaughian Discursive Analysis of the Social Construction of ICT for Environmentally Sustainable Urban Development – the Case of European Society

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A Foucauldian–Fairclaughian Discursive Analysis of the Social Construction of ICT for Environmentally Sustainable Urban Development – the Case of European Society

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Title A Foucauldian–Fairclaughian Discursive Analysis of the Social Construction of ICT for Environmentally Sustainable Urban Development – the Case of European Society
Author(s) Bibri, Simon Elias
Date 2013
English abstract
ICT has become so deeply embedded into the fabric of European society – in economic, political, and socio-cultural narratives, practices, and structures – that it has been constructed as holding tremendous untapped and inestimable potential for instigating and unleashing far-reaching societal transformation, addressing key societal challenges, and solving all societal problems. It has recently been seen, given its ubiquity, as a critical driver and powerful catalyst for sustainable urban development due to its potential to enable substantial energy savings and GHG emissions reductions in most urban sectors, especially buildings. However, related to this ubiquity, there are also a lot of visions (of limited modern applicability), hopes, myths, fallacies, and oxymora, which applies for the environmental subsystem of information society where debates focus on whether ICT can advance environmental urban sustainability. There are intricate relationships and tradeoffs among the multidimensional effects of ICT for the environment that flow mostly from the use and application of ICT – e.g. energy efficiency technology - throughout the urban sphere. Regardless, the technological orientation and framing of the sustainable city and the green economy has gained dominance in European society and become prevalent in what has come to be identified or known as the discourse of ICT for sustainable urban development (ICT4SUD). The aim of this study is to carry out a critical reading of the social construction of ICT4SUD, the underlying ideology about the ICT potential in advancing environmental urban sustainability. To achieve this aim, a Foucauldian-Faircloughian discursive approach is employed to examine the selected empirical material. This approach consists of nine stages: (1) surface descriptors and contextual elements; (2) historical-diachronic dimension; (3) epistemic and cultural frames; (4) discursive constructions and discourses; (5) social actors and framing power; (6) discursive strategies; (7) discursive mechanisms; (8) political practice, knowledge, and power; and (9) ideological standpoints. As a scholarly discourse, ICT4SUD is inherently part of and influenced by economic, societal, and political structures, and produced in social interaction. ICT4SUD is thus neither paradigmatic nor value-free, but rather socio-politically situated. It is shaped by cultural frames that are conventionalized by European society and attuned to its values, and it is a matter of a pre-intellectual space where ICT and sustainability constitute salient defining factors of the dominant configuration of knowledge, institutions, and material forces of European society. Indeed, ICT4SUD is impacted by earlier representations of reality and how they were reproduced in relation to the significance of discursive constructions of ICT and sustainability issues in the broader context of European culture. Moreover, the ICT4SUD discourse plays a major role in (re)constructing the image of the ICT industry as a social actor and in defining its identity and relation with other constituents of society, in that it is relocated new roles and attributed new societal missions. The dominant framing of the reports is clearly the one advanced by the ICT industry: it is constituted into the main definer of the represented reality. Further, positioning the ICT industry as the driver of the low-carbon city/economy aids the construction of an image of leadership in creating a low carbon society. The reports’ construction of energy efficiency technology is a powerful legitimation of the ICT industry’s views and actions. In addition, the ICT4SUD discourse is exclusionary, namely a number of facts and issues pertaining to structural, indirect, and systemic effects of ICT and the associated rebound effects are left out, concealed, or neglected. Also, the discourse is inclined to be deterministic, i.e. it postulates that ICT, supported by policy, will achieve SUD while it falls short in considering social behaviour and socio-economic relationships. It moreover tends to be rhetorical – that is, it promises environmentally SUD without really having a holistic strategy to achieve that goal. Furthermore, given the scientific discourse and the legitimation capacity of computing, climatology, and sustainability indicators, one can subsume a range of social and political effects under the category of discourse mechanisms through which ICT4SUD operates, which both show the power of discourse and potentially empower the ICT industry and its cohorts. There are different justifications for the development of energy efficiency technology in relation to decision-making processes. Plus, politics, as a consequence of its interaction with ICT4SUD, forces, though different mechanisms, the emergence and development of the ICT4SUD discourse, which is, simultaneously, influenced by the power/knowledge relations established in European society that bounds or expands its success. Finally, as to ideological reproduction, the ICT4SUD discourse reconstructs cultural claims, conveys ideological messages, and reproduces and legitimizes power structures.
Publisher Malmo University
Pages 84
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) ICT, sustainable urban development, environmental urban sustainability, energy efficiency technology, GHG emissions reductions, ICT4SUD, discourse, episteme, discursive construction, European society, information society, ICT industry, buildings, rebound effects, Foucauldian
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/15201 (link to this page)

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