Unformatted text preview: is simply a useful way of talking about selected aspects of the social world. Discourse theory does not demand that we abandon such aggregate concepts, nor does it claim that there is an alternative to aggregation, but only that we be aware of the process, and its implications for scientific study and conversation. All objects, and the names we use to identify them, are by necessity aggregations of other objects. Consider terms such as “molecule,” “soil,” “tree,” “forest,” “capitalism,” “deciduous forest,” and “global warming;” they are all discursive aggregations. We obtain the concept of “deciduous forest” by first selecting the characteristic of “annual leaf fall” out of the infinite number of attributes possessed by trees (discursive selection). There are no “deciduous forests,” as such, in nature; it is simply a way of representing a set of trees at a particular level of discursive aggregation. The term does not correspond to a pre‐defined entity existing in the natural world. The geographer’s concept of scale is a special case of this principle in which discursive aggregation is done over a segment of space. This is true of scale as used in cartography, physical geography, and human geography. The representative fraction of the cartographer informs us that a single linear unit on the map has discursively aggregated a specified number of linear units on the ground. And whatever is represented on that map is of necessity a discursive selection of the infinite things that exist in the actual place shown on the map. One of the visual devices I use in class to explain discursive aggregation is the screening of a short ten‐minute video titled The Powers of Ten produced by Charles and Ray Eames in 1977. It is a documentary film about the universe, beginning with an overhead view of a family picnicking on the Chicago lakefront. Then the camera recedes to a height of 102, 103, and so on (Figure 2). When the family has long disappeared from view we see the whole earth, the solar system, the Milky Way, and images move up to 1024—the limit of observable technology. Then the camera pans back from the macrosc...
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- Winter '14
- Poverty, discourse theory, discursive aggregation, Discursive selection