Note: This blog post is my effort to incorporate the “Discourse Analysis” (by James Paul Gee) into a real life encounter. Be forewarned: this might be boring.
I recently had the good fortune to sit in on a “Healthy Self Reset” Facebook page, where a pair of healthy eaters (and knowledgable people; from here on out referenced as “teachers”) gave information on how to eat and be properly active over a month, and was intended for poor eaters who needed a healthy reset after the holidays/help with resolutions, etc. It was cool. The teachers emailed those on the list with a recipe setup for the week, complete with meals, snacks, etc, and ways to improve on life.
I’m not the best eater. I have diabetes from poor choices (and ignorance) from earlier in life. I eat WAY better than a lot of people in this country (America), but I definitely don’t eat as well as some.
The Discourse Analysis focus (which posits a bunch of “tools” from a toolkit to understand sociolinguistics) is brought into play when I try and purchase the food from the recipe list, and then make the meal.
My girlfriend can attest to this: I was very confused when I returned to make food.
In an earlier email (which I hadn’t read properly. My fault), I learned the teachers assumed those on the page would have bulk items available like olive oil (which I had) and what I’d consider to be more obscure things like hemp seeds.
They also didn’t get the portions right for some of the food: I needed three squashes when the menu said to purchase one, for example, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not judging them.
I realized I was looking at a group of people with a common set of assumptions about other people, and while they don’t necessarily see it, outsiders (like me) do. Hemp seeds, for example, was a sticking point. I’ve never heard of them before in my life. I’ve been shopping a long time, and I’ve never stumbled across them.
In fact, I live in an area where raw cashews are difficult to find. I couldn’t fill the list I actually had at the grocery store I shopped at (one, I might add, that is considered whoa expensive and high-end). Upon closer inspection, Whole Foods and Costco had the ingredients: two locations that are not near me.
This isn’t a rant. I’m not complaining. I was able to make do with what I had (minus the riced cauliflower: something else I’d never heard of before), and only lost an avocado to rot.
But in noticing the assumptions made by the teachers, I learned a lot about the circle of healthy eaters they live in. I’d possibly base my thoughts on this as geared toward urban middle class women (partially because of the locations for shopping, partially due to the foundation of the Facebook page altogether) with an already working knowledge of how the whole “reset” process works.
It was absolutely fascinating to look at this interaction from a sociolinguistics framework. Yes, I’m aware I didn’t go into details about how this is “linguistics,” exactly. Riced Cauliflower, Hemp Seeds, bulk Raw Cashews, are all aspects of a literacy I’m new to, and a foreigner from. I mean, the act of ricing cauliflower… The idea of “rice” as a verb!
I’ll try to elaborate more with different situations as I come across them.