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    Qualitative content analysis: a Burkeian perspective.

    Starosta WJ

    In: Methods of intercultural communications research, edited by William B. Gudykunst [and] Young Yun Kim. Beverly Hills, California, Sage Publications, 1984. 185-94. (International and Intercultural Communication Annual, Vol. VIII)

    This chapter weds the traditions of rhetorical analysis to those of content analysis in the study of international organization pronouncements, that is, it relates a research perspective, explores possible extensions of that perspective, applies that perspective to intercultural communication, and critiques that application. Like Kenneth Burke, the author finds strength in paradoxes. Content analysis translates frequency of occurrence of certain symbols into summary judgments and comparisons of content of the discourse. By marking off units of time or space, it tallies the nature and types of symbols or classes of symbols per unit, prior to estimating or extrapolating the results to spaces or periods not directly observed. The concerns of the content analyst focus on the choice of a unit, the development and clear description of categories of symbols or themes to be quantified, the assurance that coders will intersubjectively agree on assignment of symbols to categories, and the ascertainment of direction for the materials counted. Content analysis is a means of counting and judging some matter based upon statistical central tendencies, yet the question remains as to which features of meaning are quantifiable. The suspicion that, more often than not, things of greater importance will be stated ina communique in direct proportion to their importance, is countered many times in cultural practice. Cultural indirection, ritual, cultural hierarchy, cultural "non sequiturs," or like variables weaken the tie between quantity and quality. Rhetoricians and humanists tend to be concerned with quality of communicative acts more than quantity. Kenneth Burke is an exception to this rule. He argues in "Philosophy of Literary Form" the need for measures of central tendency to disclose important concepts on the mind of a communicator. This analysis is extended from the study of a writer to a speaker, from a speaker to a set of speakers who face the same stimulus, to the definition of an outlook for an international organization, to the application of that organizational outlook to take to task a disrespectful member state. The progression, pairing, or contrasting of terms by a speaker disclose the "cornerstone terms" of the speaker's motivation. Presumably, the calculation of cornerstone points for persons suggests such points for groups or organizations of affiliation by that person; and the comparison of such points between groups and organizations will disclose the calculus for entire cultures. As Burke's symbolic analysis technique effectively discloses motivations ("factors") of the communicator, this holds out the hope that the tenets of a given culture could be disclosed through the analysis of cultural materials.
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