Changing Discourse

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

When I first started this blog I was feeling a need to journal. A lot has happened and it all gets a little scrambled as you pass through the years. With age, there's a point you start mixing the names of your children, and end up running through all family member names before you get to the right one. I'm not quite there yet, but where I feel it does happen is in the birth and growth of GSL. The years merged and went by so quickly. I truly have to stop and think before I can attach a year to an event. I'm going to lose it if I don't work on remembering.

After I started blogging a remarkable thing happened. The stories gave context and started conversations; they brought people within GSL together. The stories gave a sense of history, purpose and cohesion. Then Nettie (GSL's CEO) joined me and the stories became richer and more diverse. Interestingly this is a phenomena that's found in studies on how families use stories (Huisman, 2014):

The study found that families largely focused on positive stories that portrayed the family as pro-social and happy. Negative stories focused on how the family overcame their adversities as a group. Laughter was used to minimize face-threatening stories. The construction of the group identity was framed in such a way as to connect the family group to a larger culture that values independence, self-reliance, and cohesion as a family group

This phenomena was interesting so I started reading about the value of story telling. I bumped into the work of Donald Miller and creating a story brand. Now, any of you who know me will know marketing and money is not really my thing. In my mind it equates to finance. I consider finances are the life blood of GSL, like air and breathing are to life, but just as I only think of breathing in relation to my health, it's the only time I think about finances. I have sat at odds with marketing because of the sales connotation, which I know is ridiculous. I didn't know how to approach marketing and getting the word out. When I read about story branding it felt natural. It was a fit. I'm hooked. I can tell stories. GSL is all about stories. So now we have ventured into the world of creating GSL's stories, and to me it feels natural. My hope is that it will help people better understand GSL: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Another piece of work I bumped into was the work of Uri Hasson on how we tell and hear stories; and, how a great story may even allow two brains to sync up. This was profound for me - when we listen to stories of the others, we experience the exact same brain pattern as the storyteller? And then, I came to realise, if we are the storyteller we can influence others to feel the same as us. It took a little while for me to reflect, think and process what this meant to me, but then I realised. To improve the lives of people who have lived experience of disability we need to do something about our discourse. It struck me that story telling could be our vehicle.

Back to the topic of discourse: I thought discourse was a formal discussion around a topic. I didn't realise it has four primary aims: to persuade, to inform, to discover for one's own needs, and to create. 'Check', I thought, 'all good with me' but then I learned there's analysis, and quite astoundingly, disability as a formal subject doesn't seem to fit criteria!?! - Grue (2015) Disability and Discourse Analysis:

... discourse analysts have traditionally been concerned with social issues and fields in which asymmetric power relations, marginalization, and discrimination play a central role, e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, all of which share many analytical features with disability. But although efforts have been made to integrate disability into the discourse analysis and conversation analysis canon, the link between the two fields needs to be strengthened.

What the???? What does this mean? We need to strengthen what? How do we do this?

My thought is that we need to be more vocal about the asymmetrical power relations. So how do we do this? Story telling, me thinks, but not just from one perspective. There needs to be multiple perspective on a topic so the asymmetry is apparent. My personal opinion is that we might be able to highlight asymmetry, and then influence it by syncing brains.

Ambitious, I hear some of you say; Far Fetched, I hear others say. Yes, I say. All we can do is give it a shot anyway. I think it's worth it because I wholeheartedly agree with Haegele and Hodge (2016) Disability Discourse: Overview and Critiques of the Medical and Social Models:

The way in which disability is understood is important because the language people use to describe individuals with disabilities influences their expectations and interactions with them.

So I am on a new quest. This weekend I scoped a podcast and recorded the pilot episode. I'm not sure when it will hit the air. I've come to learn podcasting is quite a commitment and I want to do this right. I'll still be blogging as a way of journaling and I'm really keen to see if I can attract more writers to this site, so the story of GSL becomes richer. It's just that recently I've become conscious of a new fire in my belly. One that is driving me to challenge discourse. Criteria be damned - there is marginalisation and discrimination and it's socially and morally wrong.

Podcasting is not within my comfort zone. I've blogged previously about my introverted tenancies and that I have actively avoided social media until recently. I'm going to feel like an idiot until I can find my groove but the more I think about it, the more I feel a passion growing. I truly believe the NDIS is a sign that social reform is coming. If I can expedite this in any small measure, then I will.


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