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Title: (Im)possibility and the pragmatics of empowerment
Author: Ristimaki, Thomas T.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3519 7817
Awarding Body: University of Wales, Bangor
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis explores the negotiation of context and strategic redefinition of reality through language and interaction, with an emphasis on perception/interpretation and empowerment as a social practice. The purpose of this project is to highlight several linguistic strategies being used by professional facilitators l in various contexts to help people overcome fear, apathy, and self-imposed limitations. Drawing on natural language data collected through participant-observation in several (subjectively) challenging situations - from abseiling to frrewalking - I use pragmatics and discourse analysis to investigate the perception of (im)possibility and people's 'commonsense' beliefs about what they can or cannot do (and why) in order to illustrate how these ideas can be challenged or changed through (re)framing, metaphor, and conceptual blending. I also discuss fear in terms of social performance and demonstrate how facilitators actively deconstruct and redefme the experience of fear through negotiated meaning in interaction. Finally, by drawing on a range of research literature from various fields I attempt to situate my own observations of language use within a larger body of interdisciplinary work dealing with epistemology and issues such as perception, categorization, social knowledge claims, and the social/linguistic construction ofreality. . Empowerment presupposes a power imbalance, which is why the language of leaders deserves special attention. Through their social role and context-based authority facilitators are often in a position to influence other people's mental models and establish shared (short-term) expectations that subtly promote a preferred interpretation of specific activities or experiences. Various examples illustrate how participants are led to question some of their underlying assumptions about the world, engage in 'unrealistic' activities, and attempt the 'impossible.' By prompting the creation of imaginative metaphors and blended mental spaces, effective facilitators can create (imaginary) conditions or incentives that promote increased participation and trigger target behaviour through integrated action - essentially using imaginmy realities to achieve real world results. Participants are never forced to do anything against their will, and although these are often superficially goal-oriented activities, the underlying purpose is to encourage people to question their self-limiting beliefs and create a meaningful experience in order to promote empowerment in everyday life. I Facilitator refers to a unique social role, which presupposes specialized training or previous experience of a particular activity. and therefore context-specific power and social authority relative to a group of participants.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available