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Web-Based Organizational Discourses: Climate Change

The article of Smart (2010) discussed in the present paper pertains to the investigation of collective argumentation formation within the process of interaction with organizations holding similar and opposite opinions and viewpoints. The discourse relationships observed as an object for the present research are found across the network of texts located in the Internet (the current example deals with the climate change debate). The hypothesis of the author was that the discourse relationships in the formation of the argumentation, proofs and evidence, contradictions and comparisons are discursively related not only in organizations with similar standpoints, but in those opposing each other in views.

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The hypothesis voiced by the author is well-grounded, due to the representation of evidence on all climate change-related issues targeted by opponents. The example of organizations relating their activity to climate change shows how differently people, scientific facts and even the consequences of environmental events are depicted by the opposing organizations and which patterns of argumentation they choose. Which is even more interesting about the author’s findings, the argumentation is related in many ways across the organizational discourses because of the opponents’ deep discourse interconnection. The researcher finds the recurrent claims, themes and patterns of argumentation that are directly influenced by the behavior of opponents. That is, the discourse of the professional climate change organization is continuously formed as a natural reaction to the argumentation of the opposing party (Smart, 2010).

The conclusion that the author makes is highly relevant to modern discourse studies, providing a sound contribution to the development of applied linguistics and the context of collective argumentation. Smart (2010) claims that the organizational discourse thus has a constructive nature (being built around the continuous changes of argumentation of opponents), and that its role in the creation of the social reality within the organizations engaged in the debates is tremendous. Logically, the findings of the author add much to the linguistic understanding of the concept of discourse, and the organizational discourse in particular. It turns out that the discourse is not formed autonomously within an organization, but is continuously affected by the opponents and proponents thereof (Smart, 2010).

One more helpful outcome of Smart’s research is that the author has managed to outline the main guidelines for the future research of collective argumentation of the organizational standpoint. He mentions three approaches to the argumentation formation depending on the scope of study involved in the discourse studies. The first way to hold the investigation is to focus on the discourse within an organization that involves the genres and rhetorical strategies employed to ensure the shared understanding of issues supported, to construct common arguments etc. The second focus that may be taken is the one from the standpoint of a discourse coalition: it involves argumentation-building in the process of exchanging mutually useful claims, facts and arguments. And, surely, the third way of researching the formation of the collective argumentation involves the research across discourses of opposing coalitions: it may be employed to view the relationships in contradictory argument-building (Smart, 2010). The findings are useful for further empirical research as they offer methodological guidelines simplifying the process of scientific investigation.

Finally, a helpful observation made by the author is that the concept of science may be shown in different ways in opposing discourses as well. By investigating the objective scientific facts and comparing them to related but opposing subjective arguments of climate change organizations, the author found out how scientific facts are discursively altered on the basis of the collective argumentation patterns. The mentioned observations may be of much significance in the studies of the scientific discourse and forces influencing it in various situations.


Smart, G. (2010). “Argumentation across Web-Based Organizational Discourses: The Case of Climate Change.” In Srikant Sarangi & Chris Candlin (eds.), Handbook of Communication in Organizations and Professions. Mouton De Gruyter.

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