Opening the black box of communication policy-making: Analysing policy change through the lenses of networks and discourse

Onderzoeksoutput: Conference paper


Policy-making takes place in a black box. Most of the current research on communication and Internet policies looks at policy texts and positions either from an ex-ante or from an ex-post perspective. While the first approach examines the empirical data, interests, opinions and political conditions that lead to a certain policy solution, the second evaluates existing policies with regard to their appropriateness, implementation and effects. Most of these analyses consider that policies result from rational choice making; but an increasing number of research works question this perception and analyze the role of language, discourse and ideas for policy-making. However, only very few scholars focus on the policy-making process itself in order to understand how policy decisions are taken and changes in policy discourse occurs.

The paper adds a new perspective to the existing research on communication policy by proposing a methodological framework for the study of policy-making processes and the role of discourse within policy debates. The focus is thereby on the creation of policy discourse on communication issues taking place in intergovernmental settings. In order to compare or evaluate policy initiatives, we need to understand how initiatives come about in the complex and highly politicized settings of international organizations that have the particularity of regrouping actors with very diverse backgrounds and interests. But instead of analyzing the interests, ideas and power relations of the individual and organizational actors involved, the paper proposes to look at policy ideas as the outcome of discursive struggles among networks of actors. It not simply asks which ideas are taken up in policy debates, but questions how it comes that certain ideas come to be adopted as the dominant thinking in intergovernmental policy-making bodies.

Based on a critical review of Foucault's notions of discourse, knowledge and power, the paper elaborates therefore a methodological approach that combines Argumentative Discourse Analysis (ADA) ¬¬- initiated as Argumentative Policy Analysis by Frank Fischer and John Forester and further developed by Marteen Hajer - with the conceptual ideas of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), as developed by Michel Callon, Bruno Latour and John Law. While the first approach is used to assess the argumentative structures and narratives constituting the discourses behind main policy ideas, the later is chosen in order to describe the actors, processes and practices leading to these ideas. In the contrast to policy network analysis, ANT does not aim for analysing relationships of policy actors and their mutual influence; it rather enables the researcher to 'follow the actors' by meticulously tracing their behaviour, statements and interactions as well as the creation of power relationships through these actions. It thus allows to redraw policy-making processes and to identify moments, when discourses shift thanks to new elements in the argumentations, and hence initiate policy change.

As a particularity of policy-making in the field of communication and technology, these new impulses often come from a different network of actors constituted by scientists, engineers or theorists that are situated outside the policy-making body. Particular attention is hence paid to the mutual interference of theoretical knowledge and policy discourses, as well as the influence of epistemic communities (as defined by Haas).
Originele taal-2English
TitelIAMCR Conference 2013, Dublin, Ireland
UitgeverijFundación Comunica
Aantal pagina's28
ISBN van geprinte versie978-9974-8067-3-3
StatusPublished - 26 jun 2013
EvenementUnknown - Dublin, Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Duur: 25 jun 201329 jun 2013


AnderAnnual conference of IAMCR


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