Information Technology: A Critical Discourse Analysis Perspective

Information Technology: A Critical Discourse Analysis Perspective

Thao Lê (University of Tasmania, Australia) and Quynh Lê (University of Tasmania, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-842-0.ch005


Information technology (IT) has permeated many fields and aspects of modern society such as education, business, health and entertainment. It provides users with innovative and powerful products which were unimagined decades ago. The Internet is one of the most powerful IT developments. The introduction of the Internet has brought in new areas such as e-commerce, e-health and e-learning. Thus the instrumental role of IT is unquestionable in this digital age. However, from a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) perspective, IT is socially situated and its role and impacts cannot be divorced from its socio-cultural context. CDA is an interdisciplinary approach which studies linguistic and social issues in relation to social discourse with a main aim to examine how social power permeates and controls discourses and consequently creates social inequality and injustice. As IT is closely linked to its social discourse, its use and value are embedded in social structures and processes which are organized through institutions and practices such as political systems, business, education and the media, each of which is located in and structured by a particular discussive field. There are different social groups with competing discourses and they can exert power to use IT to their advantage. The challenge to IT experts, educators and IT users is not about the instrumental power that IT has brought to them. The real challenge is how to use it wisely to enhance humanity.
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The presence of information technology (IT) in various aspects of society strongly confirms that we are firmly situated in the information age. A small technical problem or breakdown in a local network can create a huge problem for its user community. One could not imagine the devastating impacts on society if there were a crash involving computer networks around the world. Thus, industrialized societies are at the mercy of information technology as our destiny is strongly tied to it. It appears that IT, like many other technologies, exists for a utilitarian purpose. Its presence is fundamentally instrumental in the sense that its nature intrinsically is neither good nor bad. In other words, it is value-free. IT itself is not the master who exerts powerful control over people. It is the human and social factors within the IT discourse which cause social disunity, social injustice, and ideological imposition to society. This chapter attempts to examine IT from a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) perspective as the discussion is based on the tenet that as IT is embedded in social discourses, its function is not ideologically free. The chapter will first discuss what CDA is and will examine how IT is viewed from a CDA perspective.

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