Go to the Courses section
Go to the Research section
Go to the Staff and students section
Go to the About section
School of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 488739
Office B2.19, B building, Harcourt Hill campus, Oxford OX2 9AT, UK
Subject Coordinator for Communication, Media and Culture
My work focuses on the use of linguistic techniques (especially computational techniques using large corpora) for the critical analysis of environmental, social and political issues. I am especially interested in how business organisations conceive their relations with the natural environment and how they present themselves as working towards a sustainable society. A separate strand of my research focuses on cultural constructions of sexuality, especially scripts for sexual behaviour and standards of deviance.
I coordinate the Communication, Media & Culture programme, where I also teach about semiotics and discourse theory; research methodology in the social sciences; design for computer-mediated communication; and critical approaches to the persuasion industries.
I am also module leader for U75168 Independent Study, U75190 Interdisciplinary Dissertation and U75199 Dissertation.
I am currently supervising the work of the following doctoral candidates:
One of my main lines of research addresses questions of sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility reporting, environmentally-themed public relations and advertising, and greenwash.
A separate strand of research (in collaboration with Dr Kat Gupta, University of Roehampton) looks into the cultural construction of sexual norms and scripts, through the exploration of the fantasies and desires expressed in user-generated online erotica.
More broadly, I am interested in using critical discourse analysis to investigate shifts in social relations of production, especially the social impact of managerialism as an "expert system"; societal representations of labour; and the managerialisation of the self, personal life and the environment.
My research takes a Digital Humanities approach, using computer-aided methods to examine large datsets of text-based communication in order to model the social and cultural dynamics that motivate it.
Frequent criticisms of pornography have argued that it reproduces hegemonic misogyny by emphasising representations of females as passive, powerless and submissive. Nevertheless, attempts to substantiate such claims have been scarce. This paper seeks to provide empirical evidence on this question through an analysis of the representation of sexual activity in a large corpus of online pornographic stories. I employ corpus linguistic methods to examine the grammatical patterns used to attribute agency to male and female participants in sexual acts. The analysis shows these narratives tend to represent sexual intercourse as an asymmetric engagement between an agent and a patient, rather than as a joint collaborative activity. Although representations emphasising female agency are not rare, they are significantly less common than those assigning males the agent role, thus reinforcing rather than challenging dominant discourses of gender and sexuality. Linguistic methods such as these have the potential for a more nuanced and finer-grained description than is often possible for visual materials, and can profitably add to our understanding of gender and genre differences in pornography.
Keywords: written pornography; online pornography; corpus linguistics; corpus-aided discourse studies; corpus stylistics; transitivity; gender
This paper seeks to explore whether business organizations' claims to regard the natural environment as a stakeholder are consistent with the way in which the environment is represented in their corporate social responsibility reporting. It applies corpus linguistic methods to analyze statistical regularities and differences in the discursive construction of core stakeholders, such as customers and employees, and that of the natural environment. Results show that the representation of the environment is not characterized by the agency and capacity for engagement that characterizes other stakeholders. While organizations overtly acknowledge a duty toward the environment, the dominant lexical and grammatical patterns in which it is represented tend to obscure the organization's responsibilities and emphasize its mitigating actions instead. Although the argument for regarding the environment as a stakeholder is based on the fact that it places objective and compelling demands on our actions, we look in vain for recognition of such demands in organizational reporting.
This chapter discusses the difficulties involved in determining representativeness in language data, and illustrates the issues raised by the bias of corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS) towards particular genres – typically official, public and factual ones. It also discusses how fiction and imagination are central to understanding of the real world and sketches some of the complex ways in which readers' affect and attention are engaged by imaginative discourses. The chapter addresses disciplinary divides about fiction and outlines some of the particular interpretive caveats required to deal with such materials. It offers an example of how these limitations can be addressed by exploring the role of erotic fiction in the circulation of discourses about gender and sexuality. Instead of 'considering the whole network of genres to understand the functioning' of a specific discourse domain, much CADS work is limited to snapshots of particularly salient junctures. Fragmentation has been observed in factual genres such as news and advertising, as well as literature.