Discourse and Definition of Discourse and Nature

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Chapter Three:Methodology


The methodology for generating the data needed for investigation, and the first-level interrogation of the data, is discussed in this chapter. Within the overall methodology in this chapter there are three parts that apply to separate research stages. The first part discusses the use of the case study approach along with insights about small N case study samples. In particular, Comparative Method research (CM) was used as way of understanding case studies as it deals with small-scale qualitative research. With this understanding, cases are constructed from two sources, actors/role, and a reference area. The theoretical bases discussed in Chapter Two provide a basis for the interview questions in the second stage, which generates the raw data needed for analysis. The NVivo software package used to process the raw data arising from the interviews is described before going on to discuss the interview process. In stage three, the raw data (transcribed interviews) is entered into NVivo, a computer-coding program, which transforms the data into units of analysis. Qualitative Discourse Analysis is performed on these units of analysis, drawing on insights from Chapter Two. These three stages are the first-level methodology and analysis, which ends with the results of the qualitative Discourse Analysis undertaken in stage three. The results of this analysis are subject to second-level Critical Discourse Analysis, described in Chapter Five. The following schematic diagram (Figure 3.1) indicates the broad outlines of the methodology and the structure of the chapter. The advantages and limitations of the methodology and analysis are discussed before the chapter concludes. At this point, it is worthwhile to undertake a brief explanation of the process for creating a District Plan, which results in governance of land use development within a local area. Each Territorial Local Authority (TLA) in New Zealand must have a District Plan (DP) in place. This process forms the wider context against which the data gathering (interviews) take place. While not of direct interest, it does underpin to a large extent built environment discourses in New Zealand. Consequently, built environment discourses within NZ occur within the context of a District Plan.


The Resource Management Act (RMA) requires TLAs to have a DP. The Plans (in aggregate, across NZ) overall are designed to fulfil the objectives of the RMA, that aims to balance the need for development to accommodate societal needs, such as housing, with, as section 5 of the Act which states the purpose of the Act to “promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources” (New Zealand Government 1991). Management of District Plan creation is devolved to local Councils: the Manukau City Council in the case of Flat Bush and Whangarei District Council in the case of Ruakaka Marsden Point. The process is initiated by a TLA instructing a planning officer to write a Plan regarding a certain area, or the whole district under its jurisdiction. Sometimes a sole planning officer, if a Council does not have sufficient financial resources, but usually a team of planners will write the Plan, along with traffic or stormwater engineers that provide specialist input. This draft Plan is released by the TLA to the general public and specific stakeholders for comment. Anyone from the wider community can submit on either specific parts of the Plan, or on the whole Plan. Officers consider these submissions, accepting a submission (e.g. dealing with errors of fact), and subsequently modifying the draft Plan, or reject the submission. Once this process is done, a further ‘refinement’ is undertaken by placing the Plan within the confines of a Hearing, where submitters have the opportunity, before commissioners, appointed by Council, to verbally outline their submission, and in the case of rejected submissions, argue before the commissioners why their submission should be accepted. Commissioners are usually selected councillors (as a Plan is theoretically a reflection of community desire in terms of built form development), supplemented by independent experts (e.g. heritage architects). Commissioners deliberate at the conclusion of the hearing, making a decision about the final content of the Plan and which submissions should be accepted and which rejected. The Commissioners’ report and recommendations are subject to a full Council meeting that, after accepting the report, will ratify the District Plan. The Ministry for the Environment illustrates this process in the following diagram. The District Plan is seen here as the product of a linear process, involving multiple stakeholders along the way. The outcome theoretically is a Plan that guides built environment development while ensuring sustainable management of natural and physical resources. It is noted here that while the process described generates a District Plan for an area, the same processes are used for any Variation to that District Plan. Variations deal with changes to plan provisions, if a particular area within the Plan’s jurisdiction needs different provisions to accommodate changing needs.


Within this process, two forms of discourse are engaged in. The written aspect occurs when the draft Plan is created, when submissions are made on a draft Plan, and when the Commissioners report back to Council. The verbal discourse occurs at both an informal and formal level throughout the plan-making process that typically happens over a period of years. Formal discussions (consultations) are held during the process of writing the draft Plan. Informal discussions are held throughout between officers and Councillors and other experts as well. Verbal discourse also occurs during the submission hearing stage, and at the point where Council discusses and votes on the ratification of the District Plan. The now Operative District Plan (having the status of legal force in respect of planning considerations) is, at heart, the creation of a dominant informal and formal verbal process although the final output is written. Unpacking this process in terms of power is relatively unproblematic. A Council initiates the DP process, establishing its position within the power structure: as initiator; as creator and as manager of the process. These responsibilities are granted to Council by the RMA that assigns responsibility to Council. This is because Council is a representative body, made up of people elected from within the Council territory, and consequently, are seen as the best people to make decisions about future development, as they are assumed to know local conditions and constraints. Other parties are invited by Council to consider the plan and to present their views. Council engages in a dialogue with these parties and, depending on the nature of that dialogue, may choose to change plan provisions. Once this period of negotiation is finished, Council ratifies the District Plan, giving it the force of bylaw and, consequently, the ability to be enforced. Council and its representatives dominate the process and have power over the content of a District Plan. This description of District Plan creation forms the backdrop and contexts for built environment discourses to be studied. While this process generates documents that guide built form development, and helps explain the wider context for the actors, the focus is on the actors in the thesis. It is acknowledged that the frame of reference for these actors includes documents, in particular the RMA and District Plans. However since the questions relate to the actors and not the documents, the latter are not taken further in this method.


Case study

Setting out the backdrop to plan making, our focus is turned to generating the cases needed for examination. Before doing so, the argument for and role of the case study in this research requires attention and discussion.

Construction of Cases

Case studies provide the researcher with the ability to isolate elements of the case for study to investigate connections, influences present in the case and the ways in which elements of discourse contribute towards the overall constitution and being of the subject or object being studied. The examination can be of a qualitative or quantitative nature. Our interest here is in the qualitative nature of the inquiry, because the area of interest is in discourse, which is expressed by a person inhabiting a particular role, about a subject. Such interest does not preclude any quantitative study of the discourse: for instance, the number of times reference is made to a feature that is the subject of the discourse. The definition of a case study, used in the thesis, is an intensive analysis of an individual unit that could be proposed as an exemplar of general principles relating to the issue under study. This is developed with reference to Flyvbjerg, who defines it thus “Case study. An intensive analysis of an individual unit (as a person or community) stressing developmental factors in relation to the environment” ( Merriam-Webster 2009, in Flyvbjerg 2011). The case study can select specific aspects of the subject for analysis, such as influence of particular speakers or social structures, or particular themes underlying aspects of discourse. In the research, discourses concern themselves with the construction of a subject (after Foucault), and this happens within a particular context, discussed above, at a range of scales. The individual contexts that display and actively use embedded planning discourses, along with the discourse itself can form a case for study. These notions of context and embeddedness are discussed further below. Although the dictionary definition above refers to an individual case, a number of case studies within a field of study can reveal things of interest that possibly could not be seen within an individual case. For instance, examination of rugby and netball within a New Zealand context could reveal why, for example, the games of rugby and netball, traditionally perceived as an object of interest and construction along gender lines (i.e. rugby for men, netball for women) but now currently are played by either gender, blurring traditional gender roles and creating new discursive constructions. A small number of cases drawn from the rugby field and netball court can potentially reveal additional insights into the field of gender and sport. Following analysis of the cases, the results could be used as an ‘exemplar of a general principle’ across the field, giving confidence (depending on the kind of analysis used) in establishing broad indications of any particular principle relating to the reasons; for example, why, traditionally, sport was gender segregated. A greater number of cases, however, have the advantage of defining more tightly the underlying principles that can be seen in the field of study. Each additional case can provide confirmation, or not, of particular concepts or ideas. This gives confidence to the researcher that because a particular concept is seen across a number of cases then it can be seen as definitive principle across a larger population. The question facing a researcher is whether the research is aimed at either exemplifying broad principles, or definitive principles. The literature suggests that the number of cases needed to answer the thesis questions depends on a number of factors. These include the investigative question, or the number of people involved in the field of study, or the political context for the case.

Thesis motivation
Research Problem
Research Aim
Literature Review
Thesis Question
Structure of the thesis
Definition of ‘discourse’, ‘nature’ and ‘self’
Theoretical Frame
Contribution of proposed research
Part A – Discourse and Definition of Discourse and Nature
Foucault: Construction of the object or subject
Meaning making
Discursive power
Definitions of Discourse and Nature
Definition of ‘discourse’: Literature discussion
Definition of ‘nature’: Literature discussion
Part B – Three models of self in relation to nature
Deep Ecology
Discussion of models: Comparison along three axes
PART C – Methodological discussion
Discourse Analysis
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) methodologies
Critical Discourse Analysis method
Critical stance adopted
Legal framework – RMA context
Case study
Construction of Cases
Discussion of case selection in context of thesis research
Stage One: Actors and reference areas
Actor/Role Selection Process
The Specific Actors – Flat Bush
The Specific Actors – Ruakaka Marsden Point
Role contribution to planning discourse
Reference areas
Reference Area selection
Discussion of selected reference areas
Land Use Governance
Cases selected
Case and case study discussion
Stage Two: Obtaining the data and preparation for analysis
The Interview questions
Relationship of Interview Questions to Theory
Interview process
Preparation for Discourse Analysis
Software Tool– NVivo
NVivo terminology
Preparation of data
Coding method and application of NVivo
Coding process
Coding results
Stages of analysis
1st Stage: Preliminary analysis
2nd Stage: Text breakdown and recombination
3rd Stage: Re-engagement with the nodes
4th Stage: Analysis of beliefs about nature
Summation of outcomes of the methodological process
Observations on development of the methodological process
Observations on the method
Limitations of methode
Summary table
Socio-economic system-process node revisited
Application of DCS to Discourse Analysis Results
DCS Contextual Model
Critical Discourse Analysis: DCS Approach
DCS Triangle: Discourse side
DCS Triangle: Cognition side (The self)
DCS Triangle: Society Side (Transcendent relationship)
Models: sketch of cognition, discourse and society relationships
First Stage
Stage One discussion
Stage two discussion
Discussion of the models
Summation of DCS analysis
Research process critique
Subjectivity: coding process and narrative development
Case study: interviews
Discourse Analysis
Overview of results
Associated research questions
Communicative Planning
Location of thesis question within larger built-nature considerations
Contribution to knowledge
Could the contribution to knowledge inform development of planning skills?
Could the research inform development of planning research skills?
Further research questions
Link between Resource Management Act and discursive constructions of nature
Possible investigation into changes in self in response to awareness of nature
Future directions – Alternative Theoretical Viewpoints
Luce-Kapler – Breaking apart language
Hillier – Planning and planes of immanence
Bennett – Political ecology of things
Concluding note

Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for a Masters of Philosophy University of Auckland 2013

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