Rick Iedema


Rick Iedema has a dual government-university appointment. He manages the research portfolio and is researcher-in-residence at the NSW Ministry of Health - Agency of Clinical Innovation. He is also Professor of Healthcare Innovation at the University of Tasmania's Faculty of Health. Recent books include Visualising Healthcare Improvement (Radcliffe UK, 2013) and Communicating Safety and Quality in Health Care (CUP, 2015). 

Rick's BAAL 2015 talk has the following tentative title: 'Othering discourse'.

Othering discourse

This talk reflects on attempts to explore what lies beyond discourse, discourse theory and discourse research. One such attempt is affect theory and its focus on pre-semiotic (as yet unrepresented) and non-semiotic (biologically automatised) phenomena. Another is speculative philosophy which challenges the Kantian basis of discourse theory: i.e. that humans can only mean about and understand the world in ways that are constrained by human meaning making systems.

The talk then moves on to reflect on how these exploratory attempts serve to highlight some of the more common assumptions of social science in general and of discourse and semiotic research in specific; namely, the proceduralised analysis of (semiotic) data, and the objectification of subjects through their reduction to such data.

This discussion then forms a springboard into a consideration of an alternative approach to research that calls the frequent and common prescriptions regarding data, analysis, and procedure into question, and that posits an altogether different point of departure: the nature of the relationship with those who inhabit the practice (or organisation) that is of ('analytical') interest. The talk proceeds to reframe research away from a knowledge generation mechanism, into a socio-genic dynamic.

The talk concludes that the notion of 'socio-genic research' opens the researcher up to the vicissitudes of negotiating with 'the subjects' of their research, what questions should be asked and how are they answered, such that they produce new understandings and ways of being and doing in the world. Such research, the talk concludes, overcomes the conventional and rigid methodological privileging of a predetermined researcher stance —whether one that is scientifically neutral or critically political; it succeeds in rendering social science relevant to those 'in the field'; it succeeds in negotiating social and organisational phenomena in registers that match the registers of those in the lifeworld, and it accepts Foucault and Deleuze's dictum that social theory is and should be a practice, not a self-looping vocabulary "at a distance and some steps behind" those who live and struggle in the everyday world.