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I used H.C. White's notion of discipline in a paper I presented at the
National Communication Association in 2002.  The project was more
discourse- than network-analytic; it tried to connect Jurgen Habermas's
ideas about communicative rationality to White's notion of discipline.  I
took White to be arguing that message exchanges could be considered the
bonds of the "social molecules" that comprise disciplines, so I examined
the content of messages between students in a distance-education (i.e.,
on-line) classroom in terms of the characteristic argumentative content of
councils, arenas, and interfaces were present (This is where Habermas's
ideas about the argumentative constitution of reason were helpful).  The
results were interesting but (statistically) inconclusive:  more active
participants seemed to engage proportionally more frequently in council-
and arena-type functions than less active participants did, but the
dataset was very small.

I am currently in the process of revising the paper, but the one presented
at NCA is available here:

http://www.personal.psu.edu/staff/w/j/wjw11/NCA2002.pdf

The relevant paragraphs from the paper are these:

Habermas (1984) sees argumentation as constitutive of reason.  He notes
that argumentative speech comprises three aspects?-rhetorical,
dialectical, and logical?-concerned respectively with the process of
argumentation, the procedures for arguing, and the production of
arguments.  From each of these perspectives, Habermas (1984) says, a
different structure of argumentation emerges:  First, 'the [rhetorical]
structures of an ideal speech situation immunized against repression and
inequality in a special way; then the [dialectical] structures of a
ritualized competition for better arguments; [and] finally the [logical]
structures that determine the construction of individual arguments and
their interrelations' (p. 26).

The triple structuring of argumentative function is homologous with H.C.
White's (1992) typology of 'disciplines' (i.e., social formations) called
councils, arenas, and interfaces, which enact social functions of
mobilization, selection, and commitment respectively.  White, like
Habermas, sees social action as the product of 'some underlying
orderliness of process...[that] partially comes from and is reflected in
talk,' (White, 1992, p. 7) and that involves 'continually reproducing a
consistent joint construction out of actions from distinct settings.' (p.
8).  According to White, disciplines are self-reproducing 'social
molecules' (p. 16) constitutive of 'mutually constraining efforts at
control' (p. 23).  The constituent element of these social molecules is
the network tie, or link between actors:  their joint participation in and
conduct of exchanges within a communication network.

White's (1992) exploration of social action meshes fruitfully with
Habermas's (1984) description of communicative action.  From the
intersection of their discussions, we are led to expect that
communicatively rational action will be constituted in message exchanges
oriented toward functions of contestation (the dialectic of the arena),
equalization (the rhetoric of the council), and construction (the logic of
the interface).

Bill White

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