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Actiokapitalet: retorikens ickeverbala resurser
Örebro University, Department of Humanities.
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to deepen the understanding of actio. Actio refers to how a speech is performed in a public setting. Actio differs from nonverbal communication in general in that actio is performed in a rhetorical situation with the intention to be persuasive.

The primary interest is to find theories to define actio and find out how actio affects the interpretation of a speaker’s delivery. Therefore, the goal of the research is to try to find interpretive concepts for actio that can be used in the theory and analysis of actio in different rhetorical materials, as well as to find out what recipients perceive regarding a speaker’s actio, and in what way actio influences their interpretation of the speaker.

In order to do so two different sources of material have been used. One is classical and modern handbooks and recent research about actio as well as nonverbal communication in a wider sense. This literature has been analysed and interpreted. The other is observations and recordings of four university lecturers who were observed by student focus groups. After each lecture, the members of the groups discussed the teacher’s actio, and the conversations were recorded. The lectures and conversations were both transcribed and analysed.

In the study of literature and research, the following features have emerged as important aspects of actio. Actio is perceived as an activity that informs the recipient/audience about the speaker’s character, including his emotional state. Actio is also an activity that finds its meaning and interpretation in relation to the context. Actio is performed within society, where traditions, rituals, manuals and so on influence people’s understanding of what is appropriate in different situations. Actio is accordingly a personal activity as well as a part of a human social order. It is deeply rooted in history and its context. As a result of this study some rhetorical concepts are suggested that are intended to describe, explain and define actio, namely: ethos (character), pathos (feelings), decorum (propriety) and kairos (“the right moment”). These concepts can make clear and explain some of the processes that are ascribed to actio throughout history. In order for the concepts to define actio some specific aspects of the concepts are more closely examined and presented Accordingly ethos, pathos, decorum and kairos are concepts that can provide theoretical frameworks and analytic dimensions to research about actio.

Focus in the study of teachers’ actio has been on the receivers’ interpretations. The statements presented in the analysis reveal which aspects of actio the members of the group had noticed, and how they interpret these aspects. The analysis shows that in order to interpret lecturers’ actio, members of the group refer to qualities of actio. It is not what the lecturers do, but how they do it, which makes a difference in the interpretation of the lecturer. Qualities of actio meaning those aspects of actio that create the nuances, and make actio appear with variation. The qualities that have appeared to be important for the interpretation of a speaker’s actio are energy, dynamism, and tempo. Energy relates mainly to the intensity of different bodily movements, dynamism relates to the variation of, e.g. gestures or postures, and tempo relates to speed, timing and rhythmic variations in actio. It is emphasised that these “actio qualities” open up a new perspective on actio for rhetorical research. Altogether the empirical body of material of university lecturers has shown that certain “qualities in actio”, the multimodal activity and the receivers’ preconceptions and expectations affect the interpretation of actio.

Finally a new concept, “Actio Capital”, is introduced. Actio Capital is a theoretical model that describes the development of a speaker’s actio from actio resource, to asset, and finally to Actio Capital. The model is inspired by Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and symbolic capital along with the analysis of both the handbooks and research, as well as the empirical study. Actio Capital is intended to provide an overall description and understanding of a speaker’s resources with regard to actio. On the whole, all human beings – assuming they are healthy – have the same resources of actio, i.e. the same basic physical ability to use their bodies for gestures, variation of voice and so on. Which of these actio resources a person will use, which will become a person’s actio assets, depends on a variety of different things like personality, what kind of life she has lived etc. Depending on how these assets are used, for instance with the help of actio qualities, they can become Actio Capital. Which of a speaker’s actio assets that will be recognised and valued as capital varies from situation to situation according to the circumstances.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Åstorp: Retorikförlaget , 2008. , p. 255
Series
Örebro Studies in Rhetoric, ISSN 1652-3970 ; 5
Keyword [en]
rhetoric, actio, nonverbal communication
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Rhetoric
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-2604ISBN: 978-91-86093-06-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-2604DiVA, id: diva2:136464
Public defence
2008-12-12, Hörsal P 1, Prisma, Örebro universitet, Örebro, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2008-11-10 Created: 2008-11-10 Last updated: 2017-10-18Bibliographically approved

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Gelang, Marie

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