Derek Richer & Jaan Valsiner
Clark University, Worcester (MA), USA

E-mail:dricher@clarku.edu

 

THE GAME OF POLITICAL DEBATES:
A PLAY OF SOCIAL REPRESENTATIONS AND BEYOND

 

The primary goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of the dialogical processes that underlie political rhetoric in a debate setting as well as to develop a systematic approach for analyzing the semiotic tools employed by debate participants in a goal oriented way. The political rhetoric in a debate setting was analyzed. Excerpts from the three 2000 U.S. presidential debates between Al Gore and George Bush were charted to represent different dialogical moves. Two different approaches are examined. First, the text is analyzed from a social representations perspective. While utilizing social representation theory aids in understanding the processes underlying political rhetoric, it is limited in the detail it provides for exploring the nuanced movement of the political argumentation processes. Social representations and categorizing the orientation of the messages illuminate only broad based themes, and fail to recognize the dialogical nature of political debates. These debates are inherently a joint product of more than one individual who collectively engage in a directed dialogue. To resolve this, excerpts are then analyzed utilizing existing ideas from game theory. The resulting model developed, using hypergame theory, does seem to provide a better approach to understanding political rhetoric than social representations alone.