John Hawks links to Greg Laden’s blog in which he points out that Nisbet and Mooney misused the notion of framing. It seems (I am not that familiar with it, except via secondhand stuff about Lakoff’s views, which Laden notes is derivative of the work of Goffman) that framing doesn’t mean what they think it means, as Inigo Montoya might have said if they were Sicilian.
Or does it?
Words do not always mean the same thing as their theoretical contexts imply or define. Take “paradigm“. Kuhn used it in a context (later deconstructed by Margaret Masterman into 21 distinct senses, some subtly different, some radically), but it found its way into popular culture and now can mean anything from a new car model to a drug experience.
Many terms of science evolve like this. “Deme” now means a breeding population; when it was proposed, it meant any taxonomic object at any level. It did not change its meaning by a direct and explicit theoretical redefinition. It was subverted by distinct usage, and acquired a novel theoretical context with its new meaning.
So “framing” – it appears, from Laden’s post, to mean something like a socio-conceptual context in which terms and ideas have particular meanings. In common usage, though, whether or not this is what Goffman or Lakoff intended, framing means to set the terms of a debate. That may be very bad sociolinguistics; but ordinary language appears in technical papers too, and not every term that has a technical meaning in a field that is outside the immediate disciplinary context (“frame”?) is being used in a technical sense.
That said, it is clear there are resources going begging in the technical theory of framing. Maybe. I have seen a lot of these “theories” before, and they come and they go. If there is anything of depth and weight in them, those elements will be retained. Often, very little is. I had better go read about it.
One way of analysing issues that I do think has weight and depth is the notion of “conceptual spaces”, such as Peter Gärdenfors’ Conceptual Spaces: The Geometry of Thought sets it up – the issues that are active in a context are the axes, and this determines the meaning of the debate. Perhaps this is the same sort of thing as framing technically is.
Oh, and getting a commentary piece in Science, Greg, is a paper in Science. It’s not a research paper, and it’s not a review paper, but it is a paper. At first I thought you had a point. But on reflection, that strikes me as a piece of framing, in the spin sense.
Late note: Chris Mooney in email thinks I was attacking him and Matt Nisbet. I was not – I was attacking Laden’s article, but it was unclear. Let it be noted for the record that I haven’t yet seen his and Matt’s article, and was not attacking them.
Late late note: I followed up some of Nisbet’s references in the comments. Laden is wrong. There is a tradition in the social sciences of taking framing the way they do, and it seems that this is very similar to the philosophical tradition of presuppositional analysis in the analytic tradition.