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Arguments, argumentation and agreement: a symbolic convergence study of the Lake Omapere Project
Ruth, Newport A
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The focus of this research is the construction of a shared vision for the environment. Specifically, the purpose of this research was to examine the construction of shared vision between different rhetorical communities for the Lake Omapere Restoration Project. In this investigation, I applied Bormann's (1972; 1983) symbolic convergence theory to the communication processes of the Resource Management Act (1991). The intended outcome of this research was to gain further understanding of the communication processes in place within the Resource Management Act 1991 in order to foster a more holistic, bicultural approach for the development of Aotearoa New Zealand*. My premise was that shared understanding through storytelling could be a useful tool for producing equitable bicultural environmental decisions. This research is concerned with how that shared vision is created rhetorically. It is based on the theoretical understanding that language constructs people's social reality (Escobar, 1996; Pearce, 1989). The literature review established that people make sense of the material world through language, deep emotional connection to the land and decision-making processes. This discussion of the different ways people come to view the material world provided the background for the central research question. The primary research question that guided the investigation was how do different rhetorical communities construct shared vision for the environment? In order to answer this question data were collected using archival records retrieved from the Northland Regional Council. The analysis of the data involved the application of Bormann's (1972; 1983) symbolic convergence theory to the construction of shared vision for the polluted condition of Lake Omapere in Northland. The fantasy theme analysis of the texts revealed two fantasy themes personifying Lake Omapere: first, the story of the dying lake, followed by second fantasy theme of the salvation of the lake. These two fantasy themes provided the rhetorical ground for the evolution of shared rhetorical vision for the restoration of the wellbeing of Lake Omapere. Following Bormann (1972; 1983), the study showed that symbolic convergence theory accounts for the irrational as well as rational aspects of positive collaborative action for the environment. This research has contributed to knowledge by showing that Bormann's (1972; 1983) symbolic convergence theory is a useful framework for explaining the process by which different rhetorical communities construct shared vision. The fantasy theme analysis approach was specifically designed for this research. Burke's (1966) "hexed" pentad was used in the initial stages of analysis to determine the elements of the fantasy themes. This study showed that construction of shared vision encompasses at least three forms of communication: consciousness creating, raising and sustaining. The study also contributed further questions as to the nature of the resulting shared vision. This study shows that the democratic dialogue that is produced from sharing stories can result in justice. The emergence of shared vision produced a new reality and an altered worldview where kaitiakitanga** has become a crucial focus for the future of Lake Omapere. The restoration of the wellbeing of Lake Omapere through establishing kaitiakitanga is now a rhetorical reality and will shape future decisions made regarding the management and restoration of the lake. The implications involved with incorporating the indigenous spiritual relational perspectives in legislation are a crucial concern for environmental decision-making both locally and internationally and further application of symbolic convergence theory research in this area is recommended.* Aotearoa New Zealand combines both the Māori and English names and is used in this thesis to acknowledge the bicultural intention of environment resource management.** Stewardship.