Driven by Difference: The Embodiment of the Western Maryland Initiative
O'Connor, Patricia E
Rhetorical ecologists have long distinguished between complex systems operating within a rhetorical ecological web, but they have not provided a model for the demarcation of the body of discourse that constitutes a single complex system. This thesis proposes through an examination of the social movement called the Western Maryland Initiative a continuum of embodiment, with soft embodiment on one end and firm embodiment on the other. Soft embodiment arises from mirror-like coordination between two complex systems and constitutes an overlap of those systems wherein each shares its body of discourse with the other while retaining it as its own. Firm embodiment arises from coordination through division and expands the body of discourse by drawing a boundary between complex systems. Both soft and firm embodiment are driven by difference - the body of discourse of the complex system in question is expanded the most rapidly when the system engages with other ideologically and geospatially non-proximate organizations. By examining the construction and reconstruction of the Western Maryland Initiative's body of discourse, this thesis demonstrates the ways in which difference and collaboration drive the forms of coordination from which the two kinds of embodiment emerge.
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