What is it about?

In health promotional discourse authors and speakers set the scene and then leave certain lines of development pending, inviting recipients to continue them in their own lives. We show how the coronavirus 'stay at home' campaign worked in this way, configuring pending accounts of two kinds: ones which involve recipients in scripts for restoring order (if... then... constructions) and ones which implicate them in restorative storylines (just as there and then... so here and now... constructions). And because what government officials said was amplified and diversified by other authority figures such as the local media or the Church, the result was to overlay new voices of hope on the official message. This led people to feel they were participating in a collaborative community, naturalising compliance.

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Why is it important?

In the words of one reviewer this is a very timely paper for covid-related communication research, of value to political communicators and teachers. It captures one of the rare moments of the coronavirus crisis when we can speak of a sense of collective empowerment, but it suggests that this was not achieved merely by 'message clarity'. Rather there was a cascade of distinct, more or less well aligned inducements for individuals and groups to want to participate in the response and to know how they could contribute to and benefit from participation in a collaborative community.

Perspectives

Unusually, this paper was not part of any research project. We wanted to write it to help make sense of a unique moment in history and especially to acknowledge the important role we observed local institutions playing in the health promotion campaign.

Simon Smith
Univerzita Karlova

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This page is a summary of: The spring ‘stay at home’ coronavirus campaign communicated by pending accounts, Journal of Pragmatics, May 2021, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2021.02.025.
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