Analysis of Intertextuality: CDA and Nudge

Reframing obesity: a critical discourse analysis of the UK’s first social marketing campaign

Critical Policy Studies, 2016

Critical Policy Studies recently published a very interesting and important new article by Jane Mulderrig. The article is a critique of the UK government’s ‘Change4Life’ anti obesity social marketing campaign. The article shows how ‘scientific claims about obesity are recontextualized, simplified, and distorted in this campaign’.

The interest for CDA:Method, though, is the use of CDA and especially the article’s focus on:

patterns of intertextuality, legitimation, and representation, I investigate how this advert recontextualizes and simplifies particular understandings of obesity, presenting individualized solutions to what I argue is a complex and collective social problem.

Its great to see an analysis of a policy implementation using CDA which also sets out to include the analysis of intertextuality as part of the analysis. As an example, Mulderrig shows how an advert draws on scientific articles and reworks them in the context of the social marketing campaign:

This advert launches the campaign by defining the nature of the policy problem it aims to address. It does so through a historical narrative that essentially locates the source of the problem in modern consumer lifestyles. It presents to the public for the first time some of the key assumptions underpinning the C4L strategy about the causes, health risks, and solutions to societal obesity. The intertextual origins of these health claims can be traced to a series of policy texts and scientific reports.

Ultimately, the intertextuality does not serve us well:

the abstract, child-like cartoon genre of the advert facilitates a simplification and distortion of scientific research on obesity and helps obfuscate even further the complex environmental and political economic causes of obesity, and in particular, its correlation with increasing social inequality.

But it also raises questions about the manner in which the practice of social marketing appears to be being articulate with the practice of scientific research – simplification may be acceptable, but distortion is worrying.