Still Paying Attention Ten Years Later:
                    A Bakhtinian Reading of the
                    National Information Infrastructure Initiative
                    Agenda for Action

Bakhtin defines heteroglossia as a blending of world views through language that creates complex unity from a hybrid of utterances.


Bakhtin defined heteroglossia as a blending of world views through language that creates complex unity from a hybrid of utterances. The writer (author) of policy, the readers (audience), and the stakeholders (characters) co-create a cultural reality (novel) vision from the new policy. James P. Zappen noted that Bakhtin distinguished monoglossia from heteroglossia by pointing to “Socratic dialogue from Platonic monologue—the early and middle from the late Platonic dialogues—and (with obvious hostility) from the monologic single-voicedness of the rhetorical tradition (71-74)” (as quoted in Moran and Baillif, 7-20). Given that the Agenda functioned both persuasively and authoritatively, readers could extract heteroglossic elements of the Agenda. Bakhtin argued that language in this and any other moment in history is "heteroglot representing the co-existence of socio-ideological contradictions of both present and past…" (Dialogic, p. 291).

For example, by combining the use of first, second, and third person, the Agenda blurs authority and unitary language. The first person plural called many together: “We are committed to working with business, labor, academia, and public interest groups” (Agenda, p. 7) and “We will help build a partnership of business, labor, academia, and the government that is committed to deployment of an advanced, rapid, powerful infrastructure accessible and accountable to all Americans” (p. 9). The third person reinforced the distance and objectivity of the Agenda: “The private sector will lead the deployment of the NII” (p. 3) and “The administration will work with Congress…” (p. 8). In another example from the Agenda, the narrating voice addressed a variety of audiences including educators, industrialists, students, gamers, consumers as ways to “promote investments in our nation's information infrastructure is to introduce or further expand competition in communications and information markets.”

The Agenda invoked readers by using the second person: “Imagine you have a device…Imagine further…” (p. 1). The Agenda thus uses first, second, and third persons to speak to as many readers in varying levels of linguistic subjectivity. The reader is spoken to, spoken of, spoken for. The audience consists not only of diverse and extensive social and occupational groups but also of all Americans. The Agenda did not serve as an intra-governmental document, but as a document to the public that encouraged buy-in and action towards technology infrastructure development.