Public Discourse and Category Formation: A Topic Modelling Exploration of ‘Historical Shops’ on Italian Media


  • Camilla Ferri Ca' Foscari University of Venice
  • Maria Lusiani Ca' Foscari University of Venice
  • Dario Bertocchi Ca' Foscari University of Venice



category, category formation, media discourses, historical shops, topic modeling


This paper addresses the role of public discourse in processes of category formation. Tracing the emergence and diffusion of a category on the media, and exploring the discourses generated on the media within and around the emerging category, the paper reflects on how these discourses concur in performing the very category they portray. The focus is set on the Historical Shops category, as part of broader processes of urban categorisations for local development and regeneration. By means of a Topic Modelling of a corpus of 3262 press articles collected from Italian news sources between 2009 and 2019, the paper finds that public discourse plays three main roles: echoing category creation processes by policymakers, grounding the rising category in wider discourses of retail crisis, urban degradation, regeneration and overtourism, and narrating it by explaining what Historical Shops are, where they are located, which issues they face and which responses they receive at different institutional levels. Overall, in this paper, the semi-automated techniques afforded by Topic Modelling offer a way to enter the meaning construction processes and elicit the agential role of public discourse in the formation of a category.


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How to Cite

Ferri, C., Lusiani, M., & Bertocchi, D. (2020). Public Discourse and Category Formation: A Topic Modelling Exploration of ‘Historical Shops’ on Italian Media. PuntOorg International Journal, 5(2), 99–134.