Guest Blog: How does a market trader get customers?

In a recent paper in ROLSI, Kenan Hochuli reported a remarkable study of the complex world of the street market. I’m delighted that he’s prepared a guest blog on the subject, concentrating on the crucial step in the selling process: getting the passer-by to stop.

Kenan Hochuli

Kenan Hochuli, Neuchâtel and Zurich

Market stalls are unique service institutions. They are located in public spaces and approachable from different directions. There are no material or technical devices that determine the sequence of sales. Sometimes it is not clear whether a person is just passing by a stall or if they intend to buy something. And this often happens in the course of already ongoing sales interactions. In view of these conditions, my article deals with seller’s efforts in transforming passers-by into customers and, more generally, participants negotiation of co-presence in the course of emerging multi-party-encounters.

A bit of background

I have been analyzing interactions at fruit and vegetable stalls on weekly markets in two cities: Zurich and Istanbul, looking to identify sellers’ strategies for “turning the passer-by into a customer”. The ROLSI article, however, is only about a Zurich market stall. For good reasons: Market stalls in the two cities may follow a similar logic: goods on the table, sellers behind, market visitors in front. But the principles according to which participants establish an interactional order for exchanging the goods may well be different, so I wouldn’t want to claim that the practices below are universal. More on that when I report on my field work in Turkey and, hopefully, elsewhere.

A view from behind the counter

The market stall set-up can be illustrated with a still image from behind the counter: Figure 1 shows a moment in which market-stall holder Erich is about to turn the conversation with the current customer Claudia (all names are pseudonyms) into a public scene in order to give an approaching market visitor, Luana, an opportunity to participate as a co-addressed recipient. He makes a joke, speaks louder, also raises the pitch of his voice and looks repeatedly at the third person. The latter, for her part, follows the events attentively while approaching and finally stopping. By doing so, she becomes a potential next customer.

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Figure 1: The seller Erich, his current customer Claudia and the approaching Luana.

What is relevant about these processes?

There is much more going on at and around the market stall than just the dyadic interaction between customer and seller. Moreover, the respective social situations change very dynamically. Interactions are often limited to avoiding each other or in Goffman’s terminology: to create a state of civil inattention. It is a methodological challenge to demonstrate how this plays out in participants’ orientations and actions. Some of my statements I can only make because I have recordings from several perspectives.

How can data be collected in such a dynamic environment?

I filmed the market stall from two perspectives. One filmed the entire stall from the side. Figure 2 shows a screenshot from that recording. With a second hand camera I tried to film the events from closer up. On figure 2 you see me – just! – with the camera in the hand, coordinating with a colleague about who to ask for consent (marked in the green rectangle. Don’t ask me why I am the only person holding an umbrella). In addition to this, I placed a 360 degree camera on the market table. Often, it was this 360 degree camera that delivered the best and most useable pictures.

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Figure 2: Screenshot from recording with static camera.

This type of data collection is only possible in a team. I was lucky that my colleagues from the URPP Language and Space group at the University of Zurich helped me often with the recordings. Although sometimes there were four or five of us, most of the people did not notice our presence. It is a characteristic of the situation on the marketplace that people are busy with other activities: Looking at the offer, avoiding other people, talking to each other.

Regret!

When being asked by us if we could use the collected video data, fortunately, most people were positive about the project. But we had another problem. Watching the footage later, it became clear that also people who pass-by and slow their movements only for a short time could have a decisive influence on the respective situation. But – we had not obtained consent from these people, so we couldn’t use those segments of data. It all happened way too fast. I sometimes walk the market in the hope of meeting some of these people and ask them for permission….

Nevertheless, I hope that I succeded in showing that the complexity of the situation is not only relevant from a researcher’s perspective. The participants, too, overlook things and may therefore misinterpret the situation slightly wrong. For example, both Erich and his colleague miss the moment when Luana arrived to the stall with her partner (see Figure 2 in the background on the left). As the couple drifts apart, they two appear as independent parties. However, when Luana’s partner is greeted by the second seller, Luana – and then Erich! – intervene and the situation is negotiated quite wittily. Again, this expresses how much interaction takes place beyond the classical dyad, especially in an open setting as a public market stall. Moreover, it allowed me discuss the ethnomethodological and conversation analytic theory of “at a glance” interpretations in public space.

For greater detail about this study, see Kenan’s recent paper in ROLSI.


 

Guest Blog: PeaceTalk – Talk and Interaction in Multinational Crisis Management Training

Conversation Analysis is finding application in all sorts of fields, and perhaps none so sensitive as military manouevres… but as Antti Kamunen explains, it can all be in the service of defusing a crisis and working towards peaceful resolution.

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Antti Kamunen, Oulu

What happens inside a patrol car when you notice you are about drive into a minefield? How do you act when you suddenly come across a life-threating situation and have to make decisions quickly? What happens when you get lost on your patrol route in a potentially hostile territory?

These are some of the questions we have been dealing with for the past few months. Luckily, though, the situations have taken place in a safe training environment, and our role in them has been that of an observer and an analyst. The people at the centre of all the action are a multinational group of military officers, in training to become UN Military Observers. How, then, did we, three interaction researchers, end up in the mix?

Peace Talk

First, a bit about who we are, exactly. Our project is called PeaceTalk: Talk and Interaction in Multinational Crisis Management Training, and it is funded by Academy of Finland, from the beginning of September 2019 until the end of August 2023. At the moment, our team consists of three researchers: our PI, Professor Pentti Haddington; myself, currently as a PhD student and then as a postdoctoral researcher from March onwards; and Iira Rautiainen, who is doing her PhD on multinational crisis management training as part of the iTask project, funded by Oulu Univesity’s EUDAIMONIA institute. We will also get a second postdoctoral researcher next year.

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Our first contact with the crisis management community took place in 2016, in connection with our other project, iTask. People working for the Finnish Defence Forces had heard of our project and became interested in our focus on multitasking, and we were soon in talks with the Finnish Defence Forces International Centre (FINCENT), who organise training for UN peace keepers, military observers and military advisors. Our main collaborators FINCENT and the National Defence University (NDU) have been extremely welcoming to us and provided invaluable help with our research. We are also collaborating with Crisis Management Centre Finland (CMC Finland) on the interplay between civilian and military crisis management and organising joint seminars and workshops with researchers from Linköping University (on complexity of interaction, instructions, etc.) and Loughborough University (crisis talk, CARM).

Studying interaction in patrol cars

Currently we are doing research on the UNMEM (United Nations Military Experts on Mission) course, which trains UN Military Observers (UNMO). The UNMOs’ task is to move around in crisis areas and observe, for example, whether the parties of a conflict comply with ceasefire agreements. They report their observations and can also act as neutral mediators between parties. Talk and interaction, thus, are vital in UNMOs’ work – not only for successfully doing their job, but also for their personal safety. After the course, many of the course participants will be sent to ongoing crisis management operations in the various crisis areas around the world.

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Collecting data in the wild

We have collected data on two UNMEM courses this year, in the form of video-recordings, field notes, personal conversations, and course materials handed out to the participants (such as info leaflets, maps, etc.). We have recorded interactions taking place inside patrol cars during patrolling exercises, in simulated negotiation and mediation cases, as well as practical emergency first aid exercises.

 

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Entering data in the boot

Currently, though, we are focusing on the course participants’ talk and action as part of the various tasks connected with car patrolling. From the car patrolling data, we have identified three preliminary foci:

  • Participants’ basic tasks in patrolling: navigation, observation, reporting, radio communication, information sharing
  • Teamwork in pressure: busy, quickly emerging situations; multitasking; providing help and support to team members; collaboration
  • Interaction before accidents: unexpected and undesired situations (explosions, violence); what events and actions lead to these situations?

Our collaboration with the crisis management community has been very interesting and rewarding. The members of the community recognise the importance of communication in their work, and they also stress that importance in the training. They have been very interested in and supportive of our research, and eager to integrate our results as part of their training.

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Pentti and Iira in Patrol Base 92. Notice the yellow “invisibility vests” indicating the persons do not exist in the exercise scenario!

For us researchers it has been extremely fascinating – as well as fun – to get out of our dusty chambers and in the middle of the action. Without first-hand experience on what goes on in the courses, we would be quite clueless of most of the things happening on the recordings. We are conducting our research in collaboration with the course organisers and instructors, and our aim is to highlight practices that strengthen teamwork, and in this way increase awareness on the importance of talk and social action as part of crisis management work. Our common aim is that our findings could be utilised as tools for the course organisers in recognising good practices and developing the course contents, thus making crisis management work more efficient and, most importantly, safer.

 

Guest Blog: the Danish DanTIN group and The Grammar of Everyday Life

Denmark has a thriving EM/CA community, with faculty and students contributing to world-class initiatives across the range of interaction research. Here Magnus Hamann tells us how Danish Interaction Linguistics grew from a simple idea to an project that has generated activity and funding for generations of postgraduate students.

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Magnus Hamann

DanTIN project has its 10-year anniversary. in November 2019. Happy students from different stages of life (some still students, some already accomplished contributors to the work force) have met to celebrate something that has probably had a bigger influence on their linguistic studies and identity than they had initially realised.

Setting the scene:  The Grammar of Everyday Life and DanTIN

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DanTIN’s wug mascot. What if there were more than one?

While a lot of background explanation would be required to explain how the students of linguistics in Aarhus University have a strong student-driven academic environment where the students themselves arrange weekly presentations, get-togethers and other activities, this will be skipped. All you need to know it that on one of these days (120 months ago), Jakob Steensig was an invited speaker to one of these events. He had to explain his research to this enthusiastic horde of curious brains.

Jakob explained that he had an idea. He would, as he had always done, study Danish talk-in-interaction. The only difference would be that Jakob, this time around, would aim to focus and collect his studies around creating a real grammar. A real grammar of the Danish language. Not a traditional grammar. But a grammar with findings derived from studies of real interaction. A grammar of the Danish (spoken) language in use. Continue reading

Guest blog: Grammar from head to toe: Reporting on the Grammar-body interface colloquium

A recent meeting in Neuchâtel will be of much interest to ROLSI.net blog readers – the reciprocal connection between grammatical abstractions and their embodied realities is at the centre of theoretical debates in interactional linguistics. I’m delighted that a group of energetic young scholars from the Center for Applied Linguistics, University of Neuchâtel have sent in this lively report of proceedings.

Authors:  (in alphabetical order): Sophia Fiedler, Kenan Hochuli, Loanne Janin, Adam Jones, Klara Skogmyr Marian, Ioana-Maria Stoenica

Grammar and the body

Since Charles Goodwin’s (1979/1981) famous multimodal analysis of ‘I gave up smoking cigarettes one week ago today actually’ a lot has happened in the fields of CA and interactional linguistics. The currently booming interest in the interface between grammar and multimodal resources has probably escaped few. Continue reading

Guest blog: Rebecca Clift on teaching CA in China

The global reach of Conversation Analysis is ever-expanding, as illustrated by the interest generated in CA workshops wherever in the world they take place. Here Rebecca Clift gives us a brief but evocative account of her trip to China with colleagues from the UK and the USA.

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Rebecca Clift, Essex University

There was a happy gathering for the third National Workshop in Conversation Analysis at Shanxi University, China, from 15th-19thJuly 2019. The huge group photo (see the  foot of the page) more or less gets everyone in!

Immersion in CA

Organised by Professor Guodong Yu and Professor Yaxin Wu, it was an intense and exhilarating week of immersion in CA methods for all of us: 64 participants comprising faculty members and graduate students from across China taking lectures, workshops and data sessions with Paul Drew, Kobin Kendrick (University of York), Chase Raymond (University of Colorado, Boulder) and me. Continue reading

Guest blog: Displaying understanding of visible and imagined objects

Among the articles in ROLSI 52 (1) was a fascinating account of what people do when looking at (or being asked to think about) museum objects. I’m delighted that the authors, Chie Fukuda and Matt Burdelski, agreed write a piece to illustrate their study in shorter form. 

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Chie Fukuda

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Matt Burdelski

Multimodal/multisensorial analyses of situated interaction have increasingly focused on the role of objects (along with talk and other semiotic resources) in producing social action. But what actually happens in the interaction between guide and visitor?

Our collaborative effort in examining guided tours as situated activities within museums and culture centers has led us to examine how objects are brought into being and deployed in interaction, and how recipients display their understanding of them. Continue reading

Guest blog: How to make CA fun for 182 kids (and 171 adults)

How do you make Conversation Analysis intelligible to children? And make it enough fun that they actually want to see how it works, and try it out? That is the challenge happily taken on by the enterprising team of postgraduate students Reihaneh Afshari Saleh, Zhiying Jian, Marina Cantarutti and Yumei Gan. I’m delighted that they agreed to write it up; their report makes for lively reading.

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Zhiying Jian, Marina Cantarutti, Yumei Gan and Afshari Saleh

One of the most fulfilling things when doing our sometimes lonely PhD research is being told that what we do matters. Public engagement gives you a chance to experience that. We know that making our research accessible to the public can be daunting, and when your audience is potentially 200 kids aged 5-11, even more so! The PhD students in Language and Communication at the University of York, Reihaneh Afshari Saleh, Zhiying Jian, and Marina Cantarutti, and our PhD student visitor from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Yumei Gan, decided to rise to the challenge and make Conversation Analysis (even more) fun! Continue reading