Guest Blog: What it’s like to take up a new job in Finland

CA is in demand in many University departments, but scattered far and wide. Here’s the account of one early career researcher, Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, who has made the huge move from Brazil to Finland. Fabio had done his PhD in the UK with Loughborough’s DARG, so it wasn’t a completely unfamiliar move; but Jyväskylä is not the same as the East Midlands…

Fabio Ferraz de Almeida

What would you do if you noticed the pedestrian traffic lights turning red just before you started crossing a street? In Brazil and the UK, and in many other parts of the world, I assume, people would cross the street as long as they saw none vehicle coming. In Finland, however, this is not the case. I would say that one of the best ways for ‘doing being Finnish’ is to wait patiently for the red lights to turn green before crossing a street, regardless of whether any vehicles were in sight.

As well as constituting a law-abiding society, a feature that becomes even more salient in times of a global pandemic, Finland is also well known for being fairly egalitarian. Among other typical illustrations as their public health and education systems, and their income distribution, I can also add a more mundane observation: in Jyväskylä, the city where I live and work, university ID cards have no reference to their owner being a professor, a lecturer, a postdoc researcher, or any other academic rank. Although students have ID cards that explicitly identify their status, these distinctions seem less about hierarchy and more about how much each one has to pay for their meals in the university restaurants, as a colleague suggested.

Having chosen to move to a country where I do not speak the native language, I did feel concerned at first. Fortunately, several public and private companies in Finland offer services in English. Also, most university emails arrive with an English translation at the bottom, easing my working life enormously until I manage to enroll in a Finnish course. To my surprise, however, it is very common to hear Finns – especially outside academia – apologizing for not having a good command of English, even though I find extremely easy to communicate with them.

Discourse and interaction studies at the University of Jyväskylä

Finland’s successful strategy to slow down and prevent the spread of coronavirus during the early months of the pandemic, particularly in Jyväskylä, meant that first-year lectures were offered face-to-face and some of us were still able to work from campus until a couple of weeks ago. Since then, though, the university has strongly recommended that most work would have to return to take place remotely

The campus in the autumn

As I found out during my initial months working in Jyväskylä, the university here has developed as one of the main centres for language and discourse studies in Finland. Shortly after my first week here, I was invited to participate in the Discourse Hub, a multidisciplinary and supportive space for presenting, discussing and debating on ongoing research as well as key literature on discourse studies, particularly critical discourse studies, linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics. 

The Discourse Hub is coordinated by Sari Pietikäinen and Sigurd D’hondt, who are responsible for organising fortnightly meetings. The first half of each meeting is allocated for presenting and discussing our work in-progress, e.g. research plan, article outline, a section of a publication, example of an analysis, data session, discussion around key concepts, etc. The second half is dedicated to discussions on how to push forward critical connections and interactions with different fields of critical research on language, especially with linguistic anthropology and critical discourse studies, which often involves having invited speakers who have tackled these issues on their work. This semester, for example, we had contributions from Lindsay Bell (Western University), Jonas Bens (Freie Universität Berlin) and Monica Heller (University of Toronto).

… and in the winter

After several years of training as a conversation analyst at Loughborough University, I believe I am still recalibrating my participation in non-EMCA scholarly discussions, and trying to find a way through which I can not only learn from but also contribute to these debates on language and society, regardless the type of data or the methodology employed for analysing it.

Language and law in the International Criminal Court

The necessity for self-adjustment became particularly visible for me as began working in our research project: “Negotiating International Criminal Law: A courtroom ethnography of trial performance at the International Criminal Court”. Among other things, our project aims to elucidate how the different actors (judges, lawyers, witnesses etc.) behaviorally navigate tensions surrounding an emergent form of global and multicultural adjudication while they interact with one another at the courtroom.

Even though the ICC portrays itself as an extremely open institution and makes a large set of data widely available in their website, most of these materials consists of official written transcripts, produced as to turn court hearings into evidence, e.g. witnesses’ testimonies. Despite the terrific job done by “court pianists”, working primarily with written transcripts has undoubtedly created limitations for our analysis, at least from an EMCA point of view. To balance that, the good news is that whereas we cannot examine direct and cross-examination in their full detail, it is possible to analyse video data from the opening speeches and closing arguments made by lawyers.

Our research team, led by Sigurd D’hondt, is formed of four scholars, each of us with different education backgrounds and multiple academic interests, which means that we examine data from different angles. This is especially salient when as we conduct our data sessions, our observations sometimes differ considerably. As a consequence of a multidisciplinary line-up, we have to make a constant effort to translate our insights and ideas and make them more intelligible for each other. As we start presenting our work, the main challenge though will be to conciliate these multiple interests and analytical mentalities in a way that the outcome is not only methodological compatible but also comprehensible for the audience.

In any case, challenges and obstacles are there for us to overcome. For academics, it is not only a matter of moving to a new country, but also adapting and finding a way for contributing to our new working environment and to different research fields. The key point here, in my view at least, is to remain open and flexible, even if this sometimes means to wait patiently until the ‘red little man’ turns green and we can finally cross the street.

How do I get published in ROLSI?

A couple of years ago we published a blog of a roundtable between the editor and a group of CA scholars at Linköping University, discussing ROLSI’s editorial practices. One of those researchers, Professor Leelo Keevallik, is now the Associate Editor of the journal, and she and I are very pleased to revisit some of those issues. We’re very grateful indeed to Dr Marina Cantarutti, one of global CA’s most active and well-connected early career researchers, for posing us questions which will be of interest to all, but especially those who are submitting for the first time.

1. Marina Cantarutti (MC): What kind of feedback can I expect to receive from reviewers after I have submitted my article to the journal? 

Charles Antaki and Leelo Keevallik (Eds): In a word, quite a lot and at various level of detail. As editors, we choose reviewers who are knowledgeable about the subject, and they send us back very generous and closely engaged reviews, which can cover many pages – it’s not unusual for the full set of reviewers comments to stretch to 10 or more single spaced sheets. The comments will be generally about four things: the clarity with which the authors identify the phenomenon of the discussion; the novelty of the findings and the comprehensiveness with which they authors have integrated them into what we know about the issue; and, most importantly the sophistication and persuasiveness of the analysis.

2. MC: What are the steps to follow after a “revise and resubmit”? 

Eds. : 

Step 1 – Take a deep breath. You’re in, if only provisionally. Good.

Step 2 – Check whether the editors want minor, middling or major revisions. We put that right up front, so that you know in principle how much work you’re in for. Minor revisions at this stage are unusual, so what you’ll be asked to do will be something at least “middling” (that is, fairly substantial); and if it’s “major “, that will mean rolling your sleeves up and doing some significant work on the manuscript.

Step 3 – Read the editors’ decision letter; it will give you a pretty clear steer about the main topics emerging in the accompanying set of reviewers comments.

Step 4 – Read the reviewers’ comments carefully. ROLSI reviewers are always constructive, thoughtful and collegial; sometimes they will have things to say which may annoy, especially if they seem to have misunderstood what you said; if it gets too uncomfortable, leave it, and come back after you’re in a more conciliatory mood. (If there’s still something there which simply looks wrong or inappropriate, tell the editor so – see later).

3. MC: What would you say are the essential elements/components that a response to the reviewers after a request to “revise and resubmit” should have? 

Eds.: Whatever the scale of the revision, it will help your case, and endear you to editor and reviewers, if you set out your changes in a covering letter point by point or comment by comment, responding separately to all reviewers. Some people like to do this very explicitly in a table – column one for the number of the point, column two for the manuscript page to which the reviewer’s comment refers, column three for a quote from the review which summarises the reviewer’s point, and column four for an account of the change you’ve made that addresses it. That format isn’t necessary, but certainly whatever format you use, those are the things you should include. A full account of all your changes may well extend to a dozen pages and, as always, don’t forget to acknowledge the hard work by the reviewers. Once in a while, you might even want to thank them personally in the final paper, which can be arranged at a later stage, should the reviewer consent to reveal their identity.

Oh, and if you really want to get into our good books, make a “show changes” version of the document and send that along with the clean one.

4. MC: How do I respond to a reviewer… 

…who disagrees with the chosen method of analysis, or who shows little experience in the chosen methodology and the assumptions that underlie it? 

Eds. – Unlikely to be a problem in ROLSI; but certainly this can happen in journals which are unused to interactional analysis. However, it is always advisable to make your theoretical assumptions explicit, so as to ease reading by as many people as possible.

… who misunderstood one of the key points? 

Eds. – In the first revision, try to improve your writing, carefully considering what the reviewer understood wrong. If the problem persists after second review – say so to the editors. You are talking in the first instance to the editors, and they will be (comparatively) impartial, unless, in the covering letter, they have explicitly said that they agree with that part of the reviewer’s comments. If that is the case, then you may have a mountain to climb to persuade them. If not, then it’s a matter of making a good case and persuading the editors that you are right and the reviewer is wrong. It can happen.

… who suggests adding elements that if considered would lead to the paper exceeding the word limit

Eds. – Again, say so. But, again, if it’s something that we wanted in the covering letter, you would be well advised to follow our advice (we will usually suggest sacrificing some other part of the manuscript.)

… who suggests the inclusion of elements in the literature that are irrelevant to the current analysis, or which oppose the perspective taken? 

Eds. – Reconsider whether it is actually irrelevant, or would maybe make your case stronger and clearer (such as arguing for the merits of your perspective). If not, you would have a pretty good chance of arguing against that, unless the editors have backed the reviewer in the decision letter.

…who is spot-on a criticism that exposes one of the key findings as weak or untenable (and which requires admitting to a major weakness)? 

Eds. – Be strong and admit it, the analysis needs a major recalibration. After all, your paper hasn’t been rejected; the editors would’ve given you a way to proceed.

The CORE-ILCA website especially for early career researchers in Conversation Analysis and Interactional Linguitics https://coreilca.wordpress.com

5. MC: What is the right (discursive) way of announcing/accounting for the pushing back on a suggestion? 

Eds.: Tact, collegiality, and a demonstration that you understand what the reviewer has said. They usually mean well, and may have misunderstood something, or just missed something on an earlier page, or whatever; appreciate what they have said, but give the editors reason to take your side rather than theirs. Often, you will find a reason to also build this “pushback” into your argument for your other readers.

6. MC: What are my chances of getting accepted if I stand my ground and push back on a number of key suggestions? 

Eds.: It depends enormously on your powers of persuasion. Here especially our editorial covering letter is important: it will have laid out what are effectively the non-negotiables unless (as, admittedly, has occasionally happened!) we the editors, like the reviewers, have simply misunderstood something. But assuming that we haven’t, then we will be quite hard to shift, also because we would have chosen the best possible reviewers.

7. MC: How much of the paper should be changed in the light of the reviewer’s comments?  

If I find new avenues of argument and analysis as a result of re-analysis or an enhanced lit review, to what extent can the new version stray away from the original as a result of addressing the comments?  

Eds.: It’s quite unusual for a paper to change quite so radically as that, and if it does then both reviewers and the editors will pick it up in the next round of reviewing. In the more root and branch examples, we will ask for the paper to be sent in as a fresh submission and you will then receive three new reviewers that are fitted to the new analysis. But in the normal run of events, “minor” revision will mean light touches here and there, “middling” revision substantive changes to at least one section, and “major” changes re-thinking and re-writing significant passages throughout the paper. It is quite common that the paper changes substantially after a revision and reorganization, so that the document with “track changes” will be bursting with colour.

8. MC: Is my revision likely to be accepted? If not, what happens next?

Eds.: If the original submission had only needed minor revisions, success is probable; middling or major ones – no guarantee. Depending on how the reviews pan out, and what the editors make of them, you might either get rejected at that point, or asked for some further revision (which would usually be fairly minor). It’s the first revision which is the crucial, make-or-break one. But if you’ve approached it in good faith, thought through the reviews, made the changes and given a good account of what you’ve done (and not done), then the chances are pretty good- much better than evens. Go for it!

Marina and colleagues ready to submit to ROLSI

Guest Blog: A new book on “Recruitment” across cultures


Over the last few years, Conversation Analysis researchers have moved well beyond the American English origins data that the founders used; in ROLSI, for example, it’s quite normal that English be only one of three or four different languages studied in any one issue. But what is really exciting is when a research team takes on a big, cross-cultural project, and I’m very happy to have Giovanni Rossi, N. J. Enfield and Mark Dingemanse tell us about their admirable new collection – and it’s open-access, too.

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Guest blog: Synchronising Musical Performance Interaction

The ways that musicians synchronise their performances is delicate matter of gestures, gaze, body movement and sequencing;. If they try to do it over even the best of broadband connections, complications can arise. I’m delighted that Sam Duffy, who is both a musician and well versed in interaction analysis, can tell us something about the interrelationship between the two in a time when most of us are still coming to terms with online interaction.

Sam Duffy, Royal Northern College of Music

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the Performing Arts. Professional performers and composers have had their future income stream wiped out overnight (and for the foreseeable future). Students are struggling to finish their graded year-end recitals or oversee recordings of their work as they were originally imagined. Amateur and community choirs and orchestras can no longer get together at a time when the social aspect would be a valuable support. Members of professional ensembles cannot maintain their repertoire, or work on new material together to perform once restrictions are lifted. 

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Studying Video Consultations: How do we record data ethically during COVID-19?

Lockdown in many countries has affected the way in which healthcare workers interact with their patients. In the UK, for example, a number of medical consultations have gone online, with doctors trying to deal with their patients over Zoom or Skype – and it has not been easy. Lucas Seuren has been working in Oxford in a team actively exploring the costs and benefits of online medical consultation, and I’m delighted that he has agreed to send in a report from the front line.

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Lucas Seuren, Oxford University

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the organisation of healthcare services. Social distancing protocols mean that face-to-face contact between patients and health care professionals has to be limited as much as possible. Consultations are now mostly conducted by telephone or video. This provides a unique opportunity for EMCA research on healthcare interaction, but also a significant challenge. Little is still known about how communication works in these remote service models, and as experts on social interaction, we are in a prime position to develop evidence-based guidance. The problem is: how do we get data when we cannot go to places where the interaction take place? Continue reading

Guest blog: Why are Zoom meetings so exhausting and frustrating?

Lockdown has made us all very familiar with remote working – and that has meant a great deal of time on various kinds of online meeting platforms: Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and many more. Lifeline or burden? Andrea Bruun and Ditte Zachariassen report.

Andrea Bruun, University College London
Ditte Zachariassen, Aarhus University

When the pandemic hit, it forced us to stay home and limit social contact. We were told to work remotely and use online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for our meetings – for all kinds of meetings, even social gatherings such as family dinners, happy hour and pub quizzes happened online..

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Guest Blog: A research visit to Helsinki during the pandemic

Sometimes a much-anticipated research visit to a centre of excellence coincides with an unforeseen set of circumstances. That’s what happened to Rachael Drewery, who turned up in Helsinki only to be caught up in the Finnish lockdown. She tells her tale…

Rachael Drewery

Rachael Drewery, Nottingham University

On 18th February, when reports about COVID were found in the middle of UK newspapers, I commenced a three month research visit with the Emotions in Interaction team at the University of Helsinki.  Little did I know that four weeks later I would be conducting a research visit, via online platforms, during a global pandemic. Continue reading

Guest blog: The death of George Floyd – should we analyse the tape?

Magnus Hamann is a CA researcher with long experience of analysing the kind of police/citizen encounters that are available on YouTube,  especially those that end in violence. In this guest blog, he wrestles with the many dilemmas facing the academic researcher when something is incendiary, and very much in the public eye: How may an interactional researcher approach a case like the police killing of George Floyd? Should they abstain? Take sides?

MagnusHamann

Magnus Hamann, Loughborough University

Right now (early June 2020), the story of African-American George Floyd’s death at the hands of a US police force circulates the world. The graphic images in those recordings have caused a collective sadness and anger. Emotions that have led to disturbances, to put it mildly, in many US cities. One recording, especially, has gone viral[1]. Continue reading

Guest blog: A philosopher looks at Conversation Analysis

Coming across an interview with Susan Notess on the excellent Generous Questions philosophy podcast, I was intrigued by her perspective, as an ethicist, on the dangers of language – and delighted that she used the work of conversation analysts Liz Stokoe and Nick Enfield, among others, to illustrate her argument. She very kindly agreed to write a guest blog,  introducing us to a wider horizon of scholarship about the human conversational contract.

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Susan Notess, Durham University

There’s something about language which resembles conductivity. Through it we connect with each other and transmit not just stories, but also fears; not just kindness, but also power. To be able to speak and say what one means is a kind of power, and to be robbed of this power is a kind of injustice. Continue reading

Guest blog: Walking in the time of COVID-19

Lockdown has been socially, professionally and personally challenging for lots if us; but it has also stimulated a great deal of new work in response to the very different landscape we currently live in. I’m delighted to host a guest blog by four wonderful analysts, Eric Laurier, Magnus Hamann, Saul Albert & Liz Stokoe, who’ve used some of their time for a fascinating analysis of just what  “social distancing” means in public spaces. It’s a longer than usual blog, but there’s a lot to pack in… Continue reading