Guest blog: The EM/CA postgraduate meeting at King’s, London, Autumn 2018

The EM/CA doctoral network in the UK has the excellent practice of arranging twice-yearly meetings for graduate students doing EM/CA work. A  chance to talk, share ideas and experiences and feel part of a bigger research community. The most recent meeting was held at King’s College, London in October 2018. Melissa Bliss reports.


Melissa Bliss (Queen Mary, University of London)

The 10th biannual EM/CA Doctoral Network event was hosted by King’s presentations and no less than thirteen data sessions. To illustrate the range of sites of EM/CA work, 24 students participated from twelve UK universities and, a welcome addition, four international universities.


Tiina Eilittä, Oulu

Our host Jon Hindmarsh welcomed us, especially those from Spain, Finland, Russia and Switzerland. We were then off to a flying start into parallel data sessions. The first strand was on family interactions with Tiina Eilittä (Oulu) presenting her video data on multiactivity and attention drawing and Tilly Flint (Ulster) with her data on conflict in family interactions. In the other strand on collaboration Christoph Hottiger (Zurich) shared his video data on people interacting with science centre exhibits and  Juan Pablo Martinez Avila (Nottingham) showed his data of acoustic musicians collaborating in rehearsals.

After an excellent lunch provided by KCL we heard two interesting presentations. Jack Joyce (Loughborough) showed examples of resisting challenges in conflict and Mari Holmström (Oulu) analysed coworkers’ displays of identities in break room discussions using membership categorisation analysis. There was a lively discussion on the challenges of translating the Finnish category words pätikkä and täti into English.

We then went back into data sessions. One strand was on healthcare settings. Rebecca Anderson (UCL) shared her data on conversations between healthcare professionals and relatives of patients at the end-of-life. Ethan Shapiro (Northumbria) showed us his video data of clinical handovers between paramedics & emergency department staff. The other strand focused on moral orders with Claire Melia (Keele) bringing her data on a group discussion about alcohol use in which people shared their own stories about alcohol consumption. Paula Greenlees (Edinburgh) shared her interesting data on categories and moral accountability in the form of a YouTube video of a judge from the Australian royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse questioning elders from the Jehovah’s Witnesses about their practice of “shunning” of those who speak out about sexual abuse.

The day closed with keynote speaker Dirk vom Lehn (KCL) on how to find a ‘research setting’ and a ‘research question’. He illustrated this from his empirical work on looking at art objects and the practices of optometrists conducting eye examinations. His interesting talk reflected the host university’s strong focus on workplace settings. We then had dinner in the heart of London’s theatreland with much enjoyable conversation and networking.

Day two, including the youngest ever EM/CA attender

The second day started bright and early with two interesting presentations by researchers in the early stages of their PhDs. Jose Gustavo Berumen Salazar (Nottingham) shared his research on supporting practices through fast moving consumer goods with an examination of cooking practices and the role of recipes. Chamathka Kariyawasam (Edinburgh) outlined her plans to study family leisure travel practices in the setting of Galle Fort in Sri Lanka. Chamathka was accompanied by her young daughter who celebrated her first birthday at the meeting, without doubt our youngest participant to date.

Next we went back to data sessions. The first was on language learning with Nathaly Gonzalez-Acevedo (Barcelona) sharing her video data of pre-schoolers’ language learning with the use of iPads and Nimet Copur (Newcastle) showing us video excepts of student initiated humour in EFL classrooms. The other strand focused on routine procedures in two very different settings. Shawn Bodden shared his interesting data on multimodal interactions with material objects in alternative cultural spaces in the form of a livestreamed video of Budapest police interacting with activists resisting a household’s eviction. This lead to a lively debate about the possibilities and constraints of video at adequately capturing interactions in crowded and noisy situations. Kristina Popova (Higher School of Economics, Moscow) shared her data on mastering laboratory work by psychology students learning to do transcranial stimulation experiments.


Emma Greenhalgh (Sheffield)

After another excellent lunch we had the final two data sessions. The first focused on classroom practices with Emma Greenhalgh (Sheffield) sharing her findings on elicited storytelling as a pedagogical task in the ESL classroom and Keith Walker (Liverpool) investigating the social construction of boredom in the classroom. In the second Melissa Bliss (Queen Mary University of London) shared her data on older age identity constructions in a YouTube video and comments. Our final presentations were on reporting troubles. Yarong Xie (Edinburgh) presented her ‘modest proposal’ on reporting racism and Marc Alexander (Loughborough) showing us examples of invoking third party agencies by people telephoning neighbour dispute resolution services. It seems apt that this final presentation was by a researcher who had just submitted his thesis. We soundly congratulated Marc and wished him a good viva in December.

The meeting concluded with a question and answer session chaired by our host Jon Hindmarsh which covered the perennial questions of the EM/CA student: the pros and cons of various software for recording, transcribing and analysis; where to publish our work, and how to make our work more publicly accessible and socially useful.

Jon Hindmarsh and Andrew LaBonte at KCL are to be congratulated for organising a lively and stimulating meeting. We extend our thanks to LISS-DTP for sponsoring the event. The EMCA Doctoral Network continues to grow in strength and stature and provide an important supportive and stimulating setting for developing EMCA scholars.

Follow Melissa Bliss onTwitter: @Melissa_Bliss_