Author Archives: charlesantaki

Guest Blog: Promoting CA in Brazil

As Conversation Analysis is increasingly taken up by researchers across the world, we are seeing efforts to bring the approach to their wider local communities. There are several initiatives in Brazil, and I’m delighted that Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, currently working in Finland, has sent in this report of an inaugural workshop in Sao Paulo.

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Fabio Ferraz de Almeida

The idea of organising an introductory CA workshop in Brazil began to take shape last year, while I was talking to a colleague, Bruna Gisi, professor of Sociology at the University of São Paulo (USP). Bruna was developing a postgraduate course on EM and Goffman and invited me to participate in one of the lectures. According to her, several sociologists in Brazil often talk about ethnomethodology but they rarely show how to put  it to use. Her suggestion was that we  discuss a particular EM concept and show how to ‘apply’ it in empirical research. 

In this lecture, we set out  reading Garfinkel & Sacks (1970) and then a paper I co-authored with Paul Drew on formulations in police interviews (Ferraz de Almeida & Drew, 2020). What followed was an insightful debate on how EM and indeed CA could be useful for the postgraduate students in their research. The course captured the interest of several people and a few months later, Bruna asked me if I would be willing to deliver an online workshop for their department, an invitation I immediately accepted.

Preparing the workshop was much more demanding than I could have anticipated and posed an unusual challenge. All my conversation analytical work has been done outside Brazil, and the data I have used for both my PhD thesis and postdoc research are in English.

Nonetheless, Bruna and I had agreed that the workshop material would be presented exclusively in Portuguese in order for the activities to be more inclusive. My initial idea was to use extracts in Portuguese from Brazilian CA publications and transcribe Brazilian audio/video recordings that were publicly available (e.g., YouTube). However, as this alternative proved to be far too complex (considering the time I had to prepare the workshop), I ended up focusing on translating data extracts from CA intro collections and from my PhD thesis into Portuguese.

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Fabio’s English data translated into Portuguese for the workshop

The audience Considering the audience, mostly sociologists and a few anthropologists, another main concern I had was presenting CA as a methodological approach that not only originated within sociology, but as one that remains sociologically grounded. In doing so, I refrained from going into much technical jargon and focused on hands-on activities for identifying and discussing what participants were doing and how they were conducting their actions and activities. After all, as I keep reminding myself and colleagues, CA is first and foremost a social science of action.

As is common among other CA training courses, my main goals over the workshop were to present some of the key principles and methods associated with CA and give an overview of the sorts of analysis and research one can conduct through this approach. In order to do this, I  divided the course into four sessions: 1) CA origins in sociology, the use of naturally occurring data and the system of transcription; 2) key principles in CA; 3) CA in institutional settings: activities and inferences; 4) CA in legal settings: law-in-(inter)action. 

Advertising the workshop

Making sense of CA to a wide audience

The first day For the first encounter, I presented an introduction to CA and its roots in sociology. We then discussed the advantages of working with naturally occurring data, a concept which generated some interesting questions, particularly from anthropologists, for whom issues concerning accessing ‘what actually happens’ rather than ‘representations of what happens’ had never been a problem. On the first day, we looked at a couple of transcripts and addressed questions of  ‘why so much detail?’, a topic that popped up a few times throughout the meetings. We ended the day with a provocative comment from a participant implying that CA would be a ‘realist’ and positivistic approach due to its take on recordings and transcripts and to what she called ‘a quest for objectivity’. 

On the second day, we focused on the key principles which underlie CA research: context, social action, turns and turn design, sequence and sequence organization, and intersubjectivity. Not surprisingly, questions and comments regarding CA’s limitations – that is, due to its unorthodox understanding of context – dominated the debate. For some participants, one could only understand what interactants were doing if there was enough contextual information – external to the interaction – available, and if the analyst was a member of that particular culture. This methodological debate goes back to the early 1990’s (Moerman, 1988) but has waned since then, since people have realized that relevance of external context depends fundamentally on the research questions one is setting up to answer.

Talk-at-work For the second half of the workshop, we moved to the study of talk-at-work. During the third day, we focused mostly on identifying the activities and models of inference which are particular to different institutional settings, such as doctor-patient consultations, police interrogations and emergency calls. As we talked about very specialized settings and activities, the debate revolved around how to ‘accurately’ identify what interactants were doing while respecting their point of view. Even though we had briefly discussed a possible solution for that, i.e., fundamentally relying on the next-turn proof procedure, some participants argued that the CA answer seemed insufficient for understanding professional goals and practices which were not straightforwardly observable through examining data extracts (for the case of legal practices, see D’hondt et al., 2021). 

I reserved the final day to discuss transcripts from police and judicial settings, contexts in which several participants were conducting their research. Among other extracts, we analysed material from criminal trials and discussed how lawyers and witnesses (and defendants) build alternative versions of the same event. Whereas there was nothing much original – at least for sociologists and anthropologists – about the idea of multiple interpretations of reality, participants seemed quite fascinated by the detailed and precise observations one can produce about that issue by bringing together the main principles of CA when looking at interactional material.

CA in Brazil – what now?

To say that CA occupies a marginal place in Sociology departments in Brazil would be a massive understatement. Goffman? Yes, his place is indeed marginal there. CA is practically non-existent! In this scenario, I was taken by surprise when Bruna emailed me saying that 30 participants had already enrolled in the workshop only one the day after the registration was open. It is difficult to know precisely how many of them will continue their training in CA and embrace its unique  analytical ‘mentality’ when conducting their research. In any case, that by simply offering an intro workshop generated some buzz in an large and highly influential institution such as USP goes to show the importance of seeking out un(der)explored territories and indicates that CA can still achieve its potential as a sociological enterprise.


D’hondt, S., Dupret, B., & Bens, J. (2021). Weaving the threads of international criminal justice: The double dialogicity of law and politics in the ICC al-Mahdi case. Discourse, Context & Media44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2021.100545

Ferraz de Almeida, F., & Drew, P. (2020). The fabric of law-in-action: ‘formulating’ the suspect’s account during police interviews in England. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law27(1), 35–58. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.38527

Garfinkel, H., & Sacks, H. (1970). On formal structures of practical actions. In J. C. McKinney & E. A. Tiriakyan (Eds.), Theoretical sociology: perspectives and developments (pp. 337–356). Appleton-Century-Croft.

Moerman, M. (1988). Talking culture: Ethnography and conversational analysis. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Guest Blog: Using inclusive language when transcribing French data

Every language poses it own problems when transcribing from the spoken to the written word. In this guest blog, I’m delighted that Dennis Dressel, Wifek Bouaziz and Marie Klatt, all at the University of Freiburg, take us through the dilemma of transcribing French, with its convention of treating plurals as masculine, while also trying to respect inclusivity. How does the transcriber acknowledge references to females when the language conventionally refers to them as male?

Like all Romance languages, French is a highly gendered language. That means that all nouns are either masculine or feminine and adjectives must agree with the noun (in gender & number). This also holds for participles, when used in the composite past tense (with the auxiliary être ‘be’).

Elles         sont  allées      au  parc.
They-F-PL   AUX    went-F-PL  to  parc 
‘They went to the park’

But there is a complication. Suppose the group which goes to the park is composed of ten women and one man. When French refers to mixed groups, the generic masculine (ils) is traditionally used, so the sentence becomes ils sont allés au parc, and the women will fall out of the picture.

Traditional linguistics will claim that it doesn’t matter, since everyone knows that ils encompasses male-specific, gender-mixed and gender-neutral denotations. But linguistic research has extensively shown that the use of the generic masculine reinforces male bias and fails to make non-male genders visible (see Gygax et al., 2019; Menegatti & Rubini, 2017). The question thus arises of how gender inclusivity can be accomplished within these binary constraints.

The point médian

In written French, the point médian (interpointt or median-period) offers one possible inclusive writing directive. It allows users to combine masculine and feminine endings, overriding the rule ‘le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin’ (‘the masculine form wins over the feminine’). The point médian is widely used (both in academic and non-academic contexts) and it is embraced by queer communities and organizations. Here are two examples:[1] 

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Message on Facebook
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Instagram post by @queersofnorthafrica

Moreover, recent French CA publications have embraced the point médian among other inclusive writing practices, as this example from Greco and Mondada (2021: 18) demonstrates:

Il ne s’agit pas seulement de revisiter les potentialités du langage et de sa multimodalité, mais aussi de reconnaître et de renverser des formes radicales d’asymétrie et de définition de ce qu’est un·e locuteur·ice légitime, autorisé·e, et socialement intégré·e.Greco and Mondada (2021: 18)

[English gloss: it’s not enough merely to think about the multiple modalities of language; we need also to recognise and reverse the asymmetries in what it means to be a legitimate, authorised and socially integrated speaker]

But while the point médian has proven to be a practical alternative to the generic masculine in written French, it is mostly invisible/inaudible in spoken French. However, we observe that some French speakers make an Increasing effort to use gender-inclusive or non-binary forms in talk-in-interaction. Such inclusionary practices can encompass the production of a schwa /ə/ sound in cases such as ami·e (/amiə/), the delayed production of the final consonant sound in cases such as important·e (/ɛ͂pɔʀtɑ͂:/), or the ‘conjoined’ production of both the masculine and feminine suffix in cases such as acteur·ice (/aktœʀis/). We have not been able to record and analyze naturalistic data of these inclusive speaking practices yet.

What does this mean for CA?

So what does all this mean for us, CA-researchers working with French data? When it comes to academic writing, many French journals explicitly reject inclusive language and specify that they will only accept ‘habitual orthography’[1], whereas others have started to encourage its use and recommend the avoidance of sexist language[2]. Looking at recent CA publications in French, we find that some authors use the generic masculine while others implement inclusive writing practices (see the special issue edited by Greco & Mondada, 2021). While the body of conversation analytic work on gender is constantly growing (Mondada, 2021; Stokoe & Speer, 2018; Whitehead & Lerner, 2021), we do not know of any studies on (non)inclusive practices in French conversations.

In addition to academic writing, the transcription of French interactions is at the heart of our conversation-analytic work. When transcribing French audio data, we attempt to capture what participants actually say and we cannot impose inclusive language on an interaction after the fact (i.e., we cannot add what’s not there).

However, we find that there are some ‘grey areas’ that provide opportunities for inclusive transcription practices and whose methodological implications we want to briefly outline in the following. In this blog post, we particularly want to explore one of these grey areas, i.e., cases in which gender denotations are invisible/inaudible in spoken French but must be morphologically represented in written French.

How to proceed?

Looking at examples from our data, we want to propose some possible ways to introduce inclusive language in our transcription practice, while also reflecting on its methodological boundaries and practical implications. It is important to mention that our reflections have been greatly informed and inspired by our colleagues’ contributions to a discussion on Twitter earlier this year[3].

The most obvious issue concerns referential appropriateness. If a referent is clearly determined by context (e.g., a cisgender heterosexual couple) and the phonetic realization allows for multiple transcriptions, we propose to use inclusive language instead of using the generic masculine. In this example drawn from a co-telling sequence, the female participant speaks on behalf of her and her boyfriend. The phonetic realization of the past participle /desɑ͂dy/ (‘descended’) would conventionally be transcribed using the generic masculine descendus. The inclusive version, that morphologically represents both partners’ genders could then be written as descendu·e·s.

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In cases where the referent is not clearly determined by context and their gender is not unambiguously realized phonetically, we also propose to use inclusive language. In this example, a participant mentions that they met a group of friends after leaving a party. These friends are not further specified and both the generic masculine amisand the inclusive form ami·e·s have the same phonetic realization /ami/. 

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By not using the generic masculine in this case, the transcriber (who has no ethnographic information about this group of friends here) can indicate their limited access to the source events: instead of introducing a male bias to this telling sequence, the neutrality (or indeterminacy) of the participant’s talk can be maintained.

Another dimension of referential appropriateness concerns the transcription of talk produced by participants who identify as non-binary. In this example, ALI (uses pronouns they/them in English and iel in French) tells a story and uses a composite tense that requires past participle agreement. In such cases, ethnographic data can be of great value, and we advise asking for pronouns on the participant consent form.

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In addition to issues of referential appropriateness, the question of emic relevance is central to the way we analyze conversations. In our own data, we have not found any instances in which inclusive language use is made explicitly relevant by the participants. Finding and describing such practices would certainly be very interesting and could provide insight into how gender identities and categories are negotiated in francophone interactions and to what extent written practices of inclusion provide resources for conversation. 

But even if the analytic focus does not lie on gender, inclusive writing and speaking practices can encourage a critical reflection of what and how we transcribe our data: transcribing French data always requires some contextual knowledge and interpretative skill on behalf of the transcriber, e.g., when dealing with phonetic ambiguities concerning grammatical number, when deciding how to transcribe non-conventionalized cliticizations, or when using the generic masculine in cases of referential uncertainty. In addition to rendering visible non-male genders, implementing inclusive transcription practices (within the constraints of readability and feasibility) may encourage us to gather additional ethnographic data and to indicate our own limited access to the conversations we transcribe. Our growing awareness of inclusive writing practices thus furnishes an opportunity to scrutinize our own transcription habits and to hopefully spark conversation around possibilities to investigate our own implicit biases. 

References

Greco, L., & Mondada, L. (2021). Charles Goodwin, le langagier, le corporel et la socialité en interaction: Langage et sociétéN° 173(2), 9–23. https://doi.org/10.3917/ls.173.0011

Gygax, P. M., Schoenhals, L., Lévy, A., Luethold, P., & Gabriel, U. (2019). Exploring the onset of a male-biased interpretation of masculine generics among French-speaking kindergarten children. Frontiers in Psychology10, 1225.

Menegatti, M., & Rubini, M. (2017). Gender bias and sexism in language. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication.

Mondada, L. (2021). The accomplishment of gender in interaction. Ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches to gender. (J. Angouri & J. Baxter, Eds.). Routledge.

Stokoe, E., & Speer, S. (2018). Conversation Analysis, Language, and Sexuality. In K. Hall & R. Barrett (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190212926.013.7

Whitehead, K. A., & Lerner, G. H. (2021). When simple self-reference is too simple: Managing the categorical relevance of speaker self-presentation. Language in Society, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404521000270


[1] See for instance: http://www.rfla-journal.org/fr/content/consignes-de-redaction

[2] See for instance: https://ldll.ulb.be/proposer-un-article/

[3] https://twitter.com/DennisDressel/status/1382997200985333761?s=20

Guest Blog:  Building an EMCA community at CADSS

Groups of EM/CA analysts have sprung up all over the world to share expertise, pore over data together, bounce ideas off each other and provide a sense of shared community. Here Simon Stewart gives an enthusiastic account of recent developments of the group based on the south coast of England.

Simon Stewart, Southampton

This post is intended to share with the CA community some of the resources and learning that have come from our group, CA Data Sessions South (CADSS), in its first 18 months.

We hope that this will be of interest to established CA practitioners, those developing in CA, as well as those who may be thinking of developing their own study groups, along the lines described below, and in the capsule accounts of worldwide groups listed here on the ROLSI blog pages. We hope that readers will join us for future data and developmental sessions, as well as special events.

From informal sessions to established group

The precursor to CA Data Sessions South (CADSS) was an informal reading group started by Simon Stewart and Mike Bracher in 2017. Simon was in the first year of his PhD in Health Sciences where he was using CA to analyse partner-involved clinical consultations, and Mike had a developing interest in CA as applied to Health Services Research and Medical Sociology. Initially, we met fortnightly to discuss chapters from foundational introductory texts (Paul ten Have’s Doing Conversation Analysis; Jack Sidnell & Tanya Stivers’ The Handbook of Conversation Analysis), as well as attending a local communication study group over at the nearby University of Portsmouth School of Psychology.

Two classics

These activities were helpful in developing a general understanding of the principles of CA; however, what was lacking was a forum for continued professional development in CA through sustained practice (i.e. doing CA within a community) in order to embed necessary analytic skills. This provided the impetus for establishing CADSS

Setting up, and moving online

CADSS was established in December 2019 with the initial aim to offer data sessions to a community of students, academics, and practitioners around the south coast of England. Starting with data sessions, presenters were invited to visit and present their data at the University of Southampton. Along with a mailing list, a Twitter feed (@CASessionsSouth) was established to make announcements for all CADSS activities. This was instrumental in raising awareness and building momentum for development of the community. After the inaugural session in January 2020, the first data session was held at the end of February 2020. This session remains our only in-person event as the COVID19 pandemic forced CADSS to move online

This shift allowed CADSS to grow beyond its regional origins into a global community of both established practitioners, and those new to or developing in CA. Involvement of participants in the latter group led to the development of a second stream alongside the data sessions; the developmental sessions, offering a space for participants to learn about and discuss core CA concepts. Due to the composition of the study group, these sessions also included discussions of applications of CA within health research.

Data and Development Sessions

Data sessions are held on the last Thursday of every month (with the exception of August, November, and December). CADSS arranges online data sessions through Twitter and a mailing list, inviting presenters from around the world, at all levels of development from those who are new to CA to fully established experts in the discipline. The configuration of the sessions allows for participants to contribute to the extent with which they are comfortable, knowing that while their contributions are encouraged and welcome, they will always be voluntary (this principle is restated at the beginning of each CADSS session).

CADSS logo

Developmental sessions take place once a month in between the data sessions, offering participants opportunities to learn about and discuss key topics in CA. Each session makes use of two pieces of set readings: one that introduces a core concept in CA (for example, turn design), and another that has applied this concept to institutional practice. To guide learning and discussion, the sessions place emphasis (through discussion questions) upon three pillars of learning: firstly, understanding key components of interaction (e.g. intonation, pause, non-lexical utterances); secondly, how these operate in situ as conversational mechanisms to produce a phenomenon of interest (e.g. how turn design is accomplished through particular operation of components in a given context); thirdly, how these mechanisms operate in applied contexts within wider conversational contexts (e.g. interactions in healthcare settings, information delivery sequences etc.)

CADSS milestones – the first eighteen months

Data Sessions – At the time of writing CADSS has hosted sixteen data sessions and one end-of-year workshop. These sessions are typically well-attended with an average of 15 participants per data-session.

Developmental sessions – Now in its second iteration, this stream now follows a twelve-session format that includes special presentations from invited speakers to cover fundamental aspects of CA practice (e.g., data management, use of CA as a method within wider projects in health research). Since its inception, the format of the developmental sessions has also evolved, now comprising a lecture hosted via the CADSS YouTube channel, which attendees can access at any time prior to the session. This allows greater flexibility in engagement for attendees, and more time in the actual session for discussion and exploration of key topics. The revised session launched in May and is intended to run as a recurring series.

CADSS now has a convener group that includes colleagues from the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth. Along with Mike and Simon, Iris Nomikou, Alessandra Fasulo, Leanne Chrisostomou, Lisa Roberts, Gerry Leydon, and Lucy Brindle are now involved in the organisation and planning of CADSS and its activities. CADSS has also received institutional recognition for its work, in particular for the efforts of Lead Convenor, Simon Stewart (in leading development and conduct of the development sessions). Simon received an Associate Fellowship of Advance HE (formerly the UK Higher Education Academy) for the developmental programme, as well as a Doctoral College Award from the University of Southampton for overall establishment of CADSS as a study group. The convenor group were also enormously grateful to be included on the EMCA Wiki web site in June 2021 (http://emcawiki.net/CA_Data_Sessions_South), providing a persistent web presence within a key hub for the international CA community.

CADSS rig

Future developments

CADSS emerged to address a need for a local community of practice in CA that would support ongoing development in the discipline. Eighteen months on, CADSS has established and sustained two streams to meet these needs, with development of each ongoing (feedback forms are circulated at the end of each session, with feedback driving future development).

At this stage, CADSS has three audiences: established practitioners (the focus of the data sessions); developing practitioners who may be new to CA, and considering how it might be applied to their research (the focus of the development sessions); and those who may not wish to train in CA as an analytic practice, but have interests its applications (e.g. healthcare professionals, those working in advice-giving organisations). Future development of CADSS currently focuses on this latter group, with joint sessions in development with other research groups in health. Our intention is that these events will offer opportunities to build links between the CA community and other areas in which their research may be applied, to share how CA has been applied to improve health care and institutional practices with researchers not yet familiar with CA, as well as providing a forum for CA practitioners to explore broader avenues for research impact.

We are grateful to our community for their support over the first eighteen months of CADSS and we are ever grateful to those that started their CA journey with us. We hope to welcome readers at future sessions in the coming months.

Guest Blog: In memory of Jack Bilmes

All of us at ROLSI were sorry to hear of the death, in May of this year, of Jack Bilmes, one of ethnomethodology’s most original and independent voices, and a warm, generous and caring man. I’m very grateful to Professor Gabi Kasper, an old friend and teaching colleague of Jack’s, for allowing us to reproduce here the obituary that was read out at this year’s IPrA conference. The paper that Jack was to have presented a paper there will, happily, be published in Discourse Studies (1).

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Guest Blog: EM/CA for Racial Justice

There is an intriguing and welcome movement in EM/CA circles recommending that more be done by scholars to engage with social issues. Prime among these issues is racism, and I’m delighted that three early-career academics, Eleonora Sciubba, Natasha Shrikant and Francesca Williamson have agreed to report on their and their colleagues’ efforts to apply EM/CA perspectives on the issue.

The authors of this post [1] are members of a working group entitled, EMCA4RJ—or EMCA for Racial Justice—that was started in June 2020 [2] The purpose of this group is to foreground race and racism as central issues in the EMCA community. 

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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.

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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.

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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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