Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Guest blog: The Cardiff EM/CA doctoral student meeting

Every year a UK university hosts a meeting for doctoral students working in the fields of ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. This year it was held at Cardiff University. Jack Joyce and Linda Walz have sent in a lively and inclusive report, and Louise White has kindly contributed a warm personal reflection. 

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 10.45.17.png

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 10.45.54.png

The 7th biannual EMCA Doctoral Network event was hosted at Cardiff University. It continued the tradition of providing the opportunity for PhD students to explore the various ways with which EMCA is employed around the UK and give us all a glimpse of EMCA research outside of our own departments.

The collegial and supportive spirit which the EMCA Doctoral Network has fostered over the past events continued with an afternoon start on the first day, which allowed us some time to explore Cardiff and the many sites where Doctor Who and Torchwood are filmed.

Cardiff_Millenium.jpg

Our host, Robin Smith, welcomed us all to Cardiff and to the beautiful Glamorgan Building. The meeting opened with a trio of presentations on institutional data. Bogdana Huma’s (Loughborough) paper explored how prior relationships are enacted in business-to-business calls. Tatiana Gherman (Loughborough) focused on the macro-organisation of meetings and the methodological challenges of such an investigation. Marion West (Wolverhampton) examined undergraduate supervisions and how roles are constructed in situ in such interactions. The first opportunity to engage with some data was up next, Jack Joyce (Loughborough) shared his data on resistance in medical interactions, raising issues of the tensions between personal and institutional identities. Matters of identity negotiation were further explored through Emma Greenhalgh’s (Sheffield) data on teaching English to a group of adult learners.

Is EM/CA still useful?

The first day was rounded off with a superb plenary by Richard Fitzgerald (Macau), who posed the critical question as to whether the EMCA methodology apparatus was still appropriate in a modern world with new forms of data. Richard emphasised that in ethnomethodological inquiry, the phenomenon takes prevalence over the methodology. He introduced us to the Sacks archive held at UCLA and ended his talk by encouraging us as EMCA practitioners to read Sacks’ work as often as we can throughout our careers and, given the opportunity, to visit the Sacks archive ourselves. Discussions were continued over drinks and a meal at a local Indian restaurant.

Breakfast.jpg

Post-Portuguese-bakery session

After some of us had enjoyed breakfast at a Portuguese bakery, day two began with a paper session with a general focus on sequence organisation. Yuening Yang (Loughborough) identified resumptions markers  employed to return to a prior topic. Mariana Cantarutti (York) explored the (dis)association between participants from an Interactional Linguistic approach. Julian Molina (Warwick) shared his data on board members’ process of agreeing on a vision for young people’s education and skills. Clare Nicholson (Anglia Ruskin) started the second paper session of the day on how people with intellectual disabilities do resistance. Marc Alexander’s (Loughborough) talk investigated (non)agentive formulations in noise complaints and Fabio Ferraz de Almeida (Loughborough) explored how suspects achieve counter-denunciations in police interviews. The blame and police theme continued with Louise White (Loughborough), who shared a police interview extract prompting a discussion of how the suspect distances themselves from blame by invoking contrasting membership categories. Linda Walz (York St John) gave the final data session of the day, on an investigation into how expatriate bloggers mobilise categories in their personal narratives to work through what impacts moving abroad is having on them as a person.

Membership categorisation

The meeting concluded with further application of membership categorisation to online data as William Housley (Cardiff) gave an engaging plenary, calling for unity and solidarity between different strands of ethnomethodological research in an increasingly interdisciplinary environment. He pointed to the need to “move beyond the narcissism of small differences” and begin to think of our tradition more holistically. He took up issues addressed by Richard Fitzgerald’s plenary, encouraging engagement with emergent phenomena in social media and the methodological challenges these entail. Due to the social changes we are witnessing, he noted that sociology and with it EMCA will become one of the most important disciplines in the 21st century.

Breadth and goodwill

The meeting showed the breadth of ethnomethodological research on both institutional and non-institutional data in face-to-face, telephone and online settings. It was imbued with a spirit of open-mindedness where differences between research strands and the variety of data investigated can engender new discussions and maybe even challenge existing methodologies and hopefully contribute to moving the field forward. The EMCA Doctoral Network Meeting proved once more to be a great opportunity for inspiring exchanges within the research community. We all look to the next meeting in Newcastle, eagerly anticipating a similarly outstanding event.

GroupCardiff.jpg

Louise White adds a personal reflection:

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 10.47.49.png

Catching a particularly early morning train from Loughborough to Cardiff was a painful prospect. But, as I sleepily greeted three of my fellow Loughborough attendees on the platform at Loughborough station clutching my bundle of train tickets, we were all feeling excited for what the next couple of days would entail. Lots of EMCA!

When we arrived, we received a very friendly welcome. Handshakes were swapped and there was a round of introductions amongst all attendees and, thankfully, there were no cringey icebreakers. The usual jokes about the large number of people from Loughborough in attendance bounced around the room, but it was great to meet those who had travelled from elsewhere including York, Wolverhampton, Warwick, and Sheffield, some we had met before and others we had not. The number of 13 doctoral students in attendance, though on the small side, provided an intimate, rather than intimidating, atmosphere for the meeting.

Good mix

Looking at the programme, it seemed a shame that there were no technical sessions or reading groups. However, these sorts of sessions can be difficult in terms of engaging a whole group, and keeping everyone focused on the same activity or topic which isn’t necessarily relevant, or interesting for all involved. The meeting was very varied and diverse without these sorts of sessions, and it was a pleasure to spend our time learning more about each other’s projects in such a warm and encouraging environment. In terms of the content of the sessions, there was a great mixture of presentations and data sessions on a variety of topics and with a generous length of time dedicated to each, in particular the data sessions.

William Housley’s engaging plenary was a fantastic end to the two-day meeting. Although we received the programme for the meeting only a few days before it began, this meant that every session the programme promised, we received. It was clear that the programme had been carefully put together, the sessions were allocated in a logical order, which allowed comparisons and connections to be made across them. Dr Smith also notified us that the Wales Doctoral Training Partnership would generously provide funding towards reimbursing our accommodation and travel expenses, something we were very grateful for. Although there was no set hashtag encouraged at the event, attendees intuitively used #EMCA; and that seemed to do the trick.

All in all, we found Cardiff University to be a brilliant host for the EMCA Doctoral Network Meeting. Next stop: Newcastle University, October 2017.

Guest blog: Behind the scenes at the Helsinki Intersubjectivity Conference

Helsinki’s Centre of Excellence for Intersubjectivity in Interaction has over its short history become an international powerhouse of interaction research. A celebratory conference was held in May, and I’m delighted that two of the Centre’s key personnel Taru Auranne and Taina Valkeapää, agreed to reflect on how it all went.

Taru Auranne

Taina Valkeapää

The conference “Intersubjectivity in Action” (IIA) was organized in the hesitant spring of Finland on May 11-13, 2017. It celebrated the final year of the Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity in Interaction, which has been running at the University of Helsinki since 2012.

The Centre of Excellence has been studying intersubjectivity for five and a half years now. We are a diverse group of researchers from different fields of science, mainly linguistics and social sciences. The thing that initially brought us together – in addition to the research interest of intersubjectivity – is the method of Conversation Analysis. Our multidisciplinary approach has been fruitful: researchers have learned from each other and cross-scientific discussion has broadened and deepened perspectives. This open-minded approach was something that we wanted to share with the world-wide community.

120 presentations The IIA conference received approximately 180 submissions for presentations in the call for papers in September. The amount and overall quality of the abstracts was so impressive that we decided to expand the size of the conference from the planned 80 presentations to nearly 120 papers. The accepted papers were grouped under themes such as Responses, Therapy and counselling, Mobility and multiactivity, and Imperatives and directives, just to mention a few.

A view of one of the plenary sessions: Taru Auranne at left, Anssi Peräkylä introducing Federico Rossano on the podium, and Taina Valkeapää somewhere among the assembled company. Photo: Matti Ahlgren

Our plenarists represented a range of disciplines and approaches. Lorenza Mondada opened the conference by exploring the action of tasting in cheese shops. She showed the audience how the very private activity of tasting is also negotiated and made possible in social interaction. Federico Rossano explored human interaction through observational and experimental data. He proposed that the sense of accountability is one of the unique features that makes our interaction distinctively human.

The conference book of Abstracts is still available via this page

Jörg Bergmann’s plenary presented what happens when a recipient persistently refuses to respond. It seems that after three attempts at a response pursuit, the interaction enters a new phase or trajectory, be it a shift in attention or a completely new action. Leelo Keevallik illustrated vocal and bodily synchrony through data from various settings. She stressed that bodily vocalisations play a crucial role in interaction, even if they have thus far been mostly treated as private, involuntary and somewhat unimportant features. Paul Drew and Kobin Kendrick wrapped up the conference with a plenary on recruitment of assistance. They proposed that a shared focus, instigated by a private problem noticed by another, is a prerequisite for intersubjectivity.

How to organise a conference The local organizing committee began planning and preparing for the conference 18 months ago. The pace was leisurely at first, but as the event drew dearer, the preparations naturally grew more intensive. The final days of cutting name tags, printing handouts, collecting equipment and choreographing tasks seemed to flash by. During the conference, three full days of lively academic discussion and networking, 950 cups of coffee and tea, 170 kilograms of salads, 40 basketfuls of buns and pastries, and one conference dinner in an old cable factory building resulted in an unforgettable celebration of intersubjectivity!

Conference dinner in an old cable factory. Photo: Jonna Malaska

Guest Blog: A celebration of Candy and Charles Goodwin’s life and work

Charles and Marjorie Harness Goodwin (affectionately known as Chuck and Candy respectively) have a special place in the top rank of pioneers of interaction studies. Their scholarship, enterprise and enthusiasm has inspired many generations of young researchers. I’m delighted that Elliott Hoey and Don Everhart agreed to report on an event held to commemorate the Goodwins’ achievements.

As UCLA would formally have it, “Charles and Marjorie Goodwin: A Career Retrospective” was a delightful event. In practice, in the spirit of Chuck and Candy, the event was immediately more than collegial – rather, it was full of friendly, enthusiastic inhabitants of the scholarly universe that the Goodwins continue to create together.

Chuck and Candy Goodwin, at the UCLA event (photo: Mika Ishino)

Chuck and Candy began the day with opening remarks on their history of encounters, or, as Candy said, “a tapestry of encounters.” Most significant early on in her scholarly work, according to Candy, were encounters with ecological perspectives, children in Philadelphia schools, and the way that those children would build phenomenal worlds together.

Chuck began with his encounters with Candy, as she was well on her way with fieldwork when they met, while Chuck was hired as a video technician with the object of family therapy sessions. They remembered reading Harvey Sacks’s lectures together, smuggling them home (with Bill Labov’s blessing) and reading them lecture by lecture, purple ditto by purple ditto, while considering their own work. With Gail Jefferson’s mentorship, Chuck and Candy began to further develop how we could explore video to better interpret human and understanding and action. As Chuck said, inspired by Gail, “it’s not that understanding is in next turn, but the simultaneity of events.”

A parade of admirers

Following Chuck and Candy’s remarks, Christian Heath began with his own history of investigating embodied action and encounters. Like Chuck, Christian described working with Gail and video as a different, exuberant kind of process. Describing and showing some of his first videos from within the office of a General Practitioner in Manchester, UK, Christian emphasized the striking mutual involvement and monitoring between doctor, patient, bodies, and material features of the office. Most crucially, Christian described how one cannot work on recordings by oneself – in this way, perhaps, our work is a “distinctive anthropology.”

Arnulf Depperman presented after lunch, with examples drawn from German youths speaking casually in Frankfurt, medical teams, and driving instruction. In the first case, Arnulf emphasized the poetic character of competition between young speakers as they moved from standard German to conventional youth slang, to innovative, stylize Turkish German, and then stylized Turkish. In the case of action amongst medical teams, Arnulf drew on Candy’s work on sequential trajectories and directive sequences, as well as the flexible capacity of gestures to work within multiple projects at once. In situations of driving instruction, Arnulf explored how a student and instructor work to unpack a complex first directive as the recipient themselves must decide on timing and order depending on local contingencies. With all three examples, Arnulf explained, inspired by the Goodwins, that Chuck was not anti-cognitivist or anti-linguistic, but rather focused on how both (that is, cognition and language) emerge in and as practice.

Lorenza Mondada and Arnulf Depperman (photo by Mika Ishino)

Embodiment

As the last speaker of the day, prior to the reception, Lorenza Mondada discussed her work in light of several major themes from Chuck and Candy – namely, participation, gaze, bodies and artifacts, haptic sociability, and publicly visible forms of activity. Lorenza illustrated gaze, as she described it, being an important feature in so many activities – arguing, disputing, addressing recipients, selecting participants, byplay/sideplay/crossplay – in a video of 2 passerby being approached by 2 other people. The artful movements of each participant beginning with gaze and bodily re-orientation and then transforming through the conversation was resonant with the overall theme of “order at all points”, in language, embodiment, and situated action, throughout.

The next day was the “Simultaneity in Action” symposium. As compared to the career retrospective of the previous day, the talks at the symposium focused more on the ways that the Goodwins’ influence continues to resonate in many corners of interaction research. Chuck and Candy opened the event with remarks on the theme of simultaneity, stressing in particular the centrality of mutual monitoring for social interaction. All of the talks were given by scholars who have worked with the Goodwins over the years, and each paid tribute to the wealth of contributions Chuck and Candy have made to the study of human interaction. The speakers represented the extensive range of the Goodwins’ careers—from Christian Heath and Jürgen Streeck, who along with Chuck and Candy have done much to bring video analysis to the core of CA, to Asta Cekaite, whose recent work on ‘haptic sociality’ will be seen in a forthcoming book co-authored with Candy. The reach of the Goodwins’ work was especially prominent in Donald Favareau’s talk, in which he presented an interesting synthesis of Chuck’s research on co-operative action and semiotic processes across the natural world.

The Goodwins’ legacy

Aural and visual stimulation also provided by musicians (Photo by Mika Ishino)

It was fascinating to see how each speaker expanded upon the Goodwins’ research in distinctive ways. In the same way that Chuck showed his aphasic father to be a fully competent interactional participant, Lourdes de Leon’s presentation focused on how Tzotzil Mayan children participate in the ‘observational’ mode. Though adults in such communities don’t routinely engage young children as full interactants, the children nevertheless come to be socialized via this observational mode of participation. Lorenza Mondada’s ongoing work on multiactivity and temporality has built upon the Goodwins’ work on participation in novel and systematic ways. Mondada showed scenes from cheese shop interactions where the seller gives the client some cheese to taste. She argued that such moments were structured according to an understanding of tasting as a ‘private’ experience, which was observable in how participants treated periods of talk and non-talk.

Chuck and Candy were presented with gifts (Photo by Mika Ishino)

The presentations, stimulating as they were, acted as prelude to the best part of the symposium. From the late afternoon reception and past the post-dessert sing-a-long (yes), a parade of students and colleagues expressed their highest admiration for the Goodwins. Nearly everyone noted their seemingly endless generosity of spirit, the dignity with which they treat young researchers, and the tremendous example they’ve set for others scholars. The fact that the event was at capacity and that people had flown in from Singapore, Japan, and Europe to be at this celebration was testament to how much the Goodwins are beloved and to their intellectual legacy in studying, as Chuck put it, what it means to be human.

Guest blog: Wendy Archer on collecting data in very sensitive environments

When interactional researchers step out into the medical world to collect data, they might be recording people in discomfort, pain or distress. As well as the researchers’ own conscience and ethics,  institutional and legal rules should ensure that dignity and propriety are respected. Wendy Archer gives a personal and topical account of her own work in the very sensitive environment of end-of-life care.

Wendy Archer, Nottingham University

Wendy Archer, Nottingham University

Led by Ruth Parry, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the VERDIS-AHP study will shortly recruit its first participants having recently received ethics approval; but as healthcare communication researchers will be aware, setting up a study in such a sensitive setting, negotiating access and approaching busy practitioners – though eventually rewarding – is very challenging.

Permission to record very sensitive health encounters

As someone new to health services research, I found that the range of permissions needed to carry out research with NHS patients seemed initially overwhelming. Alongside clearance permissions (e.g. Occupational Health, Disclosure & Barring Service), certifications (e.g. Good Clinical Practice, Valid Informed Consent) and confidentiality agreements, a Letter of Access was needed establishing my researcher credentials and giving me access to the research site. These requirements forewarned of the challenges that would need to be addressed during the project and gave an initial sense of the social organization of the setting and the concerns of research participants [1].

Getting in but not getting in the way

Once we secured initial permissions, the next step was negotiating the physiotherapists’ and occupational therapists’ involvement. That proved to be lengthy and protracted, with much work going into specifying exactly how we would approach, recruit, and work with therapists and with the hospice as a whole. After all, the therapists had jobs to do, and patients to attend to; were we simply going to get in the way?

To facilitate this and raise awareness of our research plans, I drew on existing relationships established during a previous study [2] carried out by Ruth Parry and Marco Pino. Getting to know the medical and administrative staff who had been involved in this earlier study was a crucial first step in gaining the trust and cooperation of key institutional staff.  We needed to identify which working relationships would be helpful. These relationships turned out to be instrumental not only in gaining access, but even more positively in shaping and refining our recruitment and data collection procedures. And – a huge plus –  in navigating the steps involved to secure ethics approval under the new ‘streamlined’ HRA approvals system for NHS research.

Being there and being accepted

I spent some time becoming familiar with the hospice environment, being around, hanging out, being visible, and being there for a reason. I set up meetings with the multi-disciplinary team, got myself introduced to key staff, and arranged to shadow physiotherapists and occupational therapists during their  ward rounds and therapy sessions. I hoped to become part of the furniture – functional, familiar and Not In The Way.

The observations of the physiotherapists’ and occupational therapists’ work on ward rounds and with patients was beneficial on several levels. Seeing, right up close, the actual details of their daily routines showed me the many facets of the therapists’ roles, and gave me insight into the nature of both the scheduled and the more acutely planned therapy sessions at the hospice. I was able to see that their work frequently involved multiple participants: consultants, doctors, nurses, discharge liaison and social workers delivering joint sessions with therapists, as well as relatives, friends or carers accompanying patients for therapy. This reality was complex – and made me rethink some of my assumptions and my research methodology.

My frequent presence in the hospice also provided opportunities to seek the views and opinions of therapy staff on the many practical issues which would be key to developing our study protocol and applying for ethics approval. This was especially important in detailing how – with minimal disruption to ward and clinic activities – consent processes with therapists and patients might be carried out and recording equipment [3] could be set up.

Observing consultations and therapy sessions was also valuable in ways that I had not anticipated: by providing insight into the nature of the hospice data that would be collected, the challenges of performing detailed CA analysis on ‘difficult’ conversations and the need to develop mechanisms of support for dealing with this became clear.

My own role

Besides the practicalities of negotiating aspects of the setting, it was also important to negotiate my own role within the hospice.

To dispel understandable resistance and fears about ‘exposure’ [2], I decided that flexibility and daily attendance at the hospice over several days in succession would be helpful. I tried to get across that our research aims were neither critical nor evaluative of the activities we hoped to observe. My spending long periods of time at the hospice helped me build trusting relationships with therapists. It normalised my presence in the hospice and minimised my identity as an external, alien researcher.

But maximising support for the research also meant raising awareness of the general purpose of our study [4] and outlining our plans to make, analyse, store and archive recordings for future teaching and research purposes whilst emphasising the non-critical nature of our CA approach. This involved meeting with physiotherapists and occupational therapists both collectively and individually to discuss their willingness to participate, to answer questions about the research and to reassure them that, in line with previous research [2], our study design was ethically sound and our methods acceptable to the stakeholders from whom we had sought advice (e.g. study advisors, representatives from patient and public involvement / engagement groups).

Looking ahead …

On the “cost” side, gaining permission, negotiating access and securing support presented constantly emerging challenges and required significant time investment. On the “benefit” side, though, decisions taken on the basis of situational awareness and knowledge of the setting and its participants positively influenced both the research design and our recruitment and data collection plans. So when it came to the crunch of official approval, our protocol received favourable review by the ethics committee and the support of therapists and staff at our chosen research site. We could go ahead. Without all the preliminary spadework, that would not have happened.

References

  1. Atkinson, P. and M. Hammersley, Ethnography: principles in practice. 3rd ed. 2007, London: Routledge.
  2. Parry, R., et al., Acceptability and design of video-based research on healthcare communication: Evidence and recommendations. Patient Education and Counseling, 2016. 99(8): p. 1271-1284.
  3. Parry, R., Notes on equipment for recording and analysing. 2013.
  4. ten Have, P., Doing conversation analysis: a practical guide. 2nd ed. 2007, London: Sage.

Guest Blog: Kristine Muñoz on the Women’s March on Washington DC

As academics and civilians, ROLSI readers and writers are sometimes party to momentous events on the political and cultural stage. I’m proud and delighted to host a guest blog by ethnographer, friend, and distinguished ex-Editor of ROLSI, Kristine Muñoz, on her participation in the January 21, 2017, Women’s March on Washington.

IMG_2799.JPG

Kristine Muñoz, University of Iowa

On January 20, shortly after the Presidential inauguration, I got on a chartered bus in Iowa City along with 112 others, almost all women, for a 20-hour drive to Washington DC (it was only supposed to be 16 hours but the bus driver got lost somewhere in Virginia). To take part in the Women’s March on Washington was to experience an oasis of peaceful, happy faces, of thousands of individuals who for once, had no bone to pick with one another. So different from the despair after Election Day in November, more different still from the days that have followed the inauguration, it is one that may bear some ethnographic description.

The most noticeable forms of language use were on the signs. Few were manufactured, hand-out-by-the-dozen kind you see at some political events, with logos, eye-catching and chant-worthy slogans. Most were homemade, and predictably varied in their expressions of the common themes of the day.  Held or carried by: a small girl on a woman’s shoulders:  Future President; man in his early 20’s:  You think I’m pissed, you should see my mom and sister; women in their 50’s – 60’s (the predominant demographic): You’re pro-choice for 20 weeks, I’m pro-choice for 4,000 weeks (“76 years, average lifespan,” it explained on the reverse); Proud pro-choice MOM; We are the 99% of Catholic women who use birth control (in chatting with the women holding this sign, one of them told me the other was a nun – “and my biological sister too!” she grinned); White women elected Donald Trump (the bearer was African American); Marching proud with my Muslim daughter in law; women in their 70’s and older:  Why am I still marching for equality?

IMG_2802.JPG

The sister on the left is a nun

We chanted as we marched, perhaps nothing very original.  Chants have to sound familiar enough to a large group of people, most of whom do not know each other, all of whom are moving en masse through an unfamiliar space, to pick up and repeat in call-response format:

  • Show me what democracy looks like!  THIS is what democracy looks like!
  • Show me what diversity looks like! THIS is what diversity looks like!
  • (Women) My body, my choice!  (Men) Her body, her choice!

As the river of people flowed past the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, a different chant started:  SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON YOU! Or simply, SHAME, SHAME, SHAME, SHAME … just the cadence to match the marchers’ pace. This was near the end of the two-mile route, and the chanting had become softer and more intermittent, but at this point it grew back to a roar. Instead of starting and stopping, it passed back along the line of marchers as they came close enough to see the building with the distinctive gold five-foot lettering over the front door. It was constant for at least the 45 minutes I waited across the street for someone separated from my group to come back and find us.

Pussy hats 

IMG_2804.JPG

Image from the Washington Post Twitter feed

The most pervasive statement came in the form of pink knitted hats worn by easily half the women involved in the march, maybe two thirds. The signature headwear was named pussy hats both to rhyme with “pussycat” – they form ears on top of the wearers’ heads – and to appropriate a sometimes derogatory word for female genitalia. The latter issue was discussed with fascinating delicacy in the original call to action, befitting the sensibilities of the target demographic, i.e. me. Up close, many of the hats were exquisite variations on the basic model, with intricate designs, funny faces, subtle rainbow colors that looked pink from a distance. Standing back to watch the marchers go by or looking at pictures from sister marches around the world, all connected by this symbolic and practical celebration of women’s handiwork, was electric.

The question all day and on the bus ride home (only 17 hours) was: How many people do you think were there? Estimates from Los Angeles, Chicago, London, even Iowa City, were devoured as they came over the Internet. Crowd experts became high priests, especially after the number of people attending the inauguration was the first recorded “alternative fact” (a term sure to live long and prosper).  We heard everything from 250,000 to 1.2 million in DC, with the most reliable I read being 500,000. All I need to know, now and forever, is that this ethnographer was one of them.

IMG_2808.JPG

Guest blog: Marina Cantarutti on the latest EM/CA Bootcamp

One of the most enjoyable (if challenging) episodes in young scholars’ induction into the discipline is the chance to spend time in intensive discussion with peers and mentors. I’m delighted to feature a report by Marina Cantarutti, PhD student at the University of York, on the latest “EM/CA Bootcamp”,  organised by the very active group at the University of Southern Denmark.

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-21-13-37

Marina Cantarutti

The fourth edition of the intensive Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis course (a.k.a. EMCA “Bootcamp”) took place this December in Denmark. Organised by the Doctoral Programme in Language and Communication and the Research Unit ‘PIPE’ (Professional Interaction and Practice) at the University of Southern Denmark, the course gathered fifteen very enthusiastic PhD students from all over the world doing research at universities in Hawaii, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK and Denmark, for a four-day EMCA retreat (and treat!).

The programme included some mini-lectures on Ethnomethodology and Membership Categorization Analysis (Dennis Day), Embodiment/Talkless Action (Kristian Mortensen), Challenged Interaction and Intervention, and Applied CA and Research Design (Rineke Brouwer), and Making Collections and Instructed Actions (Johannes Wagner). What made each of these practical lectures truly enriching is the fact that they all focused on the issues that we need to face as EMCA researchers, such as the benefits and pitfalls of working through these methodologies, the objections directed at EMCA we may find in our contexts and across disciplines, and the challenges of working with different forms of interactions and data.

EMCAers at work

Learning from expert researchers is always fabulous, but working alongside peers is invaluable. Every slot in the programme included some form of groupwork that required, among other things, the building of collections, collaborative analyses, and exegesis of key texts.

Among the most challenging activities lay the debate on these tricky issues:

  • what an instruction can be in fact defined and recognised as;
  • the tricky placement of our research topics as being exponents of one or another particular form of applied CA;
  • the analysis of entirely talk-less segments of embodied (and instrument-/machine-mediated) action;
  • and of course, “decoding” Garfinkel.

Data sessions were very rich, as they involved the analysis of segments from different institutional contexts (schools, work meetings, a warehouse…), with different kinds of Members (teachers, students, social workers, robots!), in different languages, and with and without any talk, which once again proved how versatile and wide-reaching EMCA can be. It has to be said that these sessions were also special in that they were held at some unusual places, such as the playroom, and in the (empty) jacuzzi.

EMCAers at play

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-19-13-34Of course, it was not all work and no play at “Big Brother’s house”. EMCAers can also make good cooks, and each homemade meal turned dinner into a gourmet experience. Other true talents emerged after dinner as impromptu concerts in the jacuzzi, dancing lessons, and table football or ping pong matches happened, instructing us into other forms of “doing being X”.

And in the farewell evening, a new rite of initiation for EMCA researchers was born, under the creative mind of Magnus Hamann: the EMCA anthem, sung to the melody of the (in)famous YMCA.

EMCA 1.jpg

A semiotic puzzle

We are deeply grateful to Dennis and the team for four very inspiring days of learning, sharing and working together. This group of really enthusiastic researchers is ready to keep EMCA alive by helping, in our own way and with as much rigour as possible, to continue trying to make sense of social action and interaction across different spheres of everyday life.

photo-dec-24-6-42-41-pm

The EMCAers take a well-deserved food break

Guest blog: Anna Spagnolli and colleagues on editing the Special Issue on meditated interaction

ROLSI is proud to host occasional Special Issues devoted to topics of particular interest or significance. In this guest blog, Anna SpagnolliIlkka Arminen and Christian Licoppe tell the story of their editorship of a new SI on the very lively topic of mediated interaction – communication via phone, text, videoconference and a host of other modern technological media.

rolsi-post-picture

The editors of the new ROLSI Special Issue on mediation interaction

A beginning

In George Eliot’s words, humans can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. We’ll set the beginning of the new ROLSI special issue on “Orders of mediated interaction” back a few years ago, when we started organizing a stream of panels at the International Conference on Conversation Analysis (ICCA) in 2010. By the time the stream was repeated at the subsequent edition of ICCA in 2014, we converged more firmly on an EM/CA approach to mediated interaction deriving from our work in mediated communication, mediated presence and multimodality.

We then decided to coordinate – not to say ‘mediate’ – the creation of a showcase of EM/CA studies on mediated interaction guided by the methodological aspects we considered important to highlight, and to make such showcase more permanent and accessible than in a conference panel. This is how the idea of ROLSI special issue took shape.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-17-32-32The journal, the authors and the reviewers made collaboration dreamily fruitful, and the project took off in a set of iterative cycles, leading to the published version that includes four contributions: “Orienting to Emotion in Computer-Mediated Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (by Stuart Ekberg, Alison R. G. Shaw, David S. Kessler, Alice Malpass and Rebecca K. Barnes), “Practices of Organizing Built Space in Videoconference-Mediated Interactions” (by Johan Hjulstad), “Embedded Reference: Translocating Gestures in Video-Mediated Interaction” by Paul Luff, Christian Heath, Naomi Yamashita, Hideaki Kuzuoka and Marina Jirotka) and “Providing Epistemic Support for Assessments Through Mobile-Supported Sharing Activities” (by Joshua Raclaw, Jessica S. Robles and Stephen M. DiDomenico).

Across these four papers, which also have a history and an import independent of the special issue project, some common principles are weaving and working in the background. We highlight these principles in our introductory paper “Respecifying Mediated Interaction” and we are now trying to summarize them here, as the inspirational motives of this special issue.

Orders of …what?

As the early CA work on landline telephone calls shows, the study of social interactions mediated by communication technology is not a novelty introduced by networked computers and mobile phones.

Those early analyses of telephone calls, however, were not interested in the role played by the medium in creating the structure and meaning of the social interactions observed, since they pursued more preliminary, foundational goals in the study of interactional practices. Then at some point, given the high availability of communication and information technology to carry out interactions, the interest in mediated interactions qua mediated started breaking out.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-17-40-34

Embedding technology in communicative practice: from Raclaw, Robles and DiDomenico 2016

Now that many CA studies on mediated practices are being published or presented at conferences, we can try and tie together scattered reflections, concepts and remarks to describe the nature of interaction in technology-mediated settings from an EM/CA perspective. This special issue on ‘Orders of mediated interaction’ pursues this goal. Its four papers pay special attention to explaining the role of the medium as a resource to interaction; in parallel, our introductory paper tries to clarify more generally the role of mediated interaction in the fabric of normality.

Re-specifying mediated interaction

For a refined notion of mediation, we had to look outside the conversation analysis domain and at the pragmatic, critical approach to human action and cognition brought about by psychologists, computer scientists and social scientists such as Donald Norman, Lucy Suchman, Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores, Richard Dreyfuss, David Kirsh and many others.

As conversation analysts opposed objectivized notions of language and meaning, so those authors opposed a simplified rendition of mediated interaction. But then one has to try and condense that conceptual tradition into an EM/CA analytic approach: after being imbued with that conceptual legacy, how would one proceed and analyze the details of mediated interaction? Our response is: by grounding any difference (and similarity) with face-to-face interaction in the data, instead of presuming it; and by grounding in the data any account of a given interactional phenomenon in terms of the communication medium that the interactants are using. In this way, the claim that technology mediates an action will be the result of the analysis instead of its starting point. We summarized this methodological approach in the principle of procedural consequentiality.

Beware of techno-hype

While information and communication technology as a subject of inquiry can look dull to some scholars and raise no particular fascination to motivate their scientific effort, by no means can it be considered as a neutral subject. On the contrary, technological change and innovations have engendered very strong reactions throughout history, either in favor or in contrast.

Moreover, across technologies and historical periods, the arguments supporting pro and con positions surprisingly recur, with the result that discourse get easily and recurrently stuck around the same prejudicial positions both in society and in science: naturality versus artificiality, empowerment versus alienation, risks versus possibilities. Currently digital and mobile information and communication technology makes no exception. Due to its relying on immaterial, remote, synthetic objects and tools, it is easily considered as creating a domain apart, different in quality from typical or normal interaction, and deficient if compared with face-to-face interaction. One advantage of the psychological and sociological approach to mediated interaction referred to above is that it undermines the scientific bases of such prejudicial representations of technology. As we show in the central sections of our introductory paper, EM/CA  has accumulated evidence to show that mediated interaction is not essentially deficient or disruptive.

screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-17-44-36

Gestures from participants not physically present (Andrew in Tokyo, Helen in Kyoto): Luff et al, 2016

Making complexity simple: solutions to data display

As Ayaß (2015) observes, transcripts inhabit a space between art and figure; yet there are some limits to artistic invention in transcripts and these are represented by the kind of information that is useful to report and by the standards that make symbols rapidly intelligible. Probably those aspects combined contribute to defining some CA aesthetics in transcriptions that offers a different viewpoint on the contribution made by each paper.

When transcribing mediated interaction, one can get lost in the amount of details and events to possibly include in the transcription or be dismayed by the difficulty in transcribing effectively a piece of interaction that spreads across different physical and digital environments. The articles in the special issue met this challenge bravely and the transcripts in the special issue make an interesting gallery. They offer various elegant solutions – that we discuss in our introductory paper – to display interaction occurring over fragmented, asymmetric, multi-modal, multi-source settings, without creating anything so unusual to demand the reader to get accustomed to a totally new set of symbols and conventions.

We cannot but thank again all the colleagues who contributed to this project as authors and reviewers, and ROLSI.

Reference

Ayaß, R. (2015). Doing data: The status of transcripts in Conversation Analysis. Discourse Studies, 17, 5: pp. 505-528