Category Archives: Guest Blogs

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.

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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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?


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

Guest blog: Why didn’t people follow the government’s advice on COVID-19?  

March 25th, 2020: governments around the world require citizens to take increasingly stringent measures to combat COVID-19. In a rapid response to  how Governments are communicating with us about how to limit the spread of the virus, Saul Albert and Charlotte Albury have compiled a report, based on a systematic review by a team led Albury, by on what CA can tell us about how medical advice is given and received.  Continue reading

Guest blog: Elliott Hoey on sniffing

Issue 1 of volume 53 of the journal (the fist issue of 2020) is devoted to non-lexical things we do in interaction – whistling, clicking, moaning: things which are not language, but are deployed in language-like ways. From a wealth of fascinating articles, I’m delighted that Elliott Hoey has agreed to send in lively report of his investigation into the uses of the sniff. Continue reading