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Guest Blog: The 8th biannual EM/CA Doctoral Network meeting

Twice a year, UK postgraduates meet to thrash out issues in ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis, generously hosted by staff at a University. The second meeting this year was held at Newcastle. Jack Joyce tells the story, and Marc Alexander muses on the pros and cons of parallel sessions.

Jack Joyce, Loughborough DARG

The 8th biannual EMCA Doctoral Network event was hosted at Newcastle University. It brought the marvellous event to the land of Applied Linguistics, and gave us EMCA researchers a further opportunity to explore different ways with which EMCA is employed around the UK. The collegial and supportive spirit highlighted at past EMCA Doctoral Networks was again, present, giving us the chance to meet old friends and make new connections.

Our host, Chris Leyland, welcomed us all to Newcastle and promptly handed over to local PGRs to run an ice breaking event (pictured). The meeting proper began with parallel sessions,

Merve Bozbiyik’s (Ufuk University) paper explored the implementation of the software ‘VEO’ in an English language education context,highlighting the practitioners’ own recordings of their questioning; in the other session, Louise White (Loughborough University) employed Discursive Psychology to explore criminal accusations/responses in non-legal settings, highlighting deflection strategies of suspects. Reem Al Abbas (Newcastle University) showed us some examples of second language test-takers selecting next speaker during an assessment, making us question, in multimodal terms, when does a ‘turn’ begin? Meanwhile, Julie Wilkes (University of Manchester) presented her findings on kinship care identities and peer support groups which involved some heated discussion in the audience.

How can EM/CA deal with ‘power’?
Lunch was kindly provided by Newcastle University, over which we mingled, networked and made new friends. After lunch, we went straight into data sessions, with Jehana Copilah-Ali (Newcastle University) sharing her entre-taining data – think Dragons’ Den, or Shark Tank, which included a discussion to problematise CA’s relationship with ‘power’. Veronica Gonzalez Temer (University of York) was next, sharing her data of food assessments in Chilean Spanish.  After a quick break, we jumped into further presentations with Martin Porcheron (University of Nottingham) presenting fascinating data on digital speech devices (Alexa, Google Home) with innovative recording. Marc Alexander (Loughborough University) followed, briefly interrupted by a localised power outage before presenting on neighbourhood complaints across different institutional settings, demonstrating the emergence of institutional business in callers’ accounts of their troubles. The other parallel session kicked off with Bogdana Huma’s (Loughborough University) paper on the strategies ‘cold’ callers employ to get appointments; the presentation session finished with Marion West (University of Wolverhampton) whose paper explored advice sequences in undergraduate supervisions.

Eric Laurier, courtesy estate of Francis Bacon

The day concluded with a fantastic plenary by Eric Laurier (University of Edinburgh) who investigated the socio-logics of road traffic, presenting some wonderful data of a members’ point-of-view and an analysis of how offers, appreciations and the right of way are interactionally organised.

Shortly thereafter we visited a local restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful tapas buffet and, over drinks, we ‘networked’, talked PhD life and our experiences using EMCA.

Post-human perspectives on Social Interaction?

Spencer Hazel, Newcastle University

We began day 2 plied with tea and coffee; Spencer Hazel (Newcastle University) introduced us to CLAN, showing us the basics and its potential for analysis. In the other session, Marina Cantarutti (University of York) presented her data on the sequential and prosodic design of (dis)association. Following his first skills session, Spencer followed with a second session on the various ways which social interaction may be presented, he lead a discussion on the implications of how we present our data for analysis, showing us a rare clip of Gail Jefferson and noting that “how you make the everyday strange is how we produce the research objects we work on”. The final plenary talk, and final session of the event, like at the Cardiff meeting ended with an insightful speaker: Alan Firth (Newcastle University), who examined the direction of research into social interaction and shared some theoretical questions from a post-human perspective: Is CA logo-centric? Is ‘context’ a humanist construct in CA’? and where is agency located in CA?

The event closed with a quick wrap up session and the customary group photo. The meetings are usually described using a number of positive adjectives, and this meeting is no different, Newcastle were great hosts and, the EMCA Doctoral Network shows no signs of slowing down. We all look forward to the next event, to meet new EMCA people, and go to a space where we can spend a couple of days talking about ethnomethodology. What could be better?

More pictures, and details (including the clip of Gail Jefferson) can be found in the twitter moment here.

Marc Alexander, Loughborough University

Marc Alexander adds:

Love, un-laterally

While I’m certainly no veteran when it comes to attending these types of events, my experiences thus far have caused me to think about ‘parallel sessions’ (i.e. two or more presentations/data sessions occurring simultaneously) with some degree of regularity, and consequently, my apparent issue with them.

Now, I’m not about to suggest the banning of parallel sessions (well, not yet!), or that they are always a bad thing. I’m also aware that they are sometimes unavoidable at conferences, not only as organisers seek to accommodate a diverse selection of panels, topics, and methodologies, but also that parallel sessions afford a greater number of academics, at various stages of their careers, the opportunity to present their work, which is of course, a good thing.

My overriding concern is that parallel sessions may offset the intended outcomes for the sessions themselves. Commonly, there can be a large disparity between numbers of people attending parallel sessions, which may occur for a variety of reasons, such as room size, speaker popularity, topic interest, etc. However, maybe this impacts the sense of what is shared (or rather, not shared) experience of sessions.

My concern isn’t so much that parallel sessions exist, but that they mitigate the sharing of an experience – not only the presentation content, but also, the ability to discuss the same topic or approach with the presenter, to develop ideas, and to forge new interests (potentially with others). As an early-career researcher, getting experience of presenting is, of course, valuable for my development. However, it is also beneficial to receive as much feedback as possible ‘post-presentation’, and so, at least numerically, more attendees represent a better chance of comment, critique, or advice. While I’m not so naïve as to expect the ending of parallel sessions altogether, maybe sometimes, less (sessions) can be more, more (choice) can be less, and even, more (people) can be more! And so, it seems to me that, although parallel sessions are a practical way of dealing with multiple presentations simultaneously, they may be at the detriment of the very business we are engaged in exploring; that being interaction, and its accomplishments.

Newcastle EM/CAS meeting Sept 2017


Why ROLSI uses double-blind review

Many journals in our field, perhaps most, anonymise the submissions they send out for review, and pass comments back to authors anonymised in turn: a “double-blind” system.  This has always been ROLSI’s practice  (at least, it has been under the editorship of the last five editors). But occasionally a reader or potential reviewer raises the question as to why this is preferable to signed reviews, or indeed submissions with the author’s name attached.


Charles Antaki, ROLSI Editor

I thought readers might be interested in a recent e-mail dialogue with a reader on just these issues.

They have kindly allowed me to reprint their questions (italicised below) and my answers, though they prefer to remain anonymous.

Q. As all linguists know, context is crucial in the interpretation of any text. Removing the name(s) of the author(s) deprives the reviewer of the most important piece of the context. Thoughts that come to mind: What else has the author written on the topic? What are the influences on the author?

A. I’m not sure that the issue of ‘context’ is helpful here. Or if it is, then the proper context is (I would say) the context of the extant literature on the subject, not the author’s record.

Q. Being asked by the author to comment on the paper: On a visit to a university I met a young man and as we chatted he talked about a paper he’d like my comments on. He said it had received not-so-good reviews from a journal. I agreed to take a look. When he sent it I realized that I was one of the reviewers who suggested major revisions. I had no choice at that point but to say I was one of the reviewers, so I sent him the review and said I stood by it. If the authors’ names had been revealed to me when I reviewed the paper, I would have been able to avoid that tricky situation.

A. That is indeed a delicate situation, but a rare one, I should think. And if the reviewer has written a collegial, respectful and scholarly review (as all ROLSI reviewers do!) then there should be, if the recommendation was negative, only the awkwardness of managing a bit of bad but useful news.

Q. Being able to guess the author. It is natural to try to guess who the author is. Sometimes this is even possible. One can Google key words in the title. So the reviewer might waste a lot of time on this project rather than focusing on the paper. So why not just let the reviewer have this information up front?

A. I doubt that a reviewer will spend much time trying to track down the identity of the author. Either they think they know or – much more usually – they don’t, or don’t feel the need to know.

Q. Making a wrong guess about the author. Again, because it is natural to want to know who the author is, one can make an erroneous guess and this can get you into trouble, too. Or not knowing, but perhaps suspecting, that the author is someone I know.  This is the worst situation because then you spend a lot of time worrying about how to handle this, rather than actually working on the paper.

A. I think that most reviewers are wise enough to know that their guesses (if they make them) are quite likely to be wrong, so don’t let such a guess, if made, colour their comments. The reviewer may, or may not, be well-disposed to an author they recognise and like, or the converse. But the danger is obviously greater if the name is given, removing all doubt; then the well- or ill-disposed reviewer is not held back by uncertainty.

Q. Going even further, I also think that the referees should be identified to make the process maximally transparent. Some referees are not very civil in their comments; it is possible that if their names were associated with their comments they might be kinder and more helpful. Also the submitting author always tries to guess who the reviewers are and is often successful!

A. Just on my own experience: ROLSI reviewers are almost without exception respectful in their comments; indeed even when making negative recommendations their tone is on the whole constructive and supportive (I can call to mind only two occasions, out of many hundreds, where this was not so; and even then it would be a rogue phrase or a regrettable adjective, easily amended after consultation) . And as far as guessing the reviewers’ identity, I doubt if that is successful in one out of 50 cases.

To finish off with a couple of general observations about ROLSI’s policy:

The positive case for double-blind can be put in two arguments, which I think are strong:

  1. it liberates reviewer and reviewer from ad-hominem considerations, both favourable and unfavourable; and
  2. it makes some effort to diminish the gender, and perhaps ethnicity bias in un-anonymised assessment (for which evidence admittedly comes mostly from undergraduate essays and the like, but is nevertheless suggestive).

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. 

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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.

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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

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Loughborough’s CA Days – the 10th Anniversary

2016 was the 10th successive year we’ve held a Conversation Analysis Days at Loughborough University’s Department of Social Sciences. Here’s a brief account of how we got here, and why we think that it’s such a popular and enjoyable occasion. Charles Antaki and Liz Stokoe, organisers.

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Charles Antaki

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Liz Stokoe

It started out as a bright idea to invite friends and colleagues doing CA to come to a day’s meeting at Loughborough – no real reason, other than a sudden enthusiasm of the ‘let’s put a show on right here in the barn‘ type, and a list of people we wanted to see.

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Guest blog: Lucas Seuren on reading classic CA

One of the pleasures of PhD work is the chance to browse in the dustier corners of the digital library. Lucas Seuren reports on finding books and articles which pack a remarkable punch, even many years after first publication.


Lucas Seuren, Groningen University

A few years ago, before I had started as a PhD student, I attended a few talks by Trevor Benjamin who at the time had just finished his dissertation on other-initiation of repair. During these talks he would point out that while conversation analytic research has developed much over the past few decades, there was still so much we did not know about what he called the ‘boring topics’. Continue reading

Guest Blog: Lisa Mikesell on repair in conversation with dementia patients

Readers of the journal will often see Conversation Analysis applied to real-world problems, and in this guest blog, Lisa Mikesell reports on her work with patients with dementia. The full story is in her article in the current issue, and here she asks how   caregivers manage the delicate task of monitoring patients’ actions – and on occasion, correcting them when things go wrong.

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Lisa Mikesell, Rutgers University

I often work closely with clinicians, from neurologists to psychiatrists. I take a keen interest in how communicative and social behaviors are typically measured, and what those measures end up meaning clinically and practically to both providers and patients. Continue reading