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Guest blog: the EM/CA Bootcamp, 2018

Each year colleagues in Denmark organise an intensive get-together for postgraduates and other early-career researchers who want to delve into the mysteries of ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. I’m glad to say that Sophia Fiedler & Søren Sandager Sørensen have sent in this insider’s report….

Søren Sandager Sørensen, Aarhus
Sophia Fiedler, Neuchâtel 

When you travel to Denmark, your luggage so full of text by Garfinkel, Schegloff and Jefferson that you’ve struggled to get your clothes into your suitcase; when the only geographical clue you have about your exact location in Denmark is the fact that you are not far from the sea; when – additionally – there are only linguists (and a few sociologists) in the house where you will stay for 5 days…

…then you are at the EMCA Bootcamp of the University of Southern Denmark organised by Johannes Wagner and Dennis Day, in cooperation with the Research Unit “PIPE” (Professional Interaction and Practice).

Bring your swimming costume

Of course, in advance you get some information and advice of all kinds: bring your linen, discover your inner Paul Bocuse, read your Latour, your Foucault, try to understand Garfinkel (!), transcribe a conversation between two Americans including a mock-Japanese accent, and bring your bathing suit (which we thought was a joke … well, it wasn’t!). You would never expect that these five days would be such an instructive and enriching event, more than the extensive reading list, before trying it yourself. The fact that a group of 15 PhD students all share the same passion in one way or another – conversation analysis and ethnomethodology (what else?!) – which we discovered within a very short time as we discussed until midnight various issues, such as in what way EM and CA are a micro or macroanalysis (Hilbert), how queues can be immortal (Livingston) or, trying to find out which social practice might be hidden in a collection of 42 transcripts of compliments.

Not only lectures including those from Dennis Day (Intro to Ethnomethodology), Simona Pekarek Doehler (Grammar, epistemics and the body: je sais pas ‘I don’t know’ in French interaction) and Søren Wind Eskildsen (A longitudinal perspective on embodied L2 learning) made the week’s program so rich and instructive. Carefully thought-out collection exercises (Jakob Steensig and Johannes Wagner) gave us the possibility to use immediately the methodological ideas behind the texts or lectures we read and heard. In addition, a sensitization to the basic terminology of social action, interaction etc. by Gitte Rasmussen and for a “challenging environment” by Rineke Brouwer augmented the degree of reflection on the vocabulary used every day by linguists. Kristian Mortensen also directed our attention to shared spaces by making us analyse traffic as interaction!

The Turkish dinner on Thursday evening

Doing things together

Interaction did not only occur in what was presented at data sessions – which included various kinds of data – but also between us, thanks to group activities such as cooking together, collection exercises and text discussions in rather deviant-case-settings (not only around a table but also in the sauna or while having a swim). Moreover, the organisers’ presence during data sessions, lunch, dinner and sometimes even the lectures helped, relaxed and enriched the conversations. This created a motivated, productive and very convivial atmosphere, which made working and discussing a really inspiring experience. 

Language acquisition wasn’t only present theoretically: we learned the Finnish word for “steam” in a sauna

The icing on the cake was, of course, the traditional EMCA-song sung at the very end, in order to interiorise all the external stimuli of the past 4 days and in order to make a practice out of something that might have been – until now – only a phenomenon.  

And when you get home, after 5 days of intense work, laughter, enlightening encounters and discussions you might even miss a little bit this bootcamp-atmosphere (yes, indeed!) replete with allusions to “nerdy” EMCA-terms or data collections about compliments, but with many new ideas and perspectives to follow up on.

We would like to thank the organisers for making such an event possible.


Guest Blog: Marina Cantarutti on presenting CA to the public

Explaining what we do to the general public can be a daunting exercise, but the rewards can be well worth it.  Marina Cantarutti, doing her doctoral research at the University of York, took on the task, and presented her work at a science fair of the kind that hosted Saul Albert and colleagues’ excellent CA Rollercoaster. She lived to tell the (happy) tale…

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Marina Cantarutti, University of York

For some areas of linguistics, it may be a bit difficult to make your work accessible to the public without feeling you are betraying yourself, or your knowledge. The fear of trivialising is always at the back of one’s mind. Moreover, when you’re out there on your own, you are the sole representative of the discipline … daunting!

And there is also the issue of impact. When you do research on CA on institutional settings, for example, the “impact sell” is perhaps a bit easier than when your passion is the magic that happens in even the most mundane of our everyday interactions. Showing how studying “the ordinary” can make a difference is a challenge, and in this respect, the CA community is really grateful to Liz Stokoe and the work she has been doing making the “science of talk” known to the wider public.

What I talked about

On November 17th, as part of York’s YorNight, I presented an exhibition called “Human fusion…in conversation. Explaining Synchronisations through the Science of Talk, Conversation Analysis”.

From my collection of co-animations and turn-sharing, I focused only on cases of associative collaborative productions, in particular, choral productions (things “said at the same time”, as I called them), and anticipatory completions (“finishing each other’s sentences”). My aim was to show my audience that these are highly ordered activities that are not about “mind reading” but about the “reading” and negotiation of turn-design features from both the speaker’s and the recipient’s perspective. I used the Royal engagement interview and my data to show how we do this through our wording, tone of voice, gesture, gaze, and the timing of our incomings.

The activities and set-up

I divided my exhibition into five activities. The first was simply my welcome and announcement of my research topic, and a few introductory words with the question “do you want to hear more?”. None of the visitors, after hearing me say I study, among other things, when people “finish each other’s sentences and say the same thing at the same time”, actually rejected the invitation (lots of smiling and eyebrow raising reactions from them there)!

My second task was to see the Royals in action, finishing each other’s sentences, as an introduction to the kind of detail and organisation I’m interested in.

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Man and woman announce engagement

 I spread out copies of my research slides on the table, with a running powerpoint, where people who came in could see snippets from the familiar Harry and Meghan BBC interview. I showed them at regular and slow speeds, with a breakdown of lots of interesting verbal and non-verbal aspects leading up to the famous collaborative completion. Here’s a version of it, in a rather   minimal transcript (but good enough for the purpose):


The third activity was called “Sync away”, and it required that the audience get in my participants’ shoes by doing some predictive work. I would play two snippets of data, one with a choral production, and the other with an anticipatory completion, and stop just before these synchronised productions happened. The audience would have to guess what came next. Kids were particularly good at this one! (Pro tip: those five-way audio splitters for headphones are the best if you are planning a family-exhibition!)

Too difficult!

The next activity was “Find the clues”, but in the end I never got to implement it, as it was just too difficult. It consisted in getting the audience to spot those interesting speaker and recipient behaviours leading up to these synchronisations . Even though I chose, of course, my stellar cases, those that look so perfect they should be in textbooks, it just wouldn’t work. So I decided to play the video again and guide their attention to rhythmic behaviour, clicks, vowel lengthening, hesitation markers,  the holding and release of gestures, the predictability of certain grammatical structures. That got the “Wow!” I had hoped for.

The fourth activity was called “Sync with me” (or “force sync!”) and it invited the audience to pick a person in the group to pick an idiomatic expression (e.g. “you can’t have your cake and eat it”) out of a bag, which they had to include in their talk, and get the other person to either complete or produce in unison. It worked really well with a teenage brother-sister pair. It even worked with two kids who were around 8-12 – they didn’t know the expressions,  but nevertheless they came up with some plausible completions in just the right way!

The best part: researcher-audience interaction

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Marina Cantarutti welcomes visitors to her display

Beyond the startling question “you are planning to get your PhD finished in three years, I presume?” I received from a grandparent, the interactions I had with the audience were really super interesting, and gave me further ideas as to where the impact of my research could lie. Questions going from “are these things learned?” to “are these culturally-sensitive?”, into “how can this help our interaction with people in the autism spectrum?”, to the usual “you must find it impossible to lead a normal conversation with people”, my interaction with people all ages was priceless.

As with teaching, or poster presentations sessions at conferences, you get better at pitching your work and targeting your talk at your audience as you go along. This was a five-hour exhibition, and I must have met around 30 families/couples/groups of friends from different backgrounds and interests. I have discussed the detail of everyday talk in a tent space shared with researchers on subjects that the public would not doubt to call “science”, such as Chemistry and  Physics.  I can only say that I humbly believe I have been successful in showing how studying conversation isdoing science, how unpacking the orderliness of the ordinary can be fascinating, and how we can make a difference to people’s lives by describing how it is that we go about our everyday business of social interaction.

Guest blog: doing a data-session ‘remotely’

Some researchers are lucky enough to work in a community of like-minded scholars, with whom they can easily chat, meet up and collaborate; when that’s not the case, the isolation can be damaging. That’s why it’s so heartening to see a group of UK postgraduates inaugurate a regular “remote” data session, bringing people together who would otherwise be apart. This lively blog by Marina Cantarutti, Jack Joyce and Tilly Flint gives the story.


Marina Cantarutti

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Jack Joyce

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Tilly Flint

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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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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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