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.
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.
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?
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 adds:
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.