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Associate Professor Michael Emmison: AIEMCA 2012 Keynote 1
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Associate Professor Michael Emmison: AIEMCA 2012 Keynote 1

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Emmison, M. (2013). "Epistemic engine" versus "role-play method": divergent trajectories in contemporary conversation analysis. Australian Journal of Communication, 40 (2), 5-7.

Emmison, M. (2013). "Epistemic engine" versus "role-play method": divergent trajectories in contemporary conversation analysis. Australian Journal of Communication, 40 (2), 5-7.

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  • 1. „Epistemic engine‟ versus „role-play method‟: divergent trajectories in contemporary conversation analysis Michael Emmison School of Social Science University of Queensland AIEMCA conference November 2012
  • 2. ‘If you‟re going to have a science of social life, then, like all other sciences of something or other, it should be able to handle the details of something that actually happens. It should be able to do that in an abstract way, while handling actual details. My research is about conversation only in this incidental way, that conversation is something we can get the actual happenings of on tape and transcribe them more or less, and therefore that‟s something to begin with. If you can‟t deal with the actual details of actual events then you can‟t have a science of social life. That sociologists or anthropologists don‟t study this sort of thing is more cause for considerations about what are they trying to do, than anything else. I take it that this is the most obvious thing one would study if one had the interest of building a science of social life’. - Harvey Sacks, Lecture 2, Fall 1968 „It‟s (CA) a form of sociology that studies everyday interactions between people. One of the starting assumptions is that we really don‟t know much about how humans interact; we don‟t know what the basic units of interaction are. It‟s largely uncharted terrain. We‟re sort of like explorers who want to study the plant life in a new land. We collect specimens of interaction that exist out there, then systematically examine and compare them.‟ - Steve Clayman, circa 2007
  • 3. EM and CA on „applied‟ work: the classic positions “Ethnomethodological studies are not directed to formulating or arguing correctives. They are useless when they are done as ironies. … They do not formulate a remedy for practical actions, as if it was being found about practical actions that they were better or worse than they are usually cracked up to be”. - Garfinkel, ‘Studies’ p viii “It needn‟t have any relevance. … I take it that there‟s an enormous amount of studies that are not intended to be relevant. For example studies of how cancer does cancer are not intended to build better cancer. And there are all kinds of studies directed to what other animals do, in which we‟re not intending to improve them.” - Sacks, Lecture 30, Spring 1966
  • 4. “Dismantling the epistemic engine” 1 A: „What train are you catching?‟ (Here we have an imbalance in what A knows relative to B - that is A speaks from a K- epistemic position) 2 B: „The three-fifteen‟ (B, who occupies a K+ position, acts to resolve the imbalance by imparting the knowledge that A requires) 3 A: „Ok then we should leave for the station at half-past one‟ (By this A displays that he/she is now K+ as regards the train time and an equilibrium has been reached. However….) 4 B: „Oh, right I better go and pack‟ (This indicates that A’s turn has generated a new imbalance such that B didn’t realise that it would take so long to drive to the station i.e. B became K- as a result of this additional information).
  • 5. What role does an epistemic imbalance play in the production of „talk for an overhearing audience‟? Levinson ‘rape trial’ data A: …you have had sexual intercourse on a previous occasion haven’t you? B: Yes. A: On many previous occasions? B: Not many A: Several? B: Yes. A: With several men? B: No. A: Just one? B: Two A: Two. And you are seventeen and a half? B: Yes
  • 6. ‘The fact that here the questioning is being done neither to ‘inform’ the questioner [i.e. to resolve a K+/K- imbalance, comment added] (nor of course to ‘test’ the witness’s knowledge of her own past experiences) is displayed by the design of the questions. They are hearable neither as ‘real’ questions or ‘exam’ questions… Moreover the fact that these questions are designed to elicit information for the „bystanding‟ judge and jury (emphasis added) is displayed, inter alia, by the questioner’s avoidance of any form of third turn receipt item in favour of a move to the next question.’ - Heritage, Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology, p289
  • 7. Jack Sidnell: „Declaratives, questioning, defeasibility‟ Heritage convincingly demonstrate that epistemic status ‘trumps’ turn design in determining the action performed by analysing examples where declaratively formatted utterances are treated by recipients as requests for information. i.e. if a declarative [K+] is seen to be addressing matters in the recipient’s epistemic domain then it will be treated as doing questioning [K-], such as requesting information/confirmation However under certain conditions the status of such a turn as a request for information is defeasible – i.e. it can be annulled. When this occurs the turn, in other words, reverts to its [K+] declarative status and becomes heard/understood as an assertion. Can we specify these defeasibility conditions? Are they likely to be found in some environments but not others?
  • 8. Helen Razer interview with Steven Berkoff http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEQd6_g-55g
  • 9. Helen Razer interviews Steven Berkoff: 01 HR: 02 -> 03 -> 04 05 06 SB: -> 07 HR: 08 SB: 09 HR: 10 11 SB: 12 13 SB: 14 HR: 15 16 SB: 17 18 HR: 19 SB: -> 20 -> Well look I- I- Ie- I- I- hoped you’d be a curmudgeon for me and a curmudgeon you are being. Mr Berkoff you are in Australia, (.) [you ah *no kidding. I didn’t realize that. (.) *I though it [excellent. was Japan. Well done. Well done. And you are in Australia to perform your new wor[k. [hh (0.6) yes You gonna help me out with this Steven. (0.4) Yeah well speak normally to me an I’ll f-an’ I can respond normally Hih hih ha I don’ Loo’ I have to say *I *you say you’re in Australia like I think I don’t know I’m ‘ere.
  • 10. Razer: “Mr Berkoff you are in Australia” ‘The recipient (Berkoff) responds, ironically, to the declarative as an assertion – claiming to have been informed by it and thereby suggesting that this (and not questioning) was its intent.’ ‘What is crucial here then is what Berkoff assumes Razer assumes Berkoff knows. So Berkoff assumes Razer assumes Berkoff does not know what country he is in’ (!) [! Added] However he (Sidnell) adds in a footnote that ‘it is unlikely that Berkoff actually thinks this. Rather he is being facetious. Be that as it may, his talk implies that he believes it and it is this believestructure (sic) that underwrites his utterance‟
  • 11. 6 kinds of „applied CA‟ Foundational Social Problem Communicational Diagnostic Institutional Interventionist: the focus of the chapters in his collection See for example: • Liz Stokoe on communication skills training - ‘CARM’, • Celia Kitzinger on working with childbirth helplines, • Doug Maynard et. al. on improving response rates to telephone survey interviewing, • Ray Wilkinson on aphasic conversation, [and (!) Heritage and Robinson on ‘unmet concerns’ in medical encounters]
  • 12. Celia Kitzinger: „Working with Childbirth Helplines: the contributions and limitations of Conversation Analysis‟ „while CA can certainly make important contributions to workplace training and practice, our enthusiasm for CA should not over-ride our willingness to acknowledge that other approaches may at times be more appropriate or more fitted to the aims of the organizations that have supplied us with data‟ „For the most part call-takers‟ questions are not – or not without considerable „translation‟ work on my part – conversation analytic questions. As a feminist I admire and respect the work call-takers are doing and want to help them, on their terms. But as a conversation analyst, my primary interest in these data is not even in the „applied‟ arena but rather as a resource for developing understandings of basic patterns of interaction‟ Her solution? Essentially a pragmatic one. Keep the two ‘analytical’ interests – ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ - separate and don’t even try to combine them.
  • 13. Liz Stokoe: „The Conversation Analysis Role-Play Method‟ Background: neighbourhood relationship mediation research and the problem of ‘converting callers into clients’. 1. Identify a data extract (or series of extracts) in which a particular interactional problem seems to arise, or in which a ‘successful’ outcome (i.e. a client agrees to mediation) is accomplished. 2. The data are transcribed and both sound file and written transcript are anonymised. 3. The transcript is presented, line-by-line, synchronised with the audio file. This allows workshop participants to ‘live through’ the call as it happens. For this to occur they are not provided with transcripts in advance of listening to the call. 4. One or several lines (turns) in a call are presented. Workshop participants then discuss possible trouble and perturbations in the call so far and make suggestions about candidate next turns. 5. The next turn of the call is then played/shown, and participants discuss it as a possible solution to the trouble displayed earlier in the call.
  • 14. Combining „epistemics‟ and the „role-play method‟ A call in the life of a Kids Helpline counsellor …
  • 15. Call 5_1_51 [extracts] CT: what do you think you’re scared about¿ C: I dunno, (0.4) it has a big long thing underneath its bottom. CT: C: (0.5) it has a big wha:t? long thing¿ under its bottom¿ CT: ri::ght, so what’s important about tha:t, C: it keeps wobbling (0.4) around, CT: yeah, C: CT: (0.5) would you know what that was, yeah, C: CT: what, what do you think it is, C: I don’t know (0.4) it looks like a stick. CT: ri::ght, (0.5) it sounds like you’re actually with a few people now=do any of them know what it is,
  • 16. C: no no one’s here my mummy’s asleep and my daddy’s at work, CT: who’s the person that keeps saying ‘woof woof’, C: that’s my dog. CT: (3.5) are you sure it’s not a person sa::ying it, C: n(h)o CT: n- you su:re¿ C: yes. CT: I see C: (4.5) >hey guess what=this is a prank=see ya< ((click))