This is the eighth in a series of notes to fifteen lectures for my class Communication and Culture.

Required Reading:

Transition notes

  1. A return to the conversation of gestures

    I think of the work of Sacks and Goodwin (and of Goffman earlier, as well as the more technical work of Sheflen) as exploring empirically and with more and more rigor what was most powerful in G.H. Mead's intuitions about "meaning" being related to the response of the other to an act crafted towards this other, within a social (cultured) field controlled by third parties.

    1. Dangers and possibilities:
      1. G.H. Mead was claimed by Herbert Blumer and others interested in the "self" as constructed in social interaction (and constructing of experienced reality) leading to a psychology of personal qualities (e.g. self- esteem, etc.) little concerned with social interaction as problem area.
      2. until recently the link of recent work in ethnomethodology and conversational analysis to G.H. Mead's interest in the "conversation of gesture" was all but forgotten. (e.g. it is not Mead is not mentioned in Duranti)
      3. There are also reasons to fear too close an association of ethnomethodology with Mead might lead to a reconstruction of concerns with internalization.
    2. This is a matter of intellectual affinities among those who are concerned with the actual production of social interaction in real time, in "natural" setting (that is, not in labs) leaving aside the issue of the "interpretation" that the protagonists might give to the event.
      1. An interest in open processes rather than outcomes.
      2. an intensively observational type of research using methods and machines first used by Bateson.
  2. Pragmatics

    Duranti and the evolution of the interest in the pragmatics of language, conversation through a focus on direct observation of what can happen when language is actually used.

  3. Harvey Sacks and the development of conversation analysis
    1. Sacks (with Emmanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson) is one of the most influential person in the theoretical developments in the past 25 years.
    2. Their work has moved from addressing purely linguistic issues in a broadening framework into a full blown theoretical and systematic investigation of the processes through which the most common of social action reach completion.
    3. In this way they are directly addressing the fundamental intuition that the traditional dichotomies between society and culture, what we say and what we do, ideology and practice, must be collapsed: society is text, that is conversation.
    4. Sacks has shown that the most ordinary, repetitive of events involve specific constructive work by all those involved: doing nothing is hard work by all concerned within a particular field where protagonists joust to produce a common task.
      1. work on turn-taking and particularly the ground-breaking article by Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson (1974) with its emphasis on the constitution of mutual obligations
        1. If the turn-so-far is so constructed as to involve the use of a 'current speaker selects next' technique, then the party so selected has the right and is obliged to take next turn to speak; no others have such rights or obligations, and transfer occurs at that place.
        2. If the turn-so-far is so constructed as not to involve the use or a 'current speaker selects next' technique, then self-selection for next speakership may, but need not, be instituted; first starter acquires rights to a turn, and transfer occurs at that place.
        3. If the turn-so-far is so constructed as not to involve the use of a 'current speaker selects next' technique, then current speaker may, but need not continue, unless another self-selects.
      2. lying
      3. telling jokes:
        1. various fields:
          1. the overall conversation within the joke is told (p.342)
          2. the overall network of social relationship (the fact that all participants know about the sister who is reported as telling the joke.
          3. the joke itself as a narrative in three parts and as a set of conventions (testing understanding p.346; laughing as a defense against the charge of not understanding; particular kind of assessment (is it a good joke, well told etc.)
        2. various moves:
        3. a set of nested joint achievements:
          1. the joke
          2. the conversation
          3. the "relationship" (community?)
    5. Through this work he demonstrates that conversation is less a matter of ideational understandings than a product of practical (instructional) work that reestablishes the continued relevance of particular contexts which it thereby repairs or reconstructs while, at the same time, being a continual struggle where all participants, perhaps at tripping each other, as "play" or worse.
      1. Joking about pain.
    6. It would not be difficult to rephrase much of this in the language of system analysis or structuralism if one interprets the work of all participants as keeping the focus on "joke telling" as a frame that is always at risk of collapsing.   Reproduction is never assured without work.
  4. Charles Goodwin and the current expansion of this work
    1. He has been conducting much empirical work developing conversational analysis. His major contribution has been to emphasize the visual aspects of interaction, and through them on the interactional processing of language both in production and interpretation.
    2. Goodwin demonstrates that language processing is interactional in that reveals that speakers/hearers are continually monitoring and altering the sentences they are producing.
    3. Talking is not only a matter of mentally processing an idea into a message; it is a process of monitoring what the audience is doing and transforming one's production in response to the audience.
      1. Note how closely related to Mead's "conversation of gesture" Goodwin's analysis is.
      2. Note also the fundamental expansion of Jakobson's model of communication in so far as the model does not highlight how the message is continually transformed by the recipient even as it is formulated. In other words, Jakobson approximates more directly purely asynchronous communication (writing/reading). In fact, of course, writing is also self-correction but purely in terms of an imagined audience.
      3. an example: two people talking (from Komoska's dissertation)
      4. another example: mother and child talking and reading in a supermarket (from Cory Boyd's 1993 dissertation)
      5. more information about conversation analysis from Charles Antaki
Some questions (in the context of this course)
  • taking the sequence

    1) what time is it?
    2) it's two thirty.
    3) good!

    show how the "meaning" of the first utterance is changed by the third?
  • is the first utterance a question? why (not)?
  • illustrate how the two common meanings of "accountability" might help us understand what it happening here: who is accountable to what? what is the account that the speakers are giving of each other
  • who controls such a sequence?