Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 Book award

The Book Award committee has announced the winner of the 2013 Book Award.
The members of the committee: 

Patrick Watson (University of Waterloo)
Christian Greiffenhagen (University of Nottingham)
Michael Lynch (Cornell University)

Morana Alac
Handling Digital Brains: A Laboratory Study of Multimodal Semiotic Interaction in the Age of Computers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

The section is very grateful to them for their careful work.  We look forward to honoring Morana at the ASA this summer in New York.

Here is the committee's letter:

"We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2013 American Sociological

Association’s EM/CA Section Book Award is Morana Alac of the University of California San Diego, for her book Handling Digital Brains: A Laboratory Study of Multimodal Semiotic Interaction in the Age of Computers (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

The committee evaluated eight volumes; four single authored works and four edited collections.  While all contributed to the fields of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (and furthermore, linguistics), two in particular stood out as contributions that moved the field in definite directions (honourable mention to Baudouin Dupret’s [2011] Adjudication in Action: An Ethnomethodology of Law, Morality and Justice Surrey: Ashgate).

Alac’s book examines the ways assorted scientists (cognitive scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists) use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and the resultant digital image outputs to draw conclusions about brains, minds, vision, task accomplishment and so forth.  The book analyzes the use of gestures towards the brain images on computer screens (what Alac describes as “multimodal semiotic interaction”) and how these gestures, images and the resultant discussion are used to build consensus amongst the co-present scientists on what the data on the screen are telling them about human minds. 

Several chapters of the book (3-6) focus on experienced doctoral/post-doctoral researchers (“Old-Timers”) instructing neophyte researchers (“Newcomers”) on the practices of seeing and making see-able the different forms of data displayed on the screen.  Effectively, a combination of speech, gesture and image analysis (and image preparation) play a role in showing the “Newcomer” what is present before their eyes in and as fMRI data.

The book is of interest to a number of audiences: perhaps, first and foremost, researchers interested in the relations among instructions, gestures and learning in scientific settings.  The wider Science and Technologies Studies community will take interest in the combination of approaches, and the relatively novel combination of semiotics with EM/CA.  The book also was the most successful of
those submitted at integrating Ethnomethodological and Conversation Analytic concerns and discussions, providing a fine exemplar of how the two approaches can effectively be used together.  The committee noted that this was one of the deciding factors, as the book will be of interest to both of the constituent communities of the awarding body.

The committee would like to thank those who nominated books for consideration, and again commend members of the field for their efforts.  We took great pleasure reviewing these works, and wish to recognize all authors and editors for their exceptional work."

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