Saturday, August 10
Section on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Council Meeting
Sat, August 10, 7:00 to 8:00am, New York Hilton, Concourse, Concourse FParticipants: Morana Alač, Anne Warfield Rawls (Chairs); Ameila Hill, UCLA, Sarah Hitzler, Bielefeld University, Elliott Hoey, University of Basel, Jason Turowetz, University of Siegen, Anne Elizabeth Clark White, UCLA, Kevin A. Whitehead, University of California-Santa Barbara, Patrick G. Watson, Wilfrid Laurier University
Sat, August 10, 8:30 to 10:10am, Sheraton New York, Fifth Floor, Madison Suite 3Presider: Morana Alač
Discussant: Michael Lynch, Cornell University
Intertwined Sense-Making: Computational Sense and Biological Sense in Contemporary Genomic Research
-Donald A. Everhart, AMDA
Abstract: This ethnographic study examines how members of a genomic research laboratory use a mixture of what they refer to as “biological sense” and computational sense. This reveals how software and Big Data are co-operative, multimodal achievements of communities of practitioners. As such, this study has implications for a range of practices that rely on the transformation of worldly actions and objects into data, and then from data into interpretation.
Members' Evaluation Methods for Measuring Radioactive Dose
-Satomi Kuroshima, Tamagawa University and Tomone Komiya Tohoku-gakuin University
Abstract: In this paper, we will elucidate members’ methods for measuring radioactive dose. We particularly demonstrate that the residents of Fukushima in the period of the post-explosion at the nuclear power plant have a distinctive way to evaluate the dose level in relation to the practical tasks at hand. We will first describe the evaluating system and argue that the system includes the evaluation of the dose level with regard to the activity feasibility; in other words, they have developed this method in order to deal with the problem in a very practical way. That is, their evaluation of dose level (i.e., high/not high) denotes whether their practical goal is feasible to be held. By drawing the conversational data of residents’ roundtable meetings, we are going to also demonstrate how the residents of Fukushima employ this evaluation system in various contexts for their practical purposes.
Minutes of History: Talk and its Written Incarnations
-David R. Gibson, University of Notre Dame
Abstract: Meeting minutes provide a cherished window onto the deliberations of important bodies, but scholars usually have little option but to trust their fidelity, though the production of a record of talk as it happens is a difficult task, especially when the meeting is informal and talk is animated and spontaneous. I compare audio recordings of the U.S. National Security Council (secretly made by President John F. Kennedy) with handwritten notes taken by Executive Secretary Bromley K. Smith and the final minutes based on those. Smith’s minutes omitted not only all manner of conversational minutia, but entire substantive arguments, including some that were articulated repeatedly. Furthermore, the skeletal grammar of Smith’s handwritten notes shed subjects, objects, and modal verbs that had to be conjured up for the sake of the minutes, inviting important changes in meaning. That skeletal grammar also explains the re-attribution of amorphous arguments to those who offered succinct restatements. Overall, the findings point to a hermeneutic process of sense-making that took jottings, rather than memories, as input, one that balanced the mandate to create a sufficiently accurate and accountable record with an apparent desire to depict the Council as more confident and unified than it was.
Implications of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
Sat, August 10, 10:30am to 12:10pm, New York Hilton, Second Floor, GibsonPresider: Anne Warfield Rawls, Bentley University
Feel inquiries: The enactment of the mind-body duality as a resource for coaching in sport
-Edward John Reynolds, University of New Hampshire
Abstract: Breaking with the Cartesian tradition of philosophy of the mind, and in reaction to the nascent field of psychology, Husserl (1912) theorised that the body is not distinct from the mind or awareness. This has the implication that felt sensation may also be constituted in embodied public ways. In lieu of theorizing, this paper respecifies the problem of whether the mind and body are distinct, or not, as a member’s concern. In line with the research tradition of Discursive Psychology this paper uses data from ‘technique coaching’ interactions in the sports of powerlifting and Nordic Skiing in order to explore how it is that participants construct the mind and body as either distinct or part of a singular whole. Specifically, this paper explores situations in which coaches and athletes alike take it as unproblematic that a coach might know how an athlete is feeling in their body, their kinesthetic sensation. Coaches routinely make epistemic claims that an athlete is well rested, or that their central nervous system is firing well, with only athletic movements as a basis for their claim. These situations are then contrasted with situations in which coaches act as if they do not know how an athlete is feeling. Coaches can on some occasions make ‘feel-inquiries’, that is ask how some movement felt. I argue that these do not reflect a lack of understanding or access to the athletes feelings, but are instead a strategic resource used to upgrade the athlete’s participation in the coaching feedback process. This paper argues that participants use the organization of epistemic rights enacted in knowing an athlete’s interior kinaesthetic sensation versus rights arranged in ‘feel inquiries’ as resources for modulating the athlete’s participation in the work of coaching
“Seeing sociologically” in action. Towards a praxeology of sociological observations
-Kornelia Engert, Johannes Gutenberg University
Abstract: The paper addresses a long standing desiderate in ethnomethodological studies, namely the empirical investigation of sociological research in situ. In contrast to earlier studies, that have mostly addressed the allegedly ‘standardized’ practice of survey research, or the verbal and textual accounts of ‘talking science’ (Lynch), I wish to address and analyze the very practice of scientific observation, as it is engaged in fieldwork. How do researchers “see sociologically”, when they are investigating actual field sites and social settings? How do they practically achieve an analytical focus (or shift it)? And how is observation and documentation intertwined and tying the body up to further research devices (such as the video camera, audio recorder, etc.)? By providing a detailed analysis of an ethnographer’s first approach to a research site, I want to take up ethnomethodology’s sensitivity for ‘opening’ moves. I want to appreciate their constitutive character not only for the organizational, but also for the experiential composition of social situations. For understanding how sociology is put into practice empirically, the constitution of its observational practices is a relevant topic and site of sociological investigation.
Conflict in Social Interaction
Sat, August 10, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Sheraton New York, Lower Level, Murray HillPresider and Discussant: Jason Turowetz, University of Siegen
You’re Almost There: Distance as a Metaphorical Conversational Strategy in Police Interrogations
-Gary C. David, Bentley University
Abstract: Police interrogations can be considered to be invitations for storytelling. When a detective asks a suspect to “tell me what happened,” the suspect is being asked to tell a story. As Gubrium and Holstein (2009: 10) observe, “Stories are assembled and told to someone, somewhere, at some time, for different purposes, and with a variety of consequences.” This presentation will examine how distance is used as a metaphorical conversational strategy in police interrogations. Phrases like, ‘You’re almost there,” or “We’re not quite there yet” invokes the image of the journey that the suspect is taking with the interrogator as they collaboratively construct. These phrases also serve as a conversational prompt for the suspect to extend the narrative s/he has been developing. They demonstrate acceptance of what has just been said, as well as a warning that the interrogation is not complete until the journey has been finished. While seemingly innocuous, these conversational devices can serve an important function is stimulating the production of a confession.
Activity types as members’ categories: On how members produce a suitable context for institutional talk
-Sarah Hitzler, Bielefeld University
Abstract: In this paper, I propose making use of Schneiders (2004) idea of structural maintenance to reinvestigate Levinson‘s (1992) concept of activity types, which has been used in conversation analysis to untangle the relationship of situated talk and its immediate (often institutional) context. Drawing on a single case from a so-called care conference in German youth welfare, I discuss how the participants orient towards the interaction’s institutionally and legally framed function. I demonstrate how an issue that seems to threaten the advancement of the conference by causing potential conflict is carefully redefined in a number of co-operative turns until it can be treated as irrelevant for the ongoing interaction. Departing from this observation, I argue that activity types analytically ought to be treated as members’ concepts which for them serve as benchmarks for coherent action and may be exploited to fit individual goals, rather than understanding them as near-objective functionally defined models for the analyst.
Overt Advocacy for Antibiotics: A Study of Caregiver Actions in Chinese and American Pediatric Encounters
-Nan Wang, Hunan University
Abstract: In this study I examine pediatric interactions between clinicians, caregivers and children in China. I describe some of the quite overt ways that caregivers lobby for antibiotics, commonly IV antibiotics that are rarely used outside of hospitalizations in the US and Europe.
'You Are Gonna Get Beat Up No Matter What': Managing incipient conflict in wargame interactions
-Joseph Sterphone, University of California, Santa Barbara
Abstract: This research builds on interactional research on conflict, complaints, and membership categories by studying the management of incipient conflicts, drawing on video-recordings of co-present hobbyist “wargame” interactions. By wargames, I mean tabletop board games that simulate historical or fictional war or conflict scenarios; these are often long, typically zero-sum, and involve multi-factional and shifting alliances and conflicts. Notably, when sitting down to play a wargame, or any board game, players assume at least two roles: one as a player of a game, and one as a character within the game. The game is a recurrent basis for incipient conflicts between players, despite norms about the ontological separation between players and their respective characters. These incipient conflicts become observable through players displaying frustration or displeasure (cf. Yu 2011) with another player, or through complaints. My analysis shows how the institutional context of the game constitutes an interactional resource for avoiding or managing incipient conflict by referring to its characteristics or by deploying aspects of procedure. Second, this research expands on existing research on the ways that complaints and conflict can display orientations to the consequentiality of particular categories. This becomes especially clear as it relates to players’ orientation to and deployment of the norms as a resource (cf. Wieder 1974) for confining allowable conflicts to those between characters in the game, and for sanctioning players who initiate conflicts with other players.
Current Research in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
Sat, August 10, 4:30 to 5:30pm, New York Hilton, Second Floor, Nassau WestPresider: Anne Warfield Rawls, Bentley University
Authority under Siege: Transforming Resistance into Acceptance through Persuasion
-Tanya Stivers and Stefan Timmermans, University of California, Los Angeles
Abstract: Professional medical authority rests partly on patients’ voluntary compliance with physicians’ directives. Patients’ resistance to treatment recommendations and physicians’ ability to convert resistance into acceptance indexes the strength of contemporary professional authority. Using conversation analytic methods to analyze 149 video-recordings of patient-clinician encounters involving pediatric epilepsy patients, we identify three distinct grounds for resistance: preference-, fear-, and evidence-based resistance. Clinicians meet these grounds with three corresponding persuasion strategies ranging from pressuring, to coaxing, to accommodating. We show that clinicians discriminate between resistance that contests their ability to medically direct the treatment course versus challenges to the epistemic basis of the directive. Even when physicians increasingly rely on persuasion to achieve patient buy-in, they preserve professional authority. The interactional persuasion mechanisms extend to other institutional settings where resisters challenge authorities.
Re-enactment as a Research Strategy? Performance Art, Video Analysis, and Vice-Versa
-Philippe Sormani, University of Lausanne
Abstract: This paper offers a methodological reflection on re-enactment as a research strategy by exploring the heuristic interplay between performance art and video analysis. The paper revisits a particular position in performance art – Andrea Fraser’s institutional critique qua filmed intervention – in dialogue with a "practice-based video analysis" of recent media announcement of machine intelligence. In so doing, the paper probes the heuristic interest of one brand of performance art for ethnomethodological video analysis, and vice-versa.
Scaffolding storytelling and participation for a second language learner
-Maryanne Theobald, Queensland University of Technology
Abstract: Storytelling is an activity that children use as a resource to become an accepted member of a peer culture (Goodwin & Kyratzis, 2011; Theobald & Reynolds, 2015), and one that teachers encourage for language development (Stevens, Raban & Nolan, 2014) and participation (Bateman & Carr, 2017). Activities, such as storytelling, rely on language competence and may present challenges for those with varying linguistic ability, such as those who are have a first language other than the dominant language of the setting. This article reports on a study of playground interaction in a culturally and linguistically diverse preschool in Brisbane, Australia. An extended sequence of interaction is showcased in which one child (aged four years), who is becoming bilingual, takes up the position as storyteller in a designated ‘storytelling chair’. Employing ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches this article provides a members’ perspective. Sequential analysis shows how the teacher supports the child to be a storyteller and his peers to be story recipients, by using specific communicative resources in a method referred to as ‘scaffolding’ (see Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976). Scaffolding is when a more experienced other provide input, either verbal or physical to help learners advance a skill or activity (Wood et al., 1976). By focusing on the interactional contributions of the social actors rather than the individual’s linguistic development, this paper offers understandings of children’s participation as an ‘interpretive process’ (Corsaro, 2017), dependent on the social agenda and the local aspects of peer culture. Analysis identifies how teachers can support children who have a first language different to the dominant language of the setting be storytellers. It also shows how supporting peers to be story recipients helps to increase the participation of a second language learner.
Section on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Business Meeting
Sat, August 10, 5:30 to 6:10pm, New York Hilton, Second Floor, Nassau West
Section on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Reception
Sat, August 10, 7:00 to 8:30pm, New York Hilton, Regent
Sunday, August 11
The Nature and Import of Participation in Social Interaction
Sun, August 11, 8:30 to 10:10am, New York Hilton, Fourth Floor, EastPresider and Discussant: Giovanni Rossi, UCLA
Cross-cutting preferences in interactional trajectories toward violence
-Geoffrey Raymond, University of California, Santa Barbara, Kevin A. Whitehead, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Brett Bowman, University of the Witwatersrand
Abstract: Most research on violence focuses on “upstream” risk factors associated with perpetration and victimhood, and “downstream” impacts on victims (Bowman, Stevens, Eagle, and Matzopoulos 2015). While this research has produced important findings regarding the correlates and outcomes associated with violence, researchers have recently called for analyses of the immediate situational factors and processes that characterize violent encounters e.g., (Collins 2008). This paper combines the close attention to violent situations advocated by Collins with Fiske and Rai’s (2014) call to reconsider the moral underpinnings of violence, while also adopting a thoroughly interactional focus that contrasts with these authors’ emphasis on psychological factors and processes. Using a conversation analytic approach to examine video recordings of conflicts, we consider two cross-cutting preferences that shape the realization (or not) of violence once one or more parties has projected its possible use. First, as has been observed regarding other courses of action conducted via talk and other body behavior (e.g., Lerner and Raymond frth; Schegloff 2007; Stivers and Robinson 2006), participants orient to a preference for progressivity toward violence once it has been projected, with the non-realization of this outcome treated as accountable. Second, participants orient to a preference for “going second” (producing violent actions that are, or claim to be, responsive to another’s violent action) over “going first” (initiating violent actions). This analysis demonstrates that ubiquitous features of (potentially) violent encounters that have previously been dismissed as mere “bluster” (Collins 2008:10), and thus distinct from violence itself, are treated and deployed by participants as orderly practices for managing these cross-cutting preferences. In explicating these countervailing constraints, we identify a set of moral and interactional mechanisms through which interactional trajectories toward violent outcomes may operate independently of both psychological and “upstream” or macro-structural risk factors that have been treated as central to whether violence occurs.
Partitioning the Participation Population Space in Reaching a Mutual Agreement
-Aug Nishizaka, Chiba University
Abstract: Analyzing the video-recordings of monthly meetings held by a group of residents from the town issued a Fukushima-related evacuation order in 2011 that was finally lifted in 2014, I explore the practices by which these residents partition their participation population space to manage the distributions of entitlements to speak of particular things. Drawing on Sacks’ idea of membership categorization devices, an analytic framework is provided in which some aspects of what has been discussed under the rubric of epistemics and deontics are rearranged.
“Use Your Words”: Other-Initiated Repair and Non-Minimal Responses in an Auditory-Verbal Classroom
-Kristella Montiegel, UCLA
Abstract: This paper uses Conversation Analysis to explore why instances of other-initiated repair of speakers’ utterances occur –and what kind of trouble is targeted– when there does not appear to be problems in hearing, understanding, or speaking (i.e., grammatical errors). Specifically, I focus on teacher-initiated repair practices on students’ utterances in an Auditory-Verbal preschool classroom for Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing but oral children. Analysis reveals a particular repair trajectory that consistently emerged in conversational sequences launched by questions without known answers, an adaptation of the traditional Initiation-Reply-Evaluation/Feedback (IRE/IRF) that is widely cited in the relevant literature. In these sequential environments, the teacher’s repair trajectories are designed to display a problem of acceptability with the formulations of students’ responses, rather than a problem with correct answers or linguistic accuracy, which resultantly engenders a preference for non-minimal turn-design (i.e., sentential construction) of students’ responses to the teacher’s initial questions. However, in following this preference, these trajectories go against the norms associated with repair and responding in ordinary conversation.
A common feature of hearing loss in young children is delayed language acquisition. While the Auditory-Verbal approach addresses this special need by promoting children’s speech development, the ways of accomplishing its pedagogical goals is particularly complex with an added concern of facilitating development with a sensitivity to the children’s abilities. I propose the repair trajectories in my data as a pedagogical tool of the Auditory-Verbal classroom and describe the types of repair techniques involved that ultimately bring the teacher and student to the repair solution. In doing so, I illustrate the mobility of other-initiated repair practices from an ordinary to an institutional setting, and how they can acquire new interactional meaning under the conditions of a specific social occasion. Data is drawn from 8 hours of video-recordings in one Auditory-Verbal classroom located in east Los Angeles.
Sun, August 11, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Sheraton New York, Fifth Floor, Madison Suite 3Presider: Kenneth B. Liberman, University of Oregon
Accomplishing the Intelligibility of the Distinctiveness of Activity
-Tomone Komaya, Tohoku-gakuin University, Aug Nishizaka, Chiba University, Kotaro Sambe, Chiba Univerity, Sachie Tsurata, Chiba
Abstract: Analyzing interviews with local farmers who began organic agriculture in the 1970s during the struggle against the construction of Narita International Airport, we explore the contrasting practices that they employ in answering the interviewer’s questions. We demonstrate that contrasting plays a double role: While it renders the interviewees’ current activities and positions adequately intelligible without normalizing the distinctiveness of the activities and positions, it is also usable as a device for reorganizing their ongoing tellings.
Making sense of senseless acts: Online categorisation work relating to the San Bernardino shooting
-Robin James Smith, Cardiff University
Abstract: This paper provides an ethnomethodological account of the online sense-making practices surrounding the San Bernardino shootings. It reports on the analysis of materials gathered from Twitter during and following the reporting of the incident, and draws from on membership categorisation analysis in describing members’ categorisational work in handling the ‘facts’ of the shooting as they emerged. Returning to Sacks’ discussion of the ‘MIR device’, the paper demonstrates how members’ produced and handled key ‘facts’ as inference-rich materials for making sense of the act itself, for attributing ‘motive’ and ‘intention’, and for formulating procedural and political consequentialities and alignments using the ‘facts at hand’. The paper thus recommends online materials as a means to recover members’ applications and use of the MIR device-in-action and as a means of avoiding stipulative, or static ‘grid-like’ formulations of meaning, sense-making, and categorisation practices. In keeping with the conference theme, the paper also aims to highlight the contribution of an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic sensibility for the examination of the (political) contours of contemporary forms of social discrimination and control.
Urban administration, city building and the situation of accountability for smart cities
-George Richard Martin, York University
Abstract: This paper explores ethnomethodology in relation to smart cities in light of concerns about administrative technologies, such as automated data analytics, algorithms, and machine learning, undermining public accountability. It draws on Watson’s (2018) work on common-sense geography that in turn builds on Garfinkel’s understanding of known-in-common aspects of accountability. In examining transcripts of urban planning committee hearings, I discuss members’ methods of administrative accountability in terms of their achievement theorizing lived experience as part of city building. The research suggests that if future smart city projects are to maintain a notion of public interest, they need to be grounded in a lived urban experience that informs the city building project.
The temporal organization of classroom work with digital oral history
-Jakub Mlynar, Charles University
Abstract: In contemporary society, social justice issues are often related to documentary video clips and their interpretation. Understanding the ways of working with and around video in everyday settings could provide novel perspectives on traditional themes. This paper is based on an ethnomethodological study of videotaped episodes of students’ collaborative work with on-line material constructed from texts, images and video clip fragments of oral history interviews. Students worked with a single computer device and one paper sheet in small groups of two or three. The temporal organization of classroom work with digital oral history in this classroom setting is divided to three phases: (1) preparation for watching the video clip, which requires the establishment of an optimal arrangement of material artifacts and participants’ bodily orientations; (2) watching the video clip, which points to a preference for uninterrupted watching from start to end, as well as limitation of participants’ talk to "running commentary"; (3) reflecting the video clip, which shows orientation to the formulation of required answer and its collaborative writing into the paper sheet, including occasional second watching.
Stance in Social Interaction
Sun, August 11, 12:30 to 2:10pm, Sheraton New York, Third Floor, Carnegie WestPresider and Discussant: Gary C. David, Bentley University
Between “Cautious Optimism” and “Cautious Pessimism”: Clinicians’ Strategies for Delivering News about Autism to Families
-Jason Turowetz, University of Siegen and Douglas W. Maynard, University of Wisconsin
Abstract: Once considered a rare disorder, today autism is estimated to affect 1 in 59 U.S. children. As more children are evaluated for autism, clinicians across the country routinely face the task of informing parents that their child has the condition. By the same token, however, they also rule out autism more often. In this paper, we investigate how clinicians deliver the news that a child does, or does not, have autism to its parents. We show that, in cases where the child qualifies for the diagnosis, clinicians are cautiously optimistic, encouraging parents to see the condition as treatable through early intervention. However, when autism is ruled out, parents do not necessarily react with relief, since the absence of diagnosis can create symptom residue and anxiety about finding the right services for the child. Accordingly, with these parents, clinicians often display what we term cautious pessimism – they emphasize that while the child doesn’t have autism, it’s likely that s/he does have another psychiatric condition. In so doing, they reassure parents that the child’s problem is doctorable – and, by implication, that the parents’ concerns are legitimate, and that the child’s difficulties aren’t their fault. Finally, we document a variation on the cautious optimism that clinicians display toward young autistic children – when the child is older, the clinicians treat autism as a unique and valuable way of perceiving the world, rather than something to be “cured.” In this way, our findings complicate debates between medical practitioners and activist groups over the propriety of treating autism as a disease to be cured – in practice, clinicians alternately display both orientations toward the condition, depending on the local identities of news-recipients.
Collaborative Assessment in Mandarin Conversation: Grammar in interaction
-Di Fang, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Abstract: The co-production of a sentence is a phenomenon that is widely observed in talk-in-interaction across languages (Lerner 1991, 1996, 2004), which displays moment-by-moment orientation to the TCUs in-progress, and to the projections of them by participants. However, despite a few exceptions (e.g. Goodwin and Goodwin 1987, 1992), the co-production of "sentences" within different activities and/or actions is largely yet to study. This study, by using 10 hours of video recorded data, examines the co-production of an assessment segment in Mandarin conversation, which we call "collaborative assessment".
It is found that speakers can use syntactic, prosodic, and embodied devices comprehensively to project an assessment and possibly the need for the other to collaborate, which is keenly oriented to by recipients through active engagement. These devices include 1) syntax within the clause: a) (Subj. + ) adv., b) (Subj. + ) V. + de (得), c) (Subj. + ) COP (X shi) (是); 2) bi-clausal structure: concessive connection; 3) prosodic feature: a) last-syllable lengthening, b) pause; 4) conversational operation: a) repetition of adverbs, b) use of filler (neige) and place holder (neige, neishenme), c) reformulation: abortion of the prior TCU and restart with other format; 5) embodied actions: eye gaze, etc. It is argued that these devices must be considered thoroughly in that there can be mismatch between different channels.
With detailed sequential analysis, it is indicated that collaborative assessment serves for three major functions. First, to resolve the production problem of assessment; second, to help complete the foreshadowing negative assessment; third, to show affiliation with the other in evaluative stance. Two factors can be relevant through these three functions, epistemics and intersubjectivity.
Through this study, the concept of "sentence" is re-examined and reflected. It is proved that the contingent treatment of ongoing unit of talk is not necessarily in accordance with the linguistic constituent from traditional view. In terms of turn-taking, it is also proved that the linguistic practices allowing for projection and the consequent uptake before TRP is not only language-specific, but also action-specific.
Managing the Categorical Relevance of Self-Reference
-Kevin A. Whitehead, University of California-Santa Barbara, Gene H. Lerner, University of California, and Celia C. Kitzinger, University of York
Abstract: As Schegloff (2007:123) notes, self-reference is usually accomplished in English through “the dedicated term ‘I’ (and its grammatical variants – me, my, mine, etc.)”, which “is opaque with respect to all the usual key categorical dimensions – age, gender, status and the like”. However, Land and Kitzinger (2007) demonstrate that speakers sometimes turn to alternative forms of self-reference to make explicit the relevance of particular membership categories in referring to themselves. Nevertheless, speakers do not always turn to such explicit formulations to “categorize” self-reference. In this report, we build on this and other conversation analytic research on self-reference and membership categorization (e.g., Jackson 2011; Kitzinger 2007; Land and Kitzinger 2007; Lerner and Kitzinger 2007; West and Fenstermaker 2002) by examining how speakers manage the (possible) categorical relevance of self-references, and the interactional trouble that this may occasion. We first examine instances of tacitly categorized self-reference, in which the reference is evidently employed to profess the speaker’s membership in a category despite the associated membership category never being mentioned prior to or as part of the self-reference. We then consider occasions on which trouble arises from such categorized self-references either not being recognized as such by recipients, or being mis-recognized as making relevant a category other than the one to which the speaker is thereby revealed to have been oriented. Finally, we describe cases in which a speaker disavows speaking as a member of category they could be understood as having (tacitly) made relevant via the thick particulars of content and context.
Uncertainty and Social Obligation in 911 Calls: The Case of the Henry Louis Gates Arrest
-Jessica White Gillooly, University of Michigan
Abstract: Unlike proactive policing where police officers use discretion to decide where to patrol and whom to stop, reactive (or call-driven) policing has long held legitimacy among scholars. The primary reason scholars have not challenged reactive policing is due to its assumption that police have the assent of the public before acting. Yet several high-profile racially-motivated incidents stemming from 911 calls raise concerns about how and when citizens mobilize the law and the role that 911 call-takers and dispatchers play in conveying citizens’ demands. Using conversation analytic methods and drawing on my “unique adequacy” from working as a 911 operator, I examine the 911 call and radio traffic that led to the high-profile arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge, MA to challenge the widely accepted perspective that call-driven policing is relatively unproblematic. The Gates case is one of the most prominent controversies of the past decade and, as such, is useful for identifying the key concepts and assumptions that inform the current debate about police reform among academics and public officials, as well as their limits. Experts tend to ignore the role of the 911 operator in processing and conveying citizen requests to the police. Approaching police reform from this lens results in an oversimplified view of policing. In this case, I find that both the caller’s uncertainty and her resistance to being cast as a beneficiary of police services create interactional troubles during the call. This is because 911 operators are primarily trained in worse-case thinking when faced with uncertainty, and engage in selective listening. Neither the caller’s uncertainty or relation to the incident was passed on to responding officers, leading to a heightened police response. This case highlights the importance of including the upstream interactions that happen before police arrive on-scene in analyses of police-citizen interactions.