analysis, social organization, classroom talk

Friday, September 28, 2007

What I'm thinking today

I've spent the last few days thinking about a possible focus for a journal article. This has resulted in me re-reading bits of my thesis, and thinking about whether I should target a literacy/early childhood journal or try for one of the sociology journals. Today I was thinking about my favourite bits of interaction -between Melodie and Wayne- and some important analytic points that I really couldn't bring to fruition in my thesis and so chose not to. This was mainly to do with the matter of extended/expanded sequences. Like all talk captured on video and in transcript, and partially analysed, it awaits me.

Here is a bit of what I gathered in my lit review:
Although extended sequences are discussed in some of the CA literature, generally much less attention is given to longer sequences of talk, in particular to those that extend over many turns. Early on Sacks (1995, p. 355) identified “long sequences of talk” as an appropriate area for investigation, though one that was only in its initial stages of development. In his discussion of long sequences of talk, Sacks made a distinction between talk that has a known pre-organisation (as in certain games for example) and talk that does not.
… a basic sort of investigation is that of long sequences as a coherent matter as compared to simply studying, utterance by utterance, a long sequence of talk which you then have as an in-some-way connected series of small fragments. (Sacks, 1995, p. 355)

According to Sacks, the analysis of long sequences of talk is not an additive process and treating it as such may not inform understanding of the whole. Psathas also adopted the analytic perspective that extended sequences, as he termed them, “need to be analyzable and understandable as whole units” (Sacks, 1992, p. 99). Psathas (1992) claimed that extended sequences are more than just a string of sequences. So they need to be considered and examined from the perspective of their whole, and complex, structure rather than through a sequence by sequence analysis strung together (Psathas, 1992, p. 100). He considered extended sequences to be longer than four turns.

According to Psathas, this type of sequence includes types of lessons (Mehan, 1979; Psathas, 1992), stories (Sacks, 1970) and direction giving (Psathas, 1986a, 1986b; Psathas & Kozloff, 1976, cited in Psathas, 1992). Sacks analysed a competition sequence (Sacks, 1995) and stories (Sacks, 1995) as examples of long sequences. The latter involved his analysis that a story preface asks for the right to take an extended turn in order to tell the story (Sacks, 1995, p. 226). According to Sacks, the story preface also contains within it the ‘seeds’ of the closing of the story since it gives information about what will be in the story for it to be over.

Psathas approached the analysis of extended sequences from three points: how do parties enter into the activity; how do they exit, and what is the internal structure of the activity. He used this analytic approach to examine direction-giving (Psathas, 1986a, 1986b, 1990). Psathas worked from a gross characterization of the features of direction sets and determined that directions appeared as “coherent conversational units” (Psathas, 1995, p. 23) that involved methods for entering, proceeding with directions through a sequence of talk, and closing the direction giving. Directions were shown to be collaboratively produced and to consist of “multi-turn extended sequences of talk” (Psathas, 1991, p. 196).

According to Psathas (1991), entry into direction giving is usually initiated by a request and sometimes this will be answered by a request for a starting point. This conversion sequence functions to establish the starting point for directions. Apart from destination and starting point, initial talk establishes time and mode of travel and membership categorization of the parties involved in the talk. As well, direction-giving involves insertions (Schegloff, 1972), or suspensions from the on-going main activity. These result from orientations to repair or requests related to further detail. They can be initiated by either party and do not disrupt the overall function of the activity (Psathas, 1991, p. 205). The activity is closed in two parts. The talk hearably “arrives at” the destination, and the first party produces an acceptance and a positive assessment. Once this is accomplished the conversation moves into closure or shifts to other topics.

The organisation of giving and receiving directions was found to be both context sensitive and context free. It was both responsive to particular parties involved in it and showed orderly and patterned ways that could be found across any number of instances (Psathas, 1991, p. 214) of direction sets. Internal features of directions sets included: named and shared understanding of destination; presumption that movement to the destination was possible; presumption that there were “recognizable-locatable” sets of operations related to movement; naming or ordering in sequence; and the sequence of operations that involved a sequence of utterances or single utterance of talk (Psathas, 1991, p. 215).

I wrote all of that yonks ago in my thesis. Today, i was thinking about the following and made some notes about independent writing which I examined in my thesis:

1. long sequences e.g. story -certain stages
2. Spelling a word suggests question and answer
3.related action of writing as word is spelled introduces another activity other than talk
4. spelling a word for someone to write when you've copied the word (and don't know how to spell it without looking) is another thing
5. spelling a word for someone to write when you've ccopied the spelling of the word yourself and the other person doesn't now the alphabet is another thing entirely).

so, i was thinking today (might be different tomorrow) -if we take sack's definition of long sequences e.g. story, then we have a parallel with spelling ie. it has a certain structure but for adults. the introduction of young children into the mix presents rather a problem unless we take young children as using methods to accomplish just their problems in relation to that moment in the classroom. in which case, we have to consider what they do as competent, or NOT use CA.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What I'm reading today

Laurier, E. (2001). Why people say where they are during mobile phone calls. Environment and Planning, 19, 485 – 504.

“In what follows although I will be taking a ‘theoretical’ attitude, I will not proceed as you might have observed others to do as I will not be ‘doing theorising’ as it tends to be ‘done’ in cultural geography, sociology, and cultural and media studies (Sharrock and Coleman, 1999). So I will not be drawing together, sketching out, or building a new and discrete theory from parts of the rich corpus offered by the social sciences; nor will I be using ethnographic materials to complicate, fine-tune, or build afresh a theory (such as a theory of ‘the nomad’, or ‘the postmodern’, or ‘the public sphere’). Relatedly, in handling my ‘empirical material’ that follows, I will not be ‘coding’ or ‘decoding’ transcripts of in-depth interviews or focus groups carried out with members of some particular social or cultural group(s) identified by terms such as ‘working class’ or ‘gatekeepers’ (Crabtree, 1999). Not because terms such as working class are inappropriate or ill founded, but because of more epistemic problems with the activity of ‘coding’ (Suchman and Jordon, 1990). As a result I will not be interpreting and analysing these codes and their related segments of text towards a previously worked out theoretical framework. And I will not be proposing an alternative or more complex theory to substitute any other social theory. My “disagreement is not based on an alternative theoretical basis but on methodological grounds” (Crabtree et al, 1998, page 6). In the shortest possible terms: I am interested in describing methods, in particular formulations of place (Schegloff, 1972a) used by people who competently make and receive calls on their mobile phones day in, day out, as an ordinary, everyday (and sometimes annoying to bystanders) achievement. In what follows I will not be seeking to displace their methods and competencies in favour of the methods and competencies, briefly described above, of doing what could be called theory-driven ethnography. There may be times during this paper where it may seem that I am paying an excessive attention to detail, yet you will have been offered an answer as to why people say where they are when called on their mobile phone that is versed through actual instances. Along the way we may also be able to observe some problems and topics which are often dealt with abstractly as problems for a theory to solve- critique or remedy being handled as routine practical difficulties by a group of actors whose everyday business is dealing with such affairs (Sacks, 1972b)."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

brisbane workshop

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I've just returned from two days in Brisbane. [Note, the lovely trunks on the trees in the Botanical gardens]. The reason for the trip was to attend a presentation by John Heritage at Griffith University. It was a fantastic presentation which focused on designs of questions and answers.

In the afternoon, I attended a workshop run by a combined group from Griffith, University of Queensland, and the Queensland University of Technology. This transcript analysis group (TAG) has Conversation Analysis as its raison d'etre. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with others who share an interest (and possess considerable expertise) in CA. Amongst those present were Susan Danby, Greer Johnson,Jill Freiberg, Ann Kelly, Rod Gardner and Calvin Smith.

I attended the day's activities with Gillian Busch who is a student of Susan Danby's. Gillian is conducting an EM/MCA/CA study for her PhD. Through Gillian, I also met up with Carly, Charlotte and Maryann who have all focused on young children for their research.

I'm looking forward to returning to Brisbane in a few weeks time to attend another workshop. Meanwhile, time to send out an email to the members of our own CQU analysis group (TAG) which meets once a month on a Friday.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

the old home town looks the same

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Here is a pic of Coolamon where i spent most of my teenage years (should that be misspent?). I spent a day here recently during a week's R and R from Rockhampton. It was interesting to go back - I bumped into people I hadn't seen for over thirty five years. The pic captures the view from the front yard of our house (the Police Station residence).I used to walk down that street several times a day. Nothing much has changed there on the surface.

I've got a lot of work to get done before the year finishes. I'm currently working on a resubmission of a draft journal article that I wrote in February. I find reworking articles difficult although the feedback from reviewers is fair and provides very useful suggestions.

Friday I'm off to Brisbane to attend a workshop run by John Heritage. I'm looking forward to it for several reasons. The opportunity to participate in a CA workshop doesn't come along often for me. THe focus for one part of the workshop is to be on questions. i did some analysis of students' question-question sequences of turns for my PhD examination of the social organisation of independent writing. The organisers have arranged dinner on friday night. I noticed that some "figures from my past" are on the list to attend. Ann kelly is one. I met Ann when she was President of ACAL and I was President of PETA. Ann was also supervised by Carolyn Baker. Calvin Smith is also attending. calvin took over my formal supervision for a period after Carolyn Baker died. I'm looking forward to catching up with both.

I'l be attending the workshop with Gillian Busch from CQU. Gillian is being supervised by Susan Danby and is researching mealtimes. It is fantastic for me to have Gillian on staff here as we can talk CA together.

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