Doctorate CA conference, Monash University 18-19 Feb 2016

This was a great conference. It is clear that the EMCA community in Australia is alive and kicking. The PhD cohort using EMCA methodologies and ontologies have come to it from a strong background in analysis, and it is clear that this cohort will take their findings into various workplaces and fortify practices using these techniques.

It was pointed out that Professor Rod Gardener is a grandfather for a majority of the doctoral CA students at the conference. I ribbed him for owning this category, but it is quite accurate for this cohort.

This blog post will present a brief review of the sessions (not the keynotes) and look specifically at the questions that arose, especially as they pertain to CA practice in general.

Session 1.

Alison Mills presented a paper, “the Action of Laughter in a Turn”. At first I was waiting for the work of Liz Holt (Huddersfield) would be mentioned, and as it turns out, Alison had already accounted for the Holt work, and further to look thoroughly at laughter tokens (not interpolated particles of aspiration) solicit responses.

The questions that this prompted seemed (to me) to be about the transcription practices vis-a-vis laughter. Do we accommodate for IPA (Hepburn and Potter), and do we need to accommodate for “boisterous laughter tokens”? Is there an emotive/affective range that we can deal with when transcribing laughter? Also, is there a smile voice quality that can be transcribed into laughter which may distinguish between “real” and “claimed/fake” laughter? Interesting discussion after this paper.


Miko Ishino came all the way from Japan for this conference. She delivered a paper looking at classroom management, “Controlling students by using known-answer questions”.

One of the key features of talk that Miko oriented to was the deployment of “parallel activity” (Kools, 2007). When a main activity is ongoing, and participants of that main activity begin a side sequence, this sequence could be treated as a parallel activity. One main claim was that these parallel activities were treated as problematic by the teacher, and the practitioners were sanctioned when found to be engaging in them.

This brought up two direct questions that were maintained throughout the conference, and constantly referenced. Is the “parallel activity” simply a schism (Ekbert), or is there a distinct contextually relevant distinction between schism and parallel activities? The other main discussion (stemming from Rod Gardner’s keynote) was, is the activity engaged in within the parallel activity still an orientation to learning? that is, is the parallel activity actually problematic for teaching as it might be a learning centric activity on its own accord?


Session 2

Mu-Sen Kevin Chuang was part of the organising team and kept the IT working, especially for the virtual plenaries of John Hellerman, and John Heritage.
(thank you Kevin). Kevin Chuang presentated a paper discussing the relevance of CA practice and the learning of anatomy, “Activating and managing Micro-social and cultural processes in anatomy laboratory pedagogy. This paper oriented specifically to the embodied activities and processes that the tutor of an anatomy was using in order to facilitate learning. His work attemps to draw in some of the elements that I read about in the field of politeness research (Brown and Levinson’s work on politeness; Mills 2003/2012; on the community of practice, Spencer-Oatey’s work on the social dimensions that affect the politeness dimensions).

This paper made me think of Mike Emmerson’s plenary in 2012 AIEMCA conference (Griffigh University) where he distinguished between CA and applied CA, and CA for FLA. Also, I noticed that there was some discussion of what was not present in the delivery of the tutors, specifically that the “offer to help” was specifically missing. That is, the tutors tended to present with a “this is your task, and this is my task” as an opening gambit, yet the orientation to “answering questions” was missing.


Nguen The Duong, part of the TAG group up in Brisbane (UQ), has just received his PhD responses back, and he only has to do minor changes. Congratulations Duong. He delivered a paper specifically looking at children’s talk, “Bon gio roi ma (sorry about the lack of diacritics, but my computer is devoid of them at the moment): Children negotiate to escape from adults’ punishment. He used a very cute video from Youtube to show the way that children negotiate punishment; specifically the end of the punishment. He showed that the term “bedtime” was seemingly negotiated between the parent and the child as either a time of day, or as a durative measure relative to the punishment (Your punishment will end at “bedtime”).

One of the questions that arose was effect of the competence paradigm (Hutchby and Ellis 1998) and the “independent concerns [of the children] to those of the adults” (Prout and James 1990). That is, was the competence of the children indicating a higher linguistic skill (interactive skill) than what the lexicon itself would indicate? This became a feature of the conference in suggesting that perhaps lexicon/grammatical skill/competence may be a different competence than interactive skill/competence.


Huong Quynh Tran was also part of the organising team, and she disseminated the conference material, coordinated conference emails and generally made sure it was running smoothly. Thankyou Quynh. She discussed, “the pursuit of responses to guided questions in discussion tasks: A micro-analysis of student talk”.

She showed that the foreign language classroom offers an unclear distinction between what a student/contexts’ L1 and L2 are. That is, the L1 of the classroom is seemingly not always reflected in the L1 of the practitioners themselves.

This paper spurred a lot of discussion. One of the topics I am especially interested in is the role of the artefact within guided talk. That is, how much effect does a scripted artifact (prompts for discussion questions etc.) have on the achievement of the discussion itself. There was a strong point made that although the guidance of an artifact (or the teacher lead discussion) is not “natural”, the discussion that comes from that prompt (as a schism of parallel like activity) is indeed natural.


Session 3


Fariba Shirali delivered a fascinating discussion about the onset of disagreement turns in Persian academic discussions. The data was collected from small group discussions about several topics and seemed to show that the turn at the onset of a disagreement disaplyed an “urgent onset”.

Some of the findings here seem to reflect the orderliness of disagreement found in Reynolds’ PhD (Edward Reynolds, 2013? UQ). The orientation to turn taking, speed of speech and speed of transition is (to my mind) a fascinating area of research on disagreement. One question arose about the ability to consistently measure an urgent vs non-urgent turn onset, but as was shown, the urgency of a turn need not be indicated through pause duration between turns.


Hyesun Ko showed data around the aligning and affiliating response tokens in native and non-native Japanese interaction. She followed Gardner’s 2001 work on response tokens to show that the NS and NNS RT deployment are different.

The discussion seemed to centre around how the native speaker pragmatic routines ought to be taught to the general population of a co-hort of non-native speakers. This brought a lot of comments about whether such teaching needs to be a formal part of education. This also highlighted an earlier point about a distinction between linguistic language skills and interactional linguistic skills and if they need to be separated more thoroughly in education.


Siti Nurbaya Mohd Nor came all the way from Malaya for the conference. She delivered a paper on the design format in the presentation of opinions of callers to a radio phone-in programme. The data was gathered from a business centric radio programme in Malaysia which was not as heavily regulated as other radio channels. She found that there was a distinct difference between the progressional format and recursive format (Hutchby 2006) in responses. If the caller’s opinion was afforded space to come out on its own (progressional) the turn design was mostly different from if the opinion was solicited.


Nathaniel Mitchell (the current author) delivered a paper questioning CA’s role in the anlaysis of Facebook data. I presented a multi-move polylogal interaction on a public facebook page, and suggested that (within reason) CA could be used to explore interactivity and the architecture of intersubjectivity. I suggested that one key to this analysis may lie in the systematic orientation to the participation order (Haugh 2013).

This brought up a lot of discussion. The idea that a text and word based Facebook post might actually be best understood as several moves in one. That is, the picture in question might essentially be a first move (orienting to an issue), a second move (assessment of the issue), and an issuance of a challenge (a 3rd move). Additionally, there was a lot of suggestion that interactivity was “obvious” within the data, but that intersubjectivity was not as obvious.


Session 5

Thi Giang Lam Hoang presented work looking at the “Sequence organization of Teacher Language alternation: a micro-analysis of efl novice teachers in Vietnamese”. Summarily, I have always found it distinctly difficult for translation to be afforded its true weight within CA data studies. That is, the English gloss of some interaction IS NOT what is occurring AT ALL. In fact, the gloss is an abstraction of an abstraction and leads to a lot of confusion. Although the Anglo-centric analytical paradigm of CA requires a translation tier, essentially any transcription might need to indicate a “social activity” and “discourse” through an added tier to capture what is happening in the target language.

This paper essentially dealt with the issue of language alternation. It is that language alternation (languaging or code switching) is a social activity/embodied practice in its own right? Is it the case that the teacher (and/or students) alternate language to achieve a function? It was suggested that such alternation might be indicative of “doing pedagogy” or “doing communication”. This paper also reinforced the earlier question about what L1 and L2 mean in a language classroom, and what a “language of instruction” is recruited to do.


Francesco Possemato looked at the Italian “Siete d’accordo?” suggesting that it was a “case of a teacher’s Pre-Sequence Closing Third”. The study was essentially a repair focused analysis of IRE/IRF sequences in the classroom, specifically looking at instances where the phrase was deployed as an insert sequence between the R and F/E turns.

The discussion showed a lot of interest in the language classroom as a site for CA. As with several other papers, this data seemed to show that even though the conversation seemed to flow (somewhat) in the classroom, it was still an instance of institutional talk. Most interesting (for me) was a suggestion that a pre-validation sequence (a pre-assessment turn) may be deployed through he use of Siete d’accordo.


Binh Thanh Ta was another of the conference organisers who ensured that the event, catering and other things ran smoothly. Thank you Binh. Her talk was called “The dynamic of knowledge, power and institutional roles: Adopting epistemic and deontic lenses to understand doctoral research supervision”. She presented her discoveries when looking into PhD supervisor-candidate meetings. She specifically looked at the epistemic gradient involved in information receiving, and the deontic mix in the triadic meetings between the supervisor, co-supervisor and candidate PhD. Her research reflected similar data that Ngoc Nguyen (UQ) recently talked about in her PhD.

She showed that the supervisor maintained different roles depending on the topic/thrust of the talk. That is, the supervisors engaged in role shifting relative to the epistemic gradient and deontic stance they held for different interactional projects. For me, this brought up a question about the difference between the deontic order (a la Curl and Drew 2008 and the “ability to ask particular questions”) and the moral order (a la Garfinkel, and the moral embodiment of action). This lead to a discussion that seemed to question any difference between the two.


Session 6

Stephanie Lopriore delivered a presentation from Adelaide, again with the help of the IT team, and Zoom (the virtual network programme). Her presentation, “Healthcare at a distance: The Social organisation of delivering healthcare via a telephone helpline” followed on from simlar work in the field (although I didn’t write down the citations). It was reflective of some of the work that Katie Ekberg (UQ) is looking into with virtual healthcare, and quite rightly so because Katie is Stephanie’s external supervisor.

This presentation reflected several of the findings that Heritage’s plenary discussed, including the relative difference between the first move of an interaction, and the accomplished next move etc. Also, it reflected similar findings from Rossano and Heritage (2014) from similar healthcare fields. Mostly, this presentation seemed to show a relationship between the social activities of “diagnosis” and “issuing treatment”, showing that further research is needed into “doing healthcare” and in the activites that are embodied when “doing being sick”.


Naoki Ikeda presented work using the CA for FLA paradigm. His talk, “describing L2 English speakers’ social language use and their readiness for higher education domain”, strongly re-emphaised the need to formally deliver pragmatics as a part of the FLA/ESL/ELICOS curriculum.

He showed that interactive competence might be separate from linguistic competence (an ongoing theme throughout the conference). I asked if there was a need to create a different testing rubric specifically for language competence (interactive competence).


Libby Clark (the last presenter for the conference) discussed “Evaluations in Response turns: when speech therapy clients are invited to evaluate themselves. Mostly, Libby showed that the outcomes of interaction, when the patient is empowered to self-evaluate, are different from when the client is not given the space to self-evaluate. This is a similar finding to lots of education findings as well. It was shows that it is difficult to self-monitor and to self-evaluate for clients because they are working to produce a difficult output, and self-monitoring might affect their output. Still, she found that the empowerment of an individual seemed to be beneficial to their output.


Overall take away

The academics, supervisors and co-supervisors who attended the conference all suggested that the projects, delivery, and data for this conference was of a high standard. They were very supportive of the event in general, and hoped to create a similar event for the EMCA community in the future, especially considering that Australia/NZ is a difficult area to engage in research because of its distance with other research centres.

Thank you Anna Filipi for organising the conference

Thank you to the student body at Monash University for helping the conference run smoothly

Thank you to all the presenters for delivering such thought provoking work

Thank you to all the attendants for engaging with the community, even if you were unable to present at this time

We’ll see you all at the next event.


Thanks to everyone who engaged in the conference. It was a thought provoking conference.

Nathaniel Mitchell

(views and opinions herein are my own and do not reflect AIEMCA in general)


Nathaniel Mitchell
AIEMCA blogger