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Keynote lecture and workshop

Guest Speaker: Prof. Jack Sidnell (University of Toronto, Canada)

 

PRESENTATION: Action in interaction is conduct under a description (and no more) 

 

In this presentation I develop an approach to the problem of action in interaction. Like anything else that gets talked about, any given action in interaction can be formulated or accurately described in any number of different ways. To appreciate the theoretical import of this fact, we should consider the important work of Elizabeth Anscombe who proposed that an action could be properly understood as intentional under some (accurate, truthful) descriptions but not others, e.g. a man moving his arm up and down while holding a handle may be intentional under the description “pumping water” but not under other descriptions such as “contracting these muscles”, “displacing the air” and so on. Anscombe employed the term “action” quite unselfconsciously to refer to any form of behaviour as can be seen from this example. A reasonable extension of her ideas would involve proposing that an action is properly understood as conduct under a description (see also her “brute facts” – I am pushing back from “action” towards something less institutional and more brute, i.e. “conduct”). In developing this argument I will consider some main dimensions of contrast by which we can begin to understand action-descriptions in interaction as well as the interactional contexts/positions in which explicit descriptions are occasioned. I will then compare such explicit descriptions with implicit ones that merely index rather than explicitly formulate the action being done. Finally, I will show a set of examples from interaction among young children. The conduct to which I point in these cases could be variously described (formulated) as complaining, informing, tattling and so on but I suggest that all such descriptions are mere glosses and fundamentally inadequate (and also misleading) if the goal is to understand the organization of action in interaction. I conclude that we would do better to reserve the term “action” for conduct under a description and employ the term “doings” or “conduct” to refer to what people are observably up to in interaction.  In conclusion I will argue that CAsts and other scholars of interaction would benefit from a more sustained engagement with philosophy. Many of the confusions that surround the analysis of action in interaction in contemporary work reflect an underlying parochialism and refusal to engage with key ideas beyond our borders. If we want to push our analyses forward, solve recalcitrant problems and talk to people from outside the immediate discipline we may have to engage more seriously with the main currents in twentieth century philosophy.

 

 

WORKSHOP: Interaction at the boundaries of a world known in common – initiating repair with “what do you mean?”

 

In this workshop we will explore the use of “what do you mean” (WDYM) both to initiate repair from next position and to pursue a range of other, related goals.  Data for the workshop are drawn from English language conversation and other contexts.