Research issues

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Published on January 21, 2008

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THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ISSUES IN PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION SRIKANT SARANGI :  THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ISSUES IN PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION SRIKANT SARANGI Cardiff University RCPCE, 8 APRIL 2006 Slide2:  POSITIONING OF THE RESEARCHER Applied Linguistics problem-solving/service ideal (e.g. Crystal) proactive, practice-based education (e.g. Brumfit) Mediation (knowledge disseminating, e.g. Widdowson) consultancy & consultative (knowledge-bearing) Discourse Analysis (incl. Genre analysis, conversation analysis etc.) Slide3:  ACCESS Observer’s Paradox INTERPRETATION Analyst’s Paradox PARTICIPATION Participant’s Paradox KEY ISSUES IN NEGOTIATING RESEARCH BOUNDARIES Slide4:  THREE PARADOXES Observer’s paradox: we only get authentic data when we are not observing. Participant’s paradox: the activity of participants observing the observer (cf. Goffman `sphere of participation’ vs `sphere of focused interaction’). Analyst’s paradox: the activity of obtaining members’ insights to inform analytic practice. [Sarangi 2002] Slide5:  ANALYST’S PARADOX & INTERPRETIVE UNDERSTANDING Analyst’s paradox begins with `where to look’; the circumference of observation. But, professional practice is not always available at the explicit level of talk, text, action and activity. In language/communication studies, this could mean simply focusing on language or interaction issues by ignoring the other extra-linguistic modalities. Slide6:  ANALYST’S PARADOX AS A CONTINUUM The analyst’s paradox is at its most extreme when interpreting different professions, and within a given profession its core practices, that is the backstage activities, e.g., case records, peer-centred talk/text as in case presentations, case conferences etc. Professional-client encounters are easier to interpret, because we can put ourselves in clients’ shoes and draw parallels to similar experiences. But Heath (1979) anticipates problems even at this level. Slide7:  ANALYST’S PARADOX & INTERPRETIVE UNDERSTANDING As Brumfit (2004) puts it: `all studies of social phenomena have on the one hand a concern to idealise, which is essentially a metaphorical pretence that you can isolate the phenomenon that you’re looking at, and on the other hand the need to be embedded in real-world practice’ (emphasis added). Ecological validity (Cicourel 1992, in press) focuses on how we seek to convince others of the viability and authenticity of our claims and can be understood by our use of primary and secondary data sources. Ecological validity can only be approximated in the social and behavioural sciences. The value of long-term, informal ethnography; `thick participation’. Slide8:  THE ANALYST’S INTERPRETIVE BURDEN Clifford Geertz: `interpretive ethnography’ (‘thick description’ of a social group's “interworked systems of construable signs”, its “structures of meaning ... and systems of symbols”) and `local knowledge’ (“mutually reinforcing network of social understandings”) According to Geertz, the researcher's job is to take the informants' own indigenous, locally-produced concepts (`experience-near’) and “place them in illuminating connection” with the “concepts theorists have fashioned to capture the general features of social life” (`experience-distance’). ACCESSING & EVALUATING TACIT KNOWLEDGE:  ACCESSING & EVALUATING TACIT KNOWLEDGE Problem of interpreting `tacitly assumed meanings that are not clearly indexed’. (Cicourel 1974) Professional work as inference work (Richmond 1917) `The aim of a skilful performance is achieved by the observance of a set of rules which are not known as such to the person following them’ (Polanyi 1958:49). Slide10:  THE ANALYST’S INTERPRETIVE BURDEN Who counts as a member in terms of access to insider knowledge? The position that members’ method allows one to categorise events is no longer tenable, especially when the knowledge gap between language/discourse analysts and participants increases, as is the case in new sites of professional discourse studies. Slide11:  Specialised knowledge Corporate organisation Monopoly Autonomy/Independence Code of ethics Ethic of public service Etc… THE KEY FEATURES OF A PROFESSION Slide12:  Freidson (1970; 1994): Professions are constituted in differentiation of specialised knowledge: (i) Specialised knowledge (combination of scientific/technical and clinical/experiential) as the lynchpin of professionalism: Both these knowledge systems are interactive, cumulative, systematic and give rise to an array of expert interaction systems. (ii) organisation of (inter)professional ways of seeing and acting (functional specificity) (Goodwin 1994) Professional expertise is both a matter of `knowing that’ and `knowing how’ (Ryle 1949) – both of which pose challenge to a discourse analyst. PROFESSIONAL BEING: KNOWLEDGE-BASED PRACTICE SOME FEATURES OF PROFESSIONAL LANGUAGE:  SOME FEATURES OF PROFESSIONAL LANGUAGE `First, the language of the professional set him apart from the client or patient. His language was a mark of the special province of knowledge which was the basis of what it was the patient was told, though the knowledge itself could not be transmitted to the patient.’ (Heath, 1979:108) `A second feature of the language of the professional was his articulated knowledge of ways to obtain information from patients while restricting the amount and types of information transmitted to the patient’. (Heath 1979:108) PROFESSIONAL SOCIALISATION:  PROFESSIONAL SOCIALISATION `Professionals have, therefore, been socialised to have certain perceptions of their role in communicative tasks, and they have been trained to use language as an instrument to maintain that role and to accomplish ends often known only to them in interchanges.’ (Heath 1979:108) PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION AS A MULTI-LAYERED ACTIVITY:  PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION AS A MULTI-LAYERED ACTIVITY Societal (trans)formation Scientific knowledge Institutional Order Professional practice/experience Clients CATEGORISATION IN/OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE:  CATEGORISATION IN/OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Categorisation is central to all professional activity: within discourse/communication research, it is both the object of study and the process through which we study professional practice. Categories are spectacles through which we routinely, albeit largely unconsciously, observe and classify events and experiences (Lakoff 1987). `Language [is] a classificatory instrument… categories are not objective, ready-made, inherent properties of the external world but are subject to processes of perception and interpretation’. (Lee 1992:16) Slide17:  CATEGORISATION AND PROFESSIONAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS • How do analytic categories emerge from interactional data? (Cf. Grounded Theory and Ethnomethodology) • To what extent does a particular categorisation blind the analyst to alternative modes of description? (Burke: `Terministic screening’; `Learned incapacities’) • What happens when co-researchers across professional boundaries contest the perceived histories/ideologies of certain categories? ACTIVITY OF INTERPRETATION:  ACTIVITY OF INTERPRETATION Garfinkel on `unique adequacy requirement of methods’. How does an analyst acquire this status? Garfinkel re: ad hoc and etcetera principle (e.g., `no smoking etc.’) Norm-in-action: everyone has to adapt the norm, or ad hoc the norm, to actually produce conduct in a given situation. So, all norms are essentially vague because they are partially open to adaptation in every situation of use. Slide19:  ACTIVITY TYPES & ACTIVITY ANALYSIS CONTEXT-SPECIFIC INTERPRETATION/INFERENCING:  CONTEXT-SPECIFIC INTERPRETATION/INFERENCING Context-specific interpretation (`inferential schemata’) at the heart of Levinson’s (1979) activity type model: Levinson (1997) points to the apparent paradox that utterances can create their own contexts. “If it takes a context to map an interpretation onto an utterance, how can we extract a context from an utterance before interpreting? The idea that utterances might carry with them their own contexts like a snail carries its home along with it is indeed a peculiar idea if one subscribes to a definition of context that excludes message content’. (Levinson 1997:26) TOWARDS ACTIVITY ANALYSIS:  TOWARDS ACTIVITY ANALYSIS Coming to terms with `content’ and `context’ of professional discourse studies. The microscope metaphor: `the analyst must steer between the Scylla of decontextualisation and the Charybdis of over-generalisation. A microscopist would remind us of the need to use a lens of appropriate magnification – neither too high power (removing essential context) nor too low power (revealing insufficient detail)’ (Clarke 2005:189). TOWARDS ACTIVITY ANALYSIS:  TOWARDS ACTIVITY ANALYSIS `Studies of talk-in-interaction, whether labelled as CA or DA, would align more readily with the perspective of professionals if they could examine episodes of interaction as long as the whole consultation… Professionals will perhaps be more enthusiastic about collaboration if the lens used to study their activities could be switched to even a slightly lower power, so that the give and take of discussion over a longer period – perhaps even during the whole of a consultation – could be examined.’ (Clarke 2005:191) Slide23:  ANALYST AS A FLY ON THE WALL! “A `fly on the wall’ who did not know we were doing psychotherapy would not necessarily suspect that that was what we were doing: he would see and hear only an ordinary conversation. What defines the conversation as psychotherapy is simply our goal in conducting the conversation.” (O’Hanlon and Wilk 1987:177) KNOWLEDGE OF INTERACTIONAL SYSTEMS:  KNOWLEDGE OF INTERACTIONAL SYSTEMS In some clinical contexts, Peräkylä et al (2005) point to a potentially strong association between interaction theory and treatment theory. Different healthcare sites will prioritise different interactional features based upon their diagnostic and treatment regimes. Interaction is an essential component of the healthcare expert system (Sarangi 2005, in press). ACTIVITY ANALYSIS: KEY FEATURES:  ACTIVITY ANALYSIS: KEY FEATURES Mapping of entire encounters, both thematic and interactional Communicative flexibility at the levels of activity types and discourse types Integration of discoursal and rhetorical devices Goffman’s notions of frame, footing and face-work Gumperz’s notions of contextualisation cues and conversational inference Alignment: sequential and normative Social and discourse role-relations Thick participation and thick description Slide26:  AN ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLE UNEQUAL SHARE OF INTERACTIONAL SPACE IN GENETIC COUNSELLING:  UNEQUAL SHARE OF INTERACTIONAL SPACE IN GENETIC COUNSELLING UNEQUAL SHARE OF INTERACTIONAL SPACE IN GENETIC COUNSELLING:  UNEQUAL SHARE OF INTERACTIONAL SPACE IN GENETIC COUNSELLING UNEQUAL SHARE OF INTERACTIONAL SPACE IN GENETIC COUNSELLING:  UNEQUAL SHARE OF INTERACTIONAL SPACE IN GENETIC COUNSELLING INTERPRETING THE INTERACTIONAL TRAJECTORY:  INTERPRETING THE INTERACTIONAL TRAJECTORY The role of explanation and information provision in genetic counselling. The ethos of nondirectiveness. Genetics as a family condition: three axes of interactional engagement: social, temporal and biomedical. Dynamics of risks of occurrence, risks of knowing, and risks of (non)disclosure Slide31:  ANALYTIC EXPERTISE OR INTERPRETIVE LICENCE? Slide32:  CONCLUSION What knowledge do we bring to bear on our understanding of other professional practices? To what extent are communication researchers able to access the knowledge/belief systems of professional practitioners through a study of their communicative ecologies? How does one avoid extreme reductionism in the interpretation of local professional practices? Slide33:  CONCLUSION In what ways can we claim practical relevance for our interpretive and interventionist work? Will a utilitarian research goal require us to go beyond the description of surface-level discourse and to acknowledge the problem of providing an evidential link between observable communicative practices and tacit knowledge systems? What can be learnt by making the communication researcher a part of the process of our inquiry? In other words, what does it mean to move from language as action/activity to language/discourse analysis as action/activity/activism? Slide34:  CONCLUSION Methodologically speaking, any analysis of professional practice needs to steer a midway between `constructionism’ and `radical situationalism’ - the need to avoid `micro-analytic myopia’ (Mehan 1991). More generally, researchers of professional discourse will have to remain committed to a research site rather than to a research tradition, so that they understand professional practice, that is, `know that’ and `know how’ - (knowledge of things, facts and method); `ecological validity’ (Cicourel 1992). Slide35:  CONCLUSION Towards a reflexive turn in discourse analysis Where do we place ourselves – as craftsmen or as critics? Analytic expertise or interpretive licence? Different layers of expertise (Collins & Evans 2002) No Expertise Interactional Expertise Contributory Expertise Referred Expertise Translation Expertise Discrimination Expertise Slide36:  discriminating between discovery and usefulness; discriminating between different traditions of discourse analysis in relation to their analytic focus and usefulness (i.e., to go beyond the idea that by applying our analytic framework we make our work relevant); discriminating between variations of professional practice and account for such differences in terms of discoursal evidence. CONCLUSION (DISCRIMINATION EXPERTISE) TWO-WAY MIRRORS:  TWO-WAY MIRRORS Professional & Institutional discourse Backstage & frontstage Distributed expertise socialisation into professional ways of being Access & participation Analytic lens/vision Communicating communication research Assessment of professional practice

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