I joined the action on the second day with a great workshop by Merran Toerien on decision making in medical interaction. The workshop addressed the two major themes that any scholar nowadays will have to deal with: on the one hand there’s the actual analysis that we as CA researchers are interested in, and on the other there’s the matter of how to communicate these findings to practitioners who have no knowledge of the field and may be highly skeptical of any conclusion that isn’t supported by numbers or “hard data”.
While one day is obviously never enough to get a good grip on any of these discussions, Merran – who’s enthusiasm makes any workshop all the more inspiring – made great use of the time, starting with a data session, then giving presentations of her own work, and allowing us to get some hands-on experience with actual data, and finally even putting us in the position of practitioners to show how she has in the past gone about trying to convey these findings to physicians themselves. I think we all left with a far better understanding of how to go about analyzing our data, and a renewed vigor to help improve actual medical practice.
My second workshop as on presenting non-English data, taught by Giovanni Rossi. Anybody who’s ever published or presented findings using non-English data knows the struggle: how do you present your recordings and your transcripts in a way that they can easily be understood by scholars who don’t speak the language, without it all taking up so much room that, in case of articles, there is not enough room for the actual analysis. Giovanni focused on best practices from his own experience with Italian.
As a PhD graduate from the MPI for Psycholinguistics, he dealt extensively with the linguistic side of things such as the Leipzig Glossing Rules, but we also got to talk about problems such as how to make sure people focus on the original language, not the English translation. While it’s too early yet for definitive answers, it’s clear that we are moving towards at least some standardization that should make this all a lot easier for all of us.
Jeff’s conclusion: there is no preference for agreement, but a preference for what he called non-conditioned answers, answers that go along with the agendas set in the question. The future will see whether it holds, but one cannot be anything but impressed by the analytic rigor of the methodology and Jeff in doing so demonstrated that there is no reason why CA cannot be considered just has hard a science as any other ground in experimental methods.
The four subsequent days were progressively more exhausting, the unnatural heat not being particularly helpful in rooms without AC and hundreds of hard working academics, but also great fun. The plenary speakers addressed engaging and inspiring topics such as eye rolls in everyday and public interaction (Rebecca Clift), deal making by physicians (Tanya Stivers), and even literary translation of particles using Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (Marja-Leena Sorjonen). Particularly the latter may have gotten some skeptical looks at the beginning – at least from me – but Marja-Leena demonstrated that even conversation in literature, and indeed conversation wherever it can be found, can be a great source of data. You just have to ask the right questions.
Panels and Themes
I was also surprised by how many people presented completely written oud talks. It’s a practice I have rarely seen at earlier conferences, but at least half the talks, particularly by non-European scholars, were done in this manner. I often found these harder to follow. Presenting has to be engaging, it’s a form of entertainment, and that part often gets lost when a scholar just stands there, reading their presentation aloud. But it guarantees that presenters get to say what they want, exactly how they want to. And of course, presenting is a skill that takes time and practice to master, whether you read aloud, do it entirely from memory, or merely prepare a rough structure.
But exhausting it was nonetheless. Fortunately, none of this will be a problem at ICCA 2022; not only will it take place in winter – or what counts for winter Down Under – but we were promised there will be koalas(!), and they will undoubtedly wash any fatigue away. And they need to in order for the conference to top this one; it was superbly organized by a great committee and supported by a group of outstanding volunteers. And as always, it’s the people who make the conferences: the talks, discussions, lunches, dinners, and conversations with friends and colleagues are what make ICCA into what it is; a holiday for conversation analysts.