Hopefully, by the end of the year or at the latest by Spring 2023 “The Anthem Companion to Harold Garfinkel” co-edited by Philippe Sormani and myself will be published with Anthem Press. It’s currently due to be published in March 2023.
Soeben ist mein Aufsatz/Review Essay zur exzellenten Übersetzung von Harold Garfinkels ‘Studies in Ethnomethodology’ in der Soziologischen Review erschienen.
vom Lehn, D. (2021). Ethnomethodologie: von marginalem Forschungsprogramm zu soziologischem Klassiker. Review Essay zu Harold Garfinkel, ‚Studien zur Ethnomethodologie‘, herausgegeben von Erhard Schüttpelz / Anne Warfield Rawls / Tristan Thielmann, übersetzt von Brigitte Luchesi, Frankfurt/New York: Campus 2020, 386 S., gb., 24,95 € Original: Harold Garfinkel, ‘Studies in Ethnomethodology’, Englewood Cliffs/NJ, Prentice-Hall 1967, 304 S. In Soziologische Revue, vol. 44, no. 4, 2021, pp. 518-531. https://doi.org/10.1515/srsr-2021-0069
Over 20 years ago, in 2000, Franz Breuer, Jo Reichertz and Wolff-Michael Roth started a FQS debate on the “Quality of Qualitative Research.” In past contributions to this debate a wide range of issues has been discussed, such as various qualitative techniques of collecting or analyzing data, or the application of such methods within different disciplinary and institutional contexts. Since its beginning, the call for contributions to this debate has remained unchanged, while academic discussions surrounding this topic have changed substantially. The questions that were raised originally—What is “good” science? What are “good” social sciences? What is “good” qualitative social research? What are the criteria and standards for such evaluations?—are still relevant today and will continue to provide a baseline for future contributions, however, an update of the call for this FQS debate may be in order.
In the past, qualitative researchers have fought hard for acceptance and recognition of their work; this battle has largely been won. Today, in most social science disciplines (perhaps with the exception of psychology), qualitative epistemologies, theories, and methods are used and taught as “mainstream” science alongside their quantitative counterparts. Most university colleagues, students, and administrators have fully accepted their legitimacy and utility. While this is excellent news, it does not mean that debates about the “quality” of qualitative research have been, or should be, abandoned. Today, such debates take place in multiple contexts of discourse in which the “quality” of qualitative research is understood and treated in very different ways.
- The continued globalization and interdisciplinary appeal of qualitative research has accelerated the diversification of existing frameworks, theories, methodologies and methods. We are encountering many innovative developments that originate within the “older” qualitative approaches, such as social constructionism, symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, phenomenology, hermeneutics, grounded theory methodology, and discourse analysis. In addition, today, many qualitative researchers transcend traditional boundaries and draw on a much broader theoretical canon when using and developing new qualitative methods, including critical approaches such as feminist, postcolonial and critical race theories, political economy frameworks, as well as postmodernism, poststructuralism and arts-based epistemologies. Moreover, collaboration between qualitative social scientists and scholars from discipline as diverse as the arts, design, computer sciences, medicine, and other health sciences have accelerated the development of “alternative” research methods. These developments lead to many new questions, such as: What does the new theoretical landscape of qualitative epistemologies and methodologies look like? How do various national and cultural contexts shape developments and debates of new qualitative frameworks? Finally, how is the “quality” of new qualitative research practices assessed across different disciplines and epistemological contexts?
- Over the past 20 years, qualitative research has been influenced by tremendous developments and expansions in technology and social media. Researchers increasingly use tools such as video-cameras, smart phones, and the Internet to collect data. A wide array of software packages has both reduced and increased the complexity of data collection and analysis. We must ask new questions, such as: How does the proliferation of new tools and technologies shape the practical and intellectual work of qualitative researchers? Which new social worlds and relationships have emerged, and how should they be examined and theorized qualitatively?
- Funding mechanisms in the (social) sciences have also changed substantially, alongside institutional structures in the university. Today, in addition to public and non-profit funding bodies, researchers must turn to private and commercial institutions to acquire resources, some of which are very open toward qualitative approaches while others question their utility. New questions, such as the following, emerged: How do changes in funding and other institutional structures influence the theory and practice of qualitative research? How do the new funding and institutional landscapes vary by country, by region, and by discipline? What impacts do these changes have on the selection of research topics and on qualitative research ethics and responsibilities?
- Lastly scientific research has increasingly come under pressure from politicians and policy makers, as well as from other influential experts, who have bluntly questioned the scholarly enterprise and confronted all scientific research with hostility and antagonism. This raises questions, such as: How do researchers who use qualitative theories, methodologies and methods respond to fundamental challenges of their (social) scientific expertise? How do they convince public audiences that their work raises and helps solve important questions?
Despite long-standing discussions about the quality of qualitative research, still no agreement has been reached about a catalogue of criteria that would serve to guarantee its value across the myriad contexts in which it is used today, similar to the classical, canonical standards that exist for quantitative scholars. In fact, we must broaden our understandings of what qualitative research is, and how it is practiced, while we continue to ask questions about its “quality.” The many issues and questions raised above may serve to re-invigorate discussions about the “Quality of Qualitative Research” in this FQS Debates, in alignment with current developments and concerns. As internal and external conditions for qualitative research practice have changed, a new engagement with the original issues, we hope, will invite new participants, raise new questions, and will lead to new insights within this worthwhile “Quality” debate. A reconfigured international FQS debate team eagerly awaits your submissions.
This is a Call without a deadline.
For questions, please contact the Section Editors: Franz Breuer, Paul Eisewicht, Margarethe Kusenbach, Jo Reichertz, Dirk vom Lehn, e-mail: email@example.com
In June, I wrote a short piece about the practice of theorising, ethnomethodology, and the pandemic for the Magazine of The Sociological Review. The brief text can be accessed HERE or by clicking the image below.
The changing role of the optometrist in assessing eye-sight and eye health during and after Covid-19
King’s Business School have a 4 year, fully funded PhD studentship (fees and stipend) available to undertake research concerned with communication and interaction in remote optometry consultations. The successful candidate will be expected to undertake qualitative, in-depth, studies of the organisation of eye examinations undertaken via telephone, video-phone, etc. Their research will relate to previous video-based studies of communication and interaction undertaken by the supervisory team.
The successful candidate will be a member of the Work, Interaction & Technology Research Group at King’s Business School. Members of the WIT Group are concerned with social interaction in organisational settings, examining the interplay between social interaction and technology. Candidates will undertake naturalistic studies of communication and interaction in optometry that draw on ethnographic and video-based research methods. They will have a social science background and have received training in qualitative research methods, including ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, ethnography, qualitative interviewing and grounded theory.
The PhD project will be undertaken in collaboration with the College of Optometrists and co-supervised by Professor Dirk vom Lehn (KCL) and Professor Peter Allen (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge). It, therefore, provides candidates with the opportunity to develop a distinctive approach to their research.
The successful candidate will begin in October 2021.
Early applications are encouraged. Applicants are strongly advised to contact the supervisor Professor Dirk vom Lehn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please submit the following to email@example.com
- Copy of your CV
- One academic reference letter
- Letter of interest (1-2 page) including how you would be a best fit for the project.
Note – applicants must check that they meet our entry requirements prior to applying
You should hold, or be completing, a Master’s degree with a Merit or higher (or overseas equivalent) and have achieved a 2:1 Bachelor’s degree (or overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject.
English language requirements
If you are a native English speaker or have been awarded a degree within the last five years from one of the countries listed here, you may not be required to take an English language test. English language competency is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
If your first language is not English you must be able to provide recent evidence that your spoken and written command of the English language is adequate for the programmes for which you have applied. Check our English language requirements here (Band B). You can use our pre-sessional English calculator to check if your language scores meet our requirements.
Please note, we cannot review individual eligibility before you apply and are only able to consider complete applications which include all supporting documents.
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview and the successful candidate will be asked to submit their formal application via King’s Apply online system.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries regarding the application procedure.
As part of the ESRC funded project The Practical Work of the Optometrist Helena Webb, Christian Heath, Dirk vom Lehn, Will Gibson and Bruce Evans have published an article concerned with the opening of optometric consultations in the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction. The paper particularly explored the sensitivity clients display to the use of the word ‘problem’ in the opening questions of the history taking.
This article contributes to conversation analytic understanding of openings in health-care consulta-tions. It focuses on the case of optometry: a form of health-care practice in which an optometristconducts checks of a patient’s vision and eye health. Patients are advised to attend regularly for rou-tine assessments and can also request a speciﬁc appointment at any time. Analysis of a corpus of 66 consultations shows what happens when the optometrist’s opening question solicits the client’s“problems” with their eyes. We ﬁnd three types of patient response. Patients who have requested aspeciﬁc appointment (most often) report a problem with their eyes and establish a problem-purposeencounter. Patients attending for a routinely timed appointment either report no problems and estab-lish a routine-assessment purpose, or if they do have a problem, they delay reporting it or downplay it.We track through what happens subsequently. The ﬁndings have practical implications for diagnosisand treatment.
As part of the ESR funded project Will Gibson, Helena Webb and Dirk vom Lehn have published a paper that explores new ways in which a reflection on the use of transcript in the examination of video-recorded interaction can aid the analysis.
This article explores the role of transcripts in the analysis of social action. Drawing on a study of the interactional processes in optometry consultations, we show how our interest in the rhythm of reading letters from a chart arose serendipitously from our orientation to transcription conventions. We discuss our development of alternative transcription systems, and the affordances of each. We relate this example to constructivist debates in the area of transcription and argue that the issues have been largely characterised in political terms at the expense of a focus on the actual processes of transcription. We show here that analytic affordances emerge through an orientation to professional conventions. The article ends by suggesting that a close reflection on the design of transcripts and on transcription innovation can lead to more nuanced analysis as it puts the researcher in dialogue with the taken for granted ideas embedded in a system.
A bit of self-advertisement… in May my book “Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology” was published by Left Coast Press. The book discusses Garfinkel’s creation of ethnomethodology, its anticipation of and important influence on a range of contemporary developments in sociology, including the sociology of science and technology, the new sociology of knowledge, the sociology of work, gender studies and others.
The book is based on and expands the German version published by UVK Verlagsgesellschaft in 2012.
Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology (Left Coast Press.)
There is growing concern that despite planning pregnancy women delay taking pre-pregnancy supplements like folic acid as advised by experts who argue that these supplements substantially decrease the risk of birth defects that can impact the brain. These concerns have been raised in newspapers lie The Guardian and the Nursing Times.
A study concerned with the uncertainty towards their pregnancy and potential risk to it that become apparent in antenatal screening has just been published on Early View of Symbolic Interaction where I am book review editor. Alison Pilnick and Olga Zayt’s article explores the interaction between participants during antenatal screenings. In their analysis they focus on the ways in which this uncertainty is used to manage the institutionally defined category of ‘high risk’.
There is an interesting piece by the Nobel Prize Winner (2000) Eric R. Kandel in the New York Times.Titled “What the Brain Can Tell US About Art” Kandel’s piece contributes to discussions about art that have been going on for at least a decade now in the ‘science of the brain’. I remember vividly coming across Ramachandran and Hirstein’s article “The Science of Art” that pursues a similar argument as Kandel’s essay: by studying processes in the brain we can learn something about art itself. Kandel discusses some aspects of the emergence of this idea by briefly discussing the concept of the “beholder’s involvement” or “beholder’s share” as developed by Alois Riegl of the Vienna School of Art History, the teacher of Ernst Kris and Ernst Gombrich.
As part of the argument Kandel suggests that the brain completes incomplete information s/he has received from the outer world. Interpretation of art therefore is a cognitive process through which the ‘beholder’ “recapitulates in his or her own brain the artist’s creative steps”. Furthermore, he argues that because our brains develop in much the same ways we are able to “see the world in pretty much the same way”. He thereby lodges intersubjectivity within individual brains and presumes that intersubjectivity is a result of processes in the brain. Whilst he acknowledges that individual differences between people exist due to their individual life experience (“memories”) he ignores the situation in which people encounter works of art or other objects and how the specifics of that situation influences how people make sense of the pieces.
One situation in which people often encounter works of art are exhibitions in museums and galleries. When they examine a piece they are often with friends or acquaintances and in the presence of other people who spend time in the same gallery at the same time. The actions of all these people are perceiveable by all those in range and influence how they explore the galleries, what they look and for long and how they see and make sense of it. In museums, the individual spectator or ‘beholder’ is a myth that we rarely meet. For example, people stop at and examine works of art together. They stand with a companion side-by-side and sometimes, ‘independently’, at least for a short while, look to the piece. As their eyes cross the canvas, for instance of a famous Rembrandt portrait, something like Kandel’s version of interpretation might happen. But often already after two or three seconds one of them will refer to and comment on a particular exhibit feature that then for a short moment becomes the focus of the interaction between the pair. They briefly talk about the feature and then either return to an ‘independent’ inspection of the piece or leave the exhibit to continue with their exploration of the museum elsewhere.
The short moment when the two people align their perspectives to look a particular exhibit feature together and discuss it is when something is produced, momentarily, that we might call intersubjectivity. It is not lodged inside the people’s brains but the product of their oral and bodily actions. A moment later when the action stops the intersubjective sense making of the piece dissolves and the people continue their visit of the museum.
When calling the examination of the piece prior to the interactional engagment ‘independent’ I did not presume that the actions at the exhibit-face were arising separate from each other. Rather while the eyes cross the canvas of the painting the visitors are aware of each other and attend to even slight changes in posture and head direction as well as even to slight movements of the legs and feet that may display or foreshadow a shift in activity. ‘Independent’ and ‘individual’ therefore are not appropriate terms to describe even those moments when people stand and look at exhibits while standing side-by-side without talking.
Essays like Kandel’s or Ramachandran and Hirstein’s article reflect how we think about looking at and interpreting art. “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” has become a folk description of aesthitic judgments. Interestingly however the statement is often used to account for differences in aesthetic judgment and not to display intersubjective agreement about aesthetics. Kandel’s point also resonates with us as readers who sit there individually ‘interpreting’ a text that in this moment is not available to others. I read the piece in an armchair while nobody else was around in the house. Imagine the article printed on a large poster or series of posters and being read by people in pairs. Maybe like those visitors facing Rembrandt’s portrait they would stop half-way through, discuss and maybe disagree about Kandel’s claim that intersubjectivity arises in our brains.
Essays and books like Kandel’s (2012) “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconsciousness in Art, Mind and Brain, From Vienna 1900 to the Present” are fascinating reads. However, I wonder when the time will come that this kind of brain science will leave the laboratory and be made relevant where ‘the rubber hits the road’ or where people with brains, bodies and the ability to communicate and interact face works of art.