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.