On conversation

Conversation is my main object of study.

As Emanuel Schegloff famously put it, talk in interaction is the primordial site of human sociality.  It is through talking to others that children are socialized into a language, the most fundamental aspects of culture spread, and the social institutions that organize life as we know it emerge and reproduce.  I study conversation, then, first and foremost, as the natural hub that enables human conduct and propels three interrelated social processes that I find particularly interesting: interpersonal communication, social/market exchange, and relationship formation.

To understand the practices and structures that undergird these processes in and through spontaneous talk-in-interaction, I use the methodology of conversation analysis (CA).  Depending on the project at hand, I combine CA with other research methods.  One important line of my CA work aims at advancing conversation-analytical research in Spanish and promoting the field of conversation analysis in Spanish-speaking academia.  You can know more about this at AC en español.

But conversations do more than enable sociality.  Because they are habitually (re)constructed as episodical social occasions, conversations may enter new interactions as cultural artifacts that shape what we think and do.  Calling them cultural artifacts is definitely not a stretch.  Although we have always brought past conversations to bear on our new interactions through various forms of quotation and story-telling—just think of gossip—, the dramatic effect that the things once said (or typed) have on everyday life is more apparent nowadays.  My research on scandals focuses on this.