Posts by saul

For CogSci we wrote a paper that compared using conversation analysis in an experimental study to the questionable research practice of hypothesizing after the results are known (HARK)ing.

The point was to point out that CA’s rigorous inductive approach can provide similar benefits, with none of the harms – if done at the right point in the research cycle. Here’s a copy of the CogSci paper. Once the paper was accepted, we prepared a much more persuasive and constructive presentation to try to get people interested in this application of CA. Here’s the bibliography for that presentation – which we’ll upload here after the event.


Bjelic, D., and Lynch, M. (1992). The Work of a (Scientific) Demonstration: Respecifying Newton’s and Goethe’s Theories of Prismatic Color. In Watson, G. and Seiler, R.Text in Context: Contributions to Ethnomethodology, 52–78. Sage Publications Newbury Park, CA.

De Ruiter, J. P. (2013). Methodological paradigms in interaction research. In Alignment in Communication: Towards a New Theory of Communication, in Wachsmuth, I, De Ruiter, J. P. Jaecks, P, and Kopp, S (Eds.), John Benjamins Publishing Company.

De Ruiter, J. P., and Albert, S. (2017). An Appeal for a Methodological Fusion of Conversation Analysis and Experimental Psychology. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 50(1), 90-107.

Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Halll.

Glaser, G., and Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Hepburn, A, and Bolden, B. (2012). The Conversation Analytic Approach to Transcription. In Sidnell, J and Stivers, T (Eds.) The Handbook of Conversation Analysis,, 57–76. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.

Harris, J., Theobald, M., Danby, S., Reynolds, E., and Rintel, S. (2012). What’s going on here? The pedagogy of a data analysis session. In Lee, A., and Danby, S. (Eds.) Reshaping Doctoral Education: International Approaches and Pedagogies, 83–96. London: Routledge.

Potter, J. (2002). Two Kinds of Natural. Discourse Studies 4(4), 539–42.

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E., and Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language 50(4), 696–735.

Sormani, P. (2014). Respecifying lab ethnography: an ethnomethodological study of experimental physics. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Stivers, T. (2015). Coding Social Interaction: A Heretical Approach in Conversation Analysis? Research on Language and Social Interaction 48 (1). 1–19.

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Mick Smith and I wrote this paper for for IIEMCA. I’ll upload the full video of the talk once it’s done. Here are the references for now as they won’t fit on a slide.

We focus on some practices people use to formulate a setting as available for use in interaction: as resources that recipients may optionally ratify and accomplish as resources in and through social action. Co-participants can formulate objects that they may then re-use, expand and re-transform in subsequent talk. We explore this process by analyzing the work of senior and novice field geologists conducting fieldwork while walking through a wilderness  setting. We show how participants use noticings as methods to develop and share candidate understandings of the world around them: as analyzable, knowable, and actionable phenomena. We trace the procedures through which participants produce copresent occasioned noticings that combine their engagement with each other and with their co-present setting into mutually accountable joint activities. We argue that for a noticeable to become useful as an actionable resource, co-participants must first analyze its relevance to whatever activity is currently underway. This members’ analysis provides a key resource for participants and analysts alike by revealing how ‘what-we’re-doing now’ is embedded within larger activities and projects, allowing what might otherwise remain incohate and unnoticed to become an inferentially rich resource for participants in the conduct of situated activities.

  • Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth. 2010. “Commentary on Stivers and Rossano: Mobilizing Response.” Research on Language & Social Interaction 43 (1). Informa UK Limited: 32–37. doi:10.1080/08351810903471316.
  • Goffman, Erving. 1978. “Response Cries.” Language 54 (4): 787–815.
  • Goodwin, Charles, and Marjorie Harness Goodwin. 2012. “Car Talk: Integrating Texts, Bodies, and Changing Landscapes.” Semiotica 191 (1/4): 257–86. doi:10.1515/sem-2012-0063.
  • Halkowski, T. 2006. “Realizing the Illness: Patients’ Narratives of Symptom Discovery.” In Communication in Medical Care Interaction between Primary Care Physicians and Patients, edited by John Heritage and Douglas W. Maynard. Vol. 20. Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511607172.006.
  • Hoey, Elliott M. 2015. “Lapses: How People Arrive at and Deal With, Discontinuities in Talk.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 48 (4). Informa UK Limited: 430–53. doi:10.1080/08351813.2015.1090116.
  • Keisanen, Tiina. 2012. “Uh-Oh, We Were Going There: Environmentally Occasioned Noticings of Trouble in in-Car Interaction.” Semiotica 191 (1/4): 197–222. doi:10.1515/sem-2012-0061.
  • Kääntä, L., 2014. “From noticing to initiating correction: Students’ epistemic displays in instructional interaction.” Journal of Pragmatics, 66: 86-105 doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2014.02.010
  • Koschmann, Timothy, and Alan Zemel. 2009. “Optical Pulsars and Black Arrows: Discoveries as Occasioned Productions.” Journal of the Learning Sciences 18 (2). Informa UK Limited: 200–246. doi:10.1080/10508400902797966.
  • Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2007. Sequence Organization in Interaction: Volume 1: A Primer in Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2010. “Commentary on Stivers and Rossano: Mobilizing Response.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 43 (1): 38–48. doi:10.1080/08351810903471282.
  • Sidnell, Jack. 2012. “Declaratives Questioning, Defeasibility.” Research on Language & Social Interaction 45 (1). Informa UK Limited: 53–60. doi:10.1080/08351813.2012.646686.
  • Stivers, Tanya, and Federico Rossano. 2010. “Mobilizing Response.” Research on Language & Social Interaction 43 (1): 3–31. doi:10.1080/08351810903471258.
  • Stivers, Tanya. 2015. “Coding Social Interaction: A Heretical Approach in Conversation Analysis?.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 48 (1). Informa UK Limited: 1–19. doi:10.1080/08351813.2015.993837.
  • Sacks, Harvey. 1995. Lectures on Conversation. Edited by Gail Jefferson. Vol. I. London: Wiley-Blackwell.
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I’m really enjoying working on this paper for the 7th Joint Action Meeting in London with one of my academic heroes Dirk vom Lehn at King’s. I’ll post it here after the event.

Expert dancers can move together in seamless flows of joint action. They initiate and complete sequences of movement, and anticipate and counterbalance the momentum of one another’s bodies in ways that can appear both effortlessly coordinated and spontaneously responsive to changes in the music and their local environment.

While this close coordination is a compelling spectacle, it is designed to be difficult to analyze: audiences are not meant to see how it is done, so analysts of joint action have tended to focus on rehearsals or classes that involve teaching and learning to dance together. However, most studies have focused on advanced students (Keevalik & Broth, 2014) or professional dance rehearsals (Muntanyola-Saura, 2015) and the teaching and learning practices they develop for achieving complex choreographies. This talk explores the coordination of the first few moments of initial steps learned by novices at the start of an introductory partner dance workshop. Using qualitative video analysis and by studying the procedural structure of interaction during the workshop, we show how novice dancers’ joint actions are coordinated using mundane conversational practices and rhythmical entrainments, suggesting a similarly interactional basis for expert dance coordination.


Broth, M. & Keevallik, L., (2014), Getting Ready to Move as a Couple: Accomplishing Mobile Formations in a Dance Class Space and Culture, 2014, 17, 107-121
Muntanyola-Saura, D., (2015), Partnering in dance rehearsals. The place of listening and rhythm Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa, Società editrice il Mulino, 8, 429-45


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In 2015 I wrote a quick introduction to CA for people who study the psychology of interaction and discourse (still in press). I’ve used that as the basis of this longish post for people who need some starting points in #EM/CA. Also check the EMCA wiki for new references (there are more all the time – it’s a flourishing field).

Conversation Analysis (CA) is an interdisciplinary, inductive approach to studying talk and interaction ‘in the wild’ and in situations where the formal parameters, theories and models for interaction are unknown, premature, or where theories are currently undergoing revision. 

Conversation Analysis (CA) is a method of gathering data involving naturalistic conversational interaction, analysing it systematically, and reporting on features of its structural organisation. CA is distinctive because it is not only a method for analysis, it also constitutes an active sub-discipline within many research areas that involve the empirical study of human interaction. CA has its own standards of evidence, some unusual collaborative research practices, and a rich literature spanning sociology, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and communications. The outline of CA provided here should be used as a guide to contextualise the kinds of claims, arguments, and evidence readers may encounter in the CA literature. Because CA has not developed from a ‘home discipline’ as such, it is widely dispersed and consequently likely that any researcher interested in spoken discourse will find a wealth of CA research within their area of specialism. The intention here is to encourage researchers to draw on core CA findings in their work, to find the CA research and researchers in their own field, and to learn to work with interaction data using these methods

So what is CA useful for? What kinds of questions can one ask with it? And what kinds of answers can be gleaned at different points in the research cycle? CA is especially useful for empirical research on interaction in naturalistic settings where established theories may be lacking or under revision. This is because CA looks for detailed qualitative evidence of how participants work to organise their interactions sequentially in each specific situation. CA relies on a recorded event, utterance or gesture as analytic evidence only when the participants demonstrably use that event to organise their subsequent actions. On the one hand, this forces analysts to limit the generality of the questions they can ask and the claims they can make. For example, studies of interaction in doctor’s offices, courtrooms, or at dinner parties tend to ask questions about how a specific action or utterance is produced in a particular social situation by specific participants. On the other hand, CA’s evidential constraints have led to a methodologically coherent field. By focusing analysis on the methods and events demonstrably used by participants to make sense of their own interactions, CA studies tend to be readily comparable with one another. Although individual studies are situationally specific, analysts can develop and test general findings cumulatively working in diverse settings and fields. Over the last 40 years the most robust and broadly tested finding on which much latter CA research has been based is the turn-taking system described by Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974). Without the extended discussion these warrant, the rules of the turn-taking system can be summarised briefly to explain what kind of answers CA can offer.

  1. For any turn at talk, at the first possible completion,
    1. current speaker may select next,
    2. next speaker may self-select,
    3. current speaker may continue.
  2. If 1c occurs, the rules are re-applied at the next possible completion.

This describes the normative patterns observed in natural conversational turn-taking across contexts in the first decade of CA research. As a finding it provides a framework for further exploratory work in CA, and a strong empirical basis for theory formation for experimentation. As a research outcome, this exemplifies how CA can produce detailed, systematic descriptions from cumulative observations.

Alongside these longer-term results, the CA research cycle involves structured observation throughout the process of data gathering, presentation, and collaborative analysis of data within the scope of a single study. Current best practice for CA data gathering involves video of an interactional situation from multiple angles where all participants’ gaze direction, gestures, body orientation, and talk are – ideally – available for analysis. Within relevant practical, social, and ethical constraints, it is useful to record whatever participants evidently pay attention to within the setting including objects, tools, documents, computer, phone, and screen captures. Interaction mediated via text, audio, and video also constitutes viable data, however for a sequential analysis, participants and CA researchers should be able to access the same evidential and temporal contingencies and constraints. For example, phone calls provide ideal data for CA studies because participants and researchers alike can analyse the same audio events in the same order. Because a CA study may focus on very intricate details, a few seconds of a recording can yield data for a ‘single case analysis’, contributing to or questioning cumulative findings. Researchers also re-analyse data from previous studies, use examples from audiovisual corpora and data fragments from the CA literature, often as a foil for discussion.

Transcription is central to CA research as it involves repeatedly reviewing the data to build up an initial description that can be checked by others from an early stage. Variations on Gail Jefferson’s transcription conventions1 provide a level of detail that can be adjusted for the specific phenomena in question. Verbal interaction is typed out turn-by-turn, then symbols are added and arranged spatially to indicate temporal and production features of talk. For example, extract 1 depicts Paul and Anne’s talk as their teacher sings a count of eight during a partner dance class. Links to online data are also provided where possible.

Extract 1 CADANCE: eg1

 1  Paul:  N↑o⌈t b̲a̲::d, >°°not ba:d.°°<⌉

 2  Anne:     ⌊ It's like be⌈ing GENuin⌋ely >able °to do it?°<⌉

 3  Tchr:                   ⌊        F    I    v    e         ⌋, (.)

 4         s⌈ix? ( . ) ⌉ ↓five

 5  Paul:   ⌊Ye̲::⌈p.   ⌋

 6  Anne:        ⌊∙hh ⌈aHhh ∙Hhh

 7  Tchr:             ⌊six se::ven eight?


Reading while listening to the audio should show how Jefferson’s conventions are roughly intuitive : left and right braces show points of overlap, carats show talk speeding up, while colons indicate sound stretches. Because these conventions compromise between precision, detail, and readability there are also some inevitable ambiguities, for example punctuation indicates intonation rather than grammar, and turn-initial capitals mark transcriber hearings of turn-beginnings, but elsewhere they indicate loud talk. The purpose, however, is not analysis of the transcript. Rather transcripts provide a useful sketch to aid in more formal description, and a convenient way for analysts to refer to specific moments of the original video in a data session presentation.

In a data session, a researcher presents new data and transcripts for repeated viewings and extended analytical discussion amongst a small group of colleagues. Since CA relies on the linguistic and interactional aptitude of the analyst as an heuristic instrument, regular data sessions provide an essential opportunity to revise transcripts and candidate analyses amongst peers. Details of the present data are discussed in relation to cumulative findings, and the implications of or alternatives to each analysis are proposed and challenged. Ideally, data sessions are both pedagogical and deliberative, where experienced and student analysts refine their observations and descriptions by picking out specific fragments of data, and contextualise findings within the literature. Over time, researchers build ‘collections’ of data fragments such as extract 1: part of a collection of ‘countings’, where people count up or down to coordinate joint actions. A rough collection is a starting point for identifying a distinct social practice as a specifiable analytic phenomenon. Analysis then refines a collection in terms of how participants orient to the sequential organisation of an action, and to its lexical, grammatical, and/or embodied structural features of composition and design (Schegloff 1993, 121). For example, before the video clip of extract 1 starts, Paul and Anne have been evaluating their previous attempt at a dance move. The teacher’s count starts with a loud, stretched “”, a short pause then a rising “”, before both pitch and count re-sets to five and moves back up to a final, rising “”. At the onset of the count, Paul’s turns his head to the teachers and back to Anne, hushing his second “”. Anne also speeds up and softens her talk, turning her head towards the teachers then back to Paul as the count reaches its first “”. Paul’s minimal “” receipts Anne’s assessment just as he briefly turns his head away from her again. Her laugh closes the sequence, and they re-establish mutual gaze as the count enters its final phase.

Forgoing more detailed description on the one hand, and the broader sequential context on the other, this fragment provides a simple example of how such data can be presented. The embodied turn (Nevile 2015) in the CA literature has led researchers to add more detail to transcripts of talk, using illustrations (Laurier 2014) to describe gesture and gaze direction as well as diagrammatic representations of, for example pitch tracks and phonological details. Figure illustrates the temporal structure of talk and patterns of other-directed mutual gaze just before Paul and Anne start dancing.

Figure 1: Paul and Anne's pattern of gaze orientation in extract 1

Figure 1: Paul and Anne’s pattern of gaze orientation in extract 1

In terms of cumulative CA findings, these details could be analysed alongside generalised CA work on how assessments implicate sequence closure in everyday conversation, and how patterns of mutual gaze work towards topic, focus, and activity shifts (Heath 1986, 128–48; Mondada 2006; Rossano 2012, 227–308). In a more applied project, the way the dancers’ turns at talk and gaze shifts match the phase structure of the teacher’s count could be analysed in relation to ongoing research into how bodily-vocal group activities are organised in dance instruction (Keevallik 2014). This fragment may be added to multiple collections including ’embodied closings’ or ‘countings’ as well as specialised sub-collections such as ‘dance closings’ and ‘count-ins’. CA findings are thus developed incrementally by documenting the detail of people’s interactional practices in specific settings while contributing to a general understanding of ‘everyday talk-in-interaction’. This super-set of copresent interactional practices provides a normative basis for researchers studying specialised settings where institutional or practical constraints may constrain interactional practices (Drew and Heritage 1992) Identifying and fully describing a new phenomenon in these terms may therefore require collection of hundreds of cases, but a single case analysis can still test, discuss, or suggest a finding by demonstrating its use in a specific context.

CA can also be used in mixed-methods research, especially in theory formation, experimental design, and evaluation processes. CA researchers may discover a systematic variation in participants’ situated action, sometimes as simple as an issue of lexical choice. For example, Heritage et al. (2007) observed that doctors vary the ways they ask about patients’ unmet concerns during consultations. Their experiment asked doctors to request whether their patients had “anything else” or “something else” to talk about, and discovered that 78% fewer unmet concerns were reported in the latter condition. In this way CA’s focus on interactional practices in natural settings provides systematic observations that can help design ecologically sound experimental variables and guide the formulation of falsifiable theories (Robinson and Heritage 2014). In conjunction with more conventional social science methods, CA is useful in similar ways when it foregrounds the participants’ interactional uses of the research setting. For example, CA studies of interviewing practices (Potter and Hepburn 2012) contribute to methodological developments that are starting to incorporate the pragmatics of talk and the practicalities of survey technologies into a broader analysis (Conrad, Schober, and Schwarz 2013). Similarly, studies of methods that use introspective self-report (Wooffitt and Holt 2011) or CA’s own practices of video recording (Hazel 2015) are opening up new opportunities to approach theoretical questions across fields as practical, observable issues based on the endogenous organisation of situated activities. CA’s early focus on everyday talk has both influenced and drawn on the interactional respecification of core questions in linguistics and pragmatics (Ochs, Schegloff, and Thompson 1996; Levinson 1983), and psychology (Edwards and Potter 2001; Tileagă and Stokoe 2015), along with a broader shift in the social sciences towards posing empirical questions in terms of practical action (Button 1991; Lynch 1997). To use CA within a broader scientific context, however, it is necessary to clarify how its findings are descriptive of normative structures in talk rather than predictive or prescriptive, and may be combined with other methods in order to develop and test formal hypotheses (Lynch 2000, 522).

This limited introduction is intended to provide only the most basic starting points for researchers wishing to explore CA and get a foothold in its literature. There are now many excellent primers available (Schegloff 2007a; Ten Have, 2007; Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008Heath, Hindmarsh, and Luff 2010Sidnell 2011Clift, 2016) as well as a more comprehensive handbook (Sidnell & Stivers, 2012) for those who would like to explore CA’s contemporary issues and research questions further.


Atkinson, J.M., and John Heritage. 1984. Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis. Edited by J. Maxwell Atkinson and John Heritage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Button, Graham. 1991. “Introduction: Ethnomethodology and the Foundational Respecification of the Human Sciences.” In Ethnomethodology and the Human Sciences, edited by Graham Button, 1–9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511611827.002.

Clift, Rebecca. 2016. Conversation Analysis: 1st ed. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Conrad, Frederick G., Michael F. Schober, and Norbert Schwarz. 2013. “Pragmatic Processes in Survey Interviewing.” Oxford Handbooks Online, December. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199838639.013.005.

Drew, Paul, and John Heritage. 1992. Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Edwards, Derek, and Jonathan Potter. 2001. “Discursive Social Psychology.” In The New Handbook of Language and Social Psychology, edited by P Robinson and H Giles, 103–18. London: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Have, P Ten. 2007. Doing conversation analysis: A Practical Guide. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications.


Hazel, S. 2015. “The Paradox from Within: Research Participants Doing-Being-Observed.” Qualitative Research, September. SAGE Publications. doi:10.1177/1468794115596216.

Heath, Christian. 1986. Body Movement and Speech in Medical Interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (CUP). doi:10.1017/cbo9780511628221.

Heath, Christian, Jon Hindmarsh, and Paul Luff. 2010. Video in Qualitative Research Analysing Social Interaction in Everyday Life. Introducing Qualitative Methods. London: Sage Publications.


Heritage, John, Jeffrey D. Robinson, Marc N Elliott, Megan Beckett, and Michael Wilkes. 2007. “Reducing patients’ unmet concerns in primary care: the difference one word can make.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 22 (10): 1429–33. doi:10.1007/s11606-007-0279-0.

Hutchby, Ian, and Robin Wooffitt. 2008. Conversation Analysis. 2nd Edition. Chichester, U.K.: Polity Press.


Keevallik, Leelo. 2014. “Turn Organization and Bodily-Vocal Demonstrations.” Journal of Pragmatics 65. Elsevier: 103–20. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2014.01.008.

Laurier, Eric. 2014. “The graphic transcript: Poaching comic book grammar for inscribing the visual, spatial and temporal aspects of action.” Geography Compass 8 (4): 235–48. doi:10.1111/gec3.12123.

Levinson, Stephen C. 1983. Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lynch, Michael. 1997. Scientific practice and ordinary action: Ethnomethodology and social studies of science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2000. “The ethnomethodological foundations of conversation analysis.” Text – Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse 20 (4): 517–32. doi:10.1515/text.1.2000.20.4.517.

Mondada, Lorenza. 2006. “Participants’ Online Analysis and Multimodal Practices: Projecting the End of the Turn and the Closing of the Sequence.” Discourse Studies 8 (1). SAGE Publications: 117–29. doi:10.1177/1461445606059561.

Nevile, Maurice. 2015. “The Embodied Turn in Research on Language and Social Interaction.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 48 (2): 121–51. doi:10.1080/08351813.2015.1025499.

Ochs, E, Emanuel A Schegloff, and Sandra A Thompson. 1996. Interaction and grammar. Edited by Elinor Ochs, Emanuel A Schegloff, and Sandra A Thompson. 13. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Potter, Jonathan, and Alexa Hepburn. 2012. “Eight Challenges for Interview Researchers.” In The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft, edited by Jaber F. Gubrium, James A. Holstein, Amir B. Marvasti, and Karyn D. McKinney, 1st ed., 555–71. SAGE Publications, Inc. doi:10.4135/9781452218403.

Robinson, Jeffrey D., and John Heritage. 2014. “Intervening With Conversation Analysis: The Case of Medicine.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 47 (3): 201–18.

Rossano, Federico. 2012. “Gaze behavior in face-to-face interaction.” PhD thesis, Radboud Universitet Nijmegen.

Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson. 1974. “A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation.” Language 50 (4): 696–735. doi:10.2307/412243.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 1993. “Reflections on Quantification in the Study of Conversation.” Research on Language & Social Interaction 26 (1): 99–128. doi:10.1207/s15327973rlsi2601_5.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2007. Sequence organization in interaction: Volume 1: A primer in conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sidnell, Jack. 2010. Conversation Analysis: An Introduction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sidnell, Jack., and Stivers, Tanya. (Eds). 2012. The Handbook of Conversation Analysis. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Tileagă, Cristian, and Elizabeth Stokoe. 2015. Discursive Psychology: Classic and Contemporary Issues. London: Routledge.

Wooffitt, Robin, and Nicola Holt. 2011. Looking In and Speaking Out. Exeter: Imprint Academic.


1See the basic transcription conventions on Prof. Charles Antaki’s CA tutorial website: or the comprehensive account in Atkinson & Heritage (1984, ix–xvi).


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If we want to evaluate aesthetic experiences beyond forms of value we already expect to find, we should look at what people actually do when they experience and discuss art together.

I gave this talk at the 2017 CAA annual conference in Sarah Cook and Charlotte Frost‘s ‘Accelerated art history: tools and techniques for a fast-changing art world’ session. The talk focused on the kinds of things that people say when they’re discussing art, and what we can learn from observing those conversations in order to choose and calibrate our methods of arts evaluation. The main point is that given the basic philosophical problems of using objective measures to evaluate ostensibly subjective experiences, we should use empirical methods such as conversation analysis which are designed for studying interaction and participation to guide the tools and approaches we take to evaluating specific aesthetic experiences and situations.



  1. Stefan and Katherine: Audio / Transcript.
  2. Mark and Stuart: Audio / Transcript.
  3. Lee and Dominic: Audio / Transcript.


BNC Consortium (2007) The British National Corpus, version 3 (BNC XML Edition).

Coleman, J.; Baghai-Ravary, L.; Pybus, J. & Grau, S. (2012), Audio BNC: the audio edition of the Spoken British National Corpus Phonetics Laboratory, University of Oxford.

Crossick, G. & Kaszynska, P. (2016), Understanding the value of arts & culture
The AHRC Cultural Value Project, The AHRC Cultural Value Project. Retrieved from:

Hoggart, R. (1957) The Uses of Literacy New Statesman, Transaction Publishers. London, UK.

Pomerantz, A. (1984) in Atkinson, J. M. & Heritage, J. (Eds.) Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes, Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis, Cambridge University Press, 57-102

Stivers, T. (2008),  Stance, alignment and affiliation during storytelling: when nodding is a token of affiliation Research on Language and Social Interaction, 41, 31-57


Theorists struggle to describe, analyze, and document event-based artwork because its relevance and value seems inextricable from the many varied experiences that involve and therefore constitute the work.

Cultural studies tackles this problem by exploring the social uses of cultural literacy: how artworks may be constituted by a community of use or propagated as mass culture. Critical sociologists of art have shifted focus from the hagiography of artists and cultural canons to diffuse cultural production, distribution, and evaluation processes within specific groups and subcultures. But then which of the situations where cultural works are used and experienced is most relevant? Today, a 90s piece may be viewed on a seat-back monitor in-flight, and early performance, ready-made, or conceptual artworks are often experienced via photographs, retellings in conversation, or as written into art histories. One solution is to treat all social uses of artworks as event-based and therefore analyzable. Recordings of everyday social settings where people engage with artworks in mundane and practical ways can reveal an artwork’s relevance and value in that specific situation. In this talk I plan to demonstrate three critical methodological approaches using three analytic vignettes: two young men shoot and narrate a YouTube video of a performance artwork; two builders discuss Jackson Pollock while plastering a wall; a gallerist and their client flip through an auction catalog. These micro-sociological events reveal the interactional uses of cultural literacy: how people themselves deal with an artwork’s many possible uses and can inform how we should best describe, analyze, and document event-based artwork.

Albert, S. (2017, February). Art as occasion: three critical methods for analyzing aesthetic experience. Paper presented at The College Art Association Annual Conference, New York.


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Here’s a recording and screencast of a recent talk:

Albert, S. & Healey, P. G. T. (2016, December). Are conversational assessment sequences evaluative?. Paper presented at the 10th annual Conversation Analysis Day, Loughborough.

And here’s a version of the data handout with links to all the audio data for review.


Assessment sequences where someone ostensibly expresses likes or dislikes are core CA phenomena, but do they actually constitute evaluative actions? Analyses of the preference organisation of agreements and disagreements with assessments inform CA studies of how participants index respective rights to do evaluations. However, the evaluative action is usually attributed to the use of prospective adjacent pairs of conventional ‘assessing terms’: a somewhat circular definition. This talk focuses on gallery visitors’ copresent assessments and structurally related sequences from a large corpus of everyday talk to show how such assessments are organised as reflexively accountable and only retroactively evaluative actions. Assessments, noticings, and other retro-sequential structures are therefore especially useful for doing (and analysing) ‘defeasible’ actions where participants work to remain equivocal about their current activities, participation roles, and interactional foci. CA studies of action formation and ascription have noted the difficulties of coding such actions into clear ‘types’. This presentation shows how participants themselves produce this obscurity as an interactional resource.


NB: Tino Sehgal requested that I did not reproduce any photos or video stills that I took from the piece. I therefore used an image of the Tate Modern Turbine Hall (in slide 10) by  Groume. (2012, August). “Des gens qui regardent des gens.”; Online, accessed 15th September 2015. Retrieved from (licence: CC-BY)


Albert, S., Ruiter, J. de, & Ruiter, L. de. (2015). The cabnc. Online. Retrieved from

Auer, P. (1984). Referential problems in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 8(5), 627–648. doi:10.1016/0378-2166(84)90003-1

De Stefani, E. (2014). Establishing joint orientation towards commercial objects in a self-service store: How practices of categorisation matter. In M. Nevile, P. Haddington, T. Heinemann, & M. Rauniomaa (Eds.), Interacting with objects: Language, materiality, and social activity (pp. 271–294). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in public: Microstudies of the public order. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Goodwin, C. (1996). Transparent vision. In E. A. Schegloff & S. A. Thompson (Eds.), Interaction and grammar (pp. 370–404). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. H. (1992). Assessments and the construction of context. In C. Goodwin & A. Duranti (Eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon (Vol. 11, pp. 147–189). Cambridge: Cambridge University Pressess.

Goodwin, M. H. (1980). Processes of mutual monitoring implicated in the production of description sequences. Sociological Inquiry, 50(3-4), 303–317. doi:10.1111/j.1475-682X.1980.tb00024.x

Heritage, J. (2005). Conversation analysis and institutional talk. Handbook of Language and Social ….

Heritage, J. (2012). The Epistemic Engine: Sequence Organization and Territories of Knowledge. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 45(1), 30–52. doi:10.1080/08351813.2012.646685

Hindmarsh, J., Reynolds, P., & Dunne, S. (2011). Exhibiting understanding: The body in apprenticeship. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(2), 489–503. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2009.09.008

Jefferson, G. (1978). Sequential aspects of storytelling in conversation. In J. Schenkein (Ed.), Studies in the organization of conversational interaction (pp. 219–248). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Keel, S. (2015). Young childrens embodied pursuits of a response to their initial assessments. Journal of Pragmatics, 75, 1–24. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2014.10.005

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Mondada, L. (2012, \#jun\#). Multimodal organization of  the sequence: Embodied practices fori introducing new referents. ICAR-ALAN-HPSL  Summer  school.

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Ogden, R. (2006). Phonetics and social action in agreements and disagreements. Journal of Pragmatics, 38(10), 1752–1775. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2005.04.011

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Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57–102). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Academic reading should feel like having a great discussion amongst colleagues. But your reading habits may be making it feel more like listening to a long, uninterrupted series of lectures. This post introduces some techniques (and links to some tools and technologies) that might help make your literature reviewing feel more convivial. 

Talkaoke: Studio Session 58

A literature review process can sometimes feel like a long slog through endless academic monologuing. By the time it comes to your turn to respond (in writing) it’s often really hard to remember all the moments where, if you’d been talking to the authors, you would have nodded to show that you’d taken note, or butted in to ask a question, launch a criticism, or where you had a new idea based on an insight and felt the thrill of chasing down an idea together. Experiencing these moments are the reason we actually read academic papers: as an extension of academic discussion. However, it can be hard to remember this as you sit, pen in hand, taking notes on all the thousands of papers that may cross your desk as you read your way into some branch of the literature for a PhD or research project.

Over the course of my PhD, I developed the following set of approaches for making time to read in any situation – from sitting in the bath to talking a walk – and for making ‘actionable’ notes – based on the impulses I would have felt, at any particular moment in the text, had I been talking to the authors in person. I made sure I could access these notes conveniently later on, and in many cases, I used them as a starting point for following up next time I actually interacted with that person. These habits began to turn my academic reading into what still feels like a really useful, ongoing conversation.

These are the methods that work for me, and some specific software/hardware tools (which I link to, but won’t go into individual detail). You will probably want to adapt these for your own tools/workflows. The main point is to establish a consistent routine that you enjoy, and that can help your reading feel more like a good conversation.

1. Treat your reading list as if you’re inviting the authors over for a discussion

If you were inviting people to have a discussion, you’d be really organized about it. You’d keep track of who you’d invited, and you’d know how many people were invited and why. Also, you’d probably invite people who you suspected would have interesting things to say to each other. Take this approach with your reading list.

Here’s how I keep my ‘invitations’ organized, and make sure they’re kept up to date.

I have three ‘literature’ folders (which I keep in my Dropbox): ‘readme’, ‘papers_to_check‘ and ‘literature_repository‘.

  • ‘readme’ contains copies of a group of papers from my ‘literature_repository’ I want to read or re-read relating to some topic or (in sub-folders) a set of topics.
  • ‘papers_to_check’ is for new papers I’ve downloaded. They need to be named and given bibliographical information before I invite them into my ‘readme’ folder.
  • ‘literature_repository’ contains all my PDF papers and books, each of which has complete bibliographical reference info and (if I’ve read it) annotated notes.

Every week I add three recurring items on my todo list:

  1. process papers_to_check: look up bibliographical references, rename the PDF files (AuthornameYYYY-title.pdf), place them in the literature_repository folder.
  2. cue up new papers into readme: ‘invite’ anything that looks immediately relevant (or older things I might need to re-read) into the ‘readme’ folder.
  3. update the literature_repository: move read papers from readme back into the literature_repository folder. This bit is like cleaning up after the guests leave.

This procedure means I’m less likely to lose my notes, that I’m methodical about adding bibliographical information, and that I always have something relevant to read.

2. Use different tools and approaches for different kinds of reading

Read like you interact: in different ways depending on the context – from highly intensive and productive work-meetings to chatting with a jogging-buddy.

I notice myself doing three kinds of reading: reading while writing, dedicated reading, and casual reading on the move. I use different tools for different situations.

  • While writing, which is typically when I’m most focused on what I’m reading and how I’m going to use it, I use PDF-XChange viewer (under wine when on Linux) to read and annotate PDFs. It’s proprietary freeware, but I really like this tool. I’m not going to go into how to make PDF annotations in technical detail (I’ll assume you know how to do that). But find a tool that makes standards compliant PDF annotations. Since I’m at my desk, I’ll pull PDFs straight from my literature_repository (unless they’re already cued up in my readme folder), and I’ll make and use my annotations almost immediately.
  • While focusing (sitting down, reading with intent) I use EZpdf reader on a 2013 Nexus 7 android tablet which I bought for $100. I use Dropsync on my tablet to synchronize my readme folder with my Dropbox. I also use Swiftkey to speed up the annotation process using smart auto-completion algorithms that learn my often-used words and phrases. Although presumably most portable operating systems have good PDF annotation tools, I’ve found my setup to be a very good compromise of portability, price and reading comfort. When I add a paper to my readme folder, it gets synchronized with my tablet, when I update annotations on the tablet, they’re synchronized with my readme Dropbox folder. This post isn’t really intended as a technical how-to, but if anyone is interested, I can post a walk-through video of the set-up and usage process of my specific set-up that highlights some of the quirks of working with with EZpdf reader – and the workarounds I’ve found for them. If you’re interested – just ask!
  • While on the move, or while reading casually (maybe a first pass of a paper I’m not sure is really relevant yet), I don’t actually read in a focused way. Instead, I get my tablet to read to me using EZpdf reader’s text-to-speech function and IVONA voices, which really sound remarkably good compared to the default voices included with Apple IOS or Android. While it reads, if I hear something I am interested in, I can make an annotation as it continues reading, then return to that annotation later.  If I eventually decide to read this paper in a more focused way, or while writing, I have an actionable ‘hook’ from my first reading to return to.

What do I mean by ‘actionable’? That’s really the most important point to make about reading and taking useful notes:

3. Use action-oriented labels and project-oriented tags

One of the most important things anyone who facilitates useful meetings (and good communication in general) will tell you is to clarify action points and agendas.

When you take a note on a paper, write what it was you wanted to do when taking the note, and what project it related to. I have several action-oriented labels:

  • todo: The most important label – this reminds me to do something (look up a paper, change something in my manuscript etc.)
  • idea: I’m inspired with a new idea, somehow based on this paper, but it’s my own thing.
  • ref: This is a reference, or contains a reference that I want to use for something.
  • question: or just q: I have a question about this, maybe to ask the author or myself in relation to my data / research.
  • quote: I want to quote this, or it contains a useful quote
  • note: Not a specific use in mind for this, but it’s worth remembering next time I pick up this paper.
  • term: A new term or word I’m not familiar with: I look it up or define it in the annotation.
  • crit: I have a criticism of this bit of the paper.

I also use project-oriented hashtags for each research project/idea I’m currently working on. So if I’m reading a paper and it says something like:

“Something I want to criticize and respond to in my next article on some topic”

I’ll highlight that bit of the text, copy and paste the text itself that into a PDF annotation, and add a few keywords on the top:

quote:  “Something I really disagree with and want to comment on or respond to in my next article on some topic” #sometopic #someothertopic

Or this might spark the idea that I could collect other papers with this same opinion, so I’ll write myself a todo item:

todo:  look up other papers that agree with: “Something I really disagree with and want to comment on or respond to in my next article on some topic” #sometopic

This means when I search for my annotations I can extract all the ones to do with #sometopic or #someothertopic projects, I’ll find this one, and I’ll know I wanted to use this as a quote when writing, and that I should add something to my todo list for when I next go to the library or do a literature search.

I have a somewhat complicated and geeky way to extract and automatically label these action-oriented items using Docear – but you don’t have to use anything like that. The main point here is to remember to take notes as if you’re engaged in a great conversation with peers you enjoy talking to, and keep track of those impulses to take note of, or question, or reference something as you’re reading it.


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Syncthing Logo

One of the major logistical problems facing researchers who use large audiovisual data files featuring recordings of human subjects is how to share it with colleagues simply, securely and inexpensively.

  • By simple, I mean that the a/v file-sharing solution should not need specialized equipment or an expert systems administrator to set it up for you. Most universities and research institutions have in-house research file servers. These may be security audited, up-to-date and well-organized – they may seem unlikely to suddenly lose or delete all your data or randomly restrict access to your colleagues in other institutions. However, in my experience, it’s best to manage your own data and backups!
  • By secure I mean that it should not rely on cloud-hosted storage (which may store and transfer data anywhere in the world), or allow data to be transferred unencrypted between remote systems. This is often a requirement of UK human subjects/ethical approval – so it’s particularly relevant in the case of UK educational institutions, but this is probably also true elsewhere.
  • By inexpensive I mean that it should not cost the end-user an ongoing fee, or meter use per gigabyte stored. Commercially available cloud file-storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive or iCloud are relatively cheap up to ~ 1TB storage, they can get quite expensive beyond that, and if you have multiple projects with multiple researchers in different groups sharing data – the total cost for all researchers can become prohibitive.

There are trade-offs between these three requirements – this blog post outlines how to use Syncthing – which I think is an optimal solution – to solve this issue.

What is Syncthing?

Syncthing is a file synchronization tool – much like Dropbox, but it is peer-to-peer, which means it works like Bittorrent or other file sharing tools that do not require a central server-based system to share files.

A client-server model (left) and a peer-to-peer system (right)

A client-server model (left) and a peer-to-peer system (right).

Why use Syncthing?

Firstly, Syncthing is an open source, peer-to-peer file sharing system, which means it is relatively cheap, simple to set up and secure. It is especially good for sharing very large files and collections of files without having to pay or to trust an intermediary to maintain a centralized file server. You run Syncthing on your computer, the person you want to share files with runs it on theirs, and you can set up folders that will synchronize files automatically when both your computers are turned on and connected to the internet. The data is encrypted in transit, and never sits on someone else’s server. Syncthing only requires each user to have a normal computer or laptop, rather than running on a server with each person using a ‘client’. This is more secure, and probably less complex to set up and maintain.

Secondly, Syncthing is open source, under active development and compatible with all major computing platforms because inevitably people will use Mac OSX and Windows, and sometimes *nix. Syncthing is one of many open source tools relevant for educational contexts, which are not only cheaper for individual researchers and teams, but also tend to stick around for longer.

Finally, Syncthing allows each user to choose how they want to organisze their folder structure. Whereas Dropbox uses a standard ‘dropbox’ folder, and (by default, at least) forces everyone use the same folder structure and folder names for their files, Syncthing allows you to put your data wherever you want on your hard drive, but still choose it as a folder to synchronize with your colleagues. So I may choose to put my video file in a folder on my Linux machine here:


while you might have your videos on your windows machine at


A third colleague may store video on their desktop (tut tut) on their Mac at:

/Users/user/Desktop/video files/video1.m4v

We can all then use Syncthing and choose to synchronize my ‘/video1/video1’ folder with your ‘\project1\videos’ folder and our colleague can synchronize with their desktop ‘video files’ folder – so despite us all having different data naming schema, we can collaborate effectively, share files, and keep our own file systems organized in a flexible and personalized way.

For many years I’ve used Dropbox but I’m always running out of space, then having to weed out awkwardly placed or duplicated files from collaborative projects which may or may not still be used or needed by collaborators. So this feature of Syncthing is a huge selling point for me.

What is Syncthing not so good for?

Syncthing is not particularly good for synchronizing millions of small, regularly updated files. Syncthing monitors which files need syncing by scanning its folders every few seconds to find out what has been updated – this can be a bit processor intensive if you have hundreds of thousands of files to scan through. So, it’s best to use it for projects with a few thousand large (especially video/heavy data) files rather than projects with tens of thousands or millions of files. For the same reason, if you need the files to remain synchronized in (close to) real-time, Syncthing’s folder scanning process will probably take too long.

Syncthing is not great for always-online files. Because it is a peer-to-peer system, Syncthing requires the computers you are keeping in sync to be online at the same time for syncrhonization to take place. Dropbox, by contrast, uses an always-online server, so it doesn’t matter if your multiple computers running Dropbox are online at the same time or not – the server will make sure they all have the most recent version of your Dropbox files. So, if you need something always-online, better to use a server-client system like Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud etc.

Syncthing is not particularly useful on smartphones/tablets. Finally, although Syncthing does have an Android client and an iOS client, these are not officially supported by the same developers who work on syncthing, nor are they going to work if your computer is off-line when you need to grab a file via your mobile syncthing client.

Installing Syncthing

Syncthing has excellent, up-to-date documentation that will guide you through the installation process. However, there are also several helpful videos that will help you install Syncthing on different operating systems. I couldn’t find a video about how to install Syncthing on Mac OSX, so I made one myself.

Installing Syncthing on Mac OSX (with Homebrew):

Installing Syncthing on Windows

Installing Syncthing on Linux

Setting up and using Syncthing to share data

If you want to learn how to set up Syncthing for special purposes, and you want to explore all the options, I recommend reading the documentation, and if you want an in-depth video guide, I recommend the Nerd on the Street guide to setting up Syncthing. However, for a quick-start video, once you’ve installed it, I’ve created a short video that shows you how to use Syncthing to keep a folder in sync between two computers with the simplest set of default options.

I’ve used Mac OSX (el capitain) in this video, because I think it’s actually harder for most OSX users to understand how to fill in the Folder Path options (the location of the folder you want to sync) when setting up Syncthing for the first time. It’s relatively straight-forward to find Folder Paths in Windows and if you’re using Linux, I expect you’ll already know how to do that.


One major issue I’ve seen people having when running Syncthing for the first time is getting Syncthing to run at startup automatically. Although it’s beyond the scope of this article to deal with application startup issues – I’m happy to offer advice with this if you leave questions in the comments after reading the documentation.

Another major issue I had to deal with was cross-platform file-naming issues (especially for Mac OSX users). Basically, different file systems (FAT32, NTFS, exFAT, UFS/+, ext2/3 etc. etc.) allow different kinds of file names. If you are synchronizing folders between different file systems (on external drives, system hard drives, different operating systems etc.) it makes sense to use very conservative conventions.

I recommend the following:

Alternatives to Syncthing

There are many alternatives – some of them look very interesting, but none of them fit all the requirements outlined above as well as Syncthing. I’m open to adding to this list – so if you have a solution that isn’t shown here, please do let me know.

Finally – a very good solution, with minimum fuss or technology is to just copy your files onto small external hard drives and snail-mail them to each other in well-padded mailing boxes. That’s often a simpler (if slower) solution than setting up one of these systems!


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I just ran a 2 hour workshop for the Media and Arts Technology Doctoral Training Centre using a variant of the Spectroscope Facilitation method during which 10 people showed and discussed their researcher / artist / technologist portfolio websites and gave each other structured feedback. After the show & tell session, each of the participants went home with 27 prioritised ‘todo’ advisory notes written by other participants to improve their own websites. However, one of the most useful outcomes – that I’m going to share here – was a set of 10 best-practice tips derived from each participant writing down what they really liked about each other’s sites.

Spectrascope facilitation cards

These are neither comprehensive, nor all compatible with one another – and I certainly could take much of this advice to improve my own website, but anyone thinking of setting up and academic / personal / portfolio site might find these useful. The most important question for anyone to address with their website was to ask who and what is the website for. Is it a CV to convince potential employers in academia, or to appeal to ad agencies, or to attract artistic commissions? Once these central questions were answered, the following tips could be used to improve each site.

  1. Prioritise clarity and coherence.
    • Make a clear statement of who you are and what you do in plain language – right up front.
    • What is the website for? If it’s basically a CV, use the word ‘CV’. If it’s a portfolio, use the word ‘portfolio’. Shape the expectations of the visitor so they know what they’re getting.
    • Add this information to the title/metadata the homepage, so the title bar (and Google’s web crawlers) read e.g. “Name, Job description, Purpose of site”.
    • If you have a lot of projects to show, put a selection of only the best/most targeted to the purpose of the site on the front page.
  2. Foreground your main activity/role.

    • If you have multiple quite different audiences/purposes in mind for your site, consider making multiple sites.
    • However, it can also be useful to show multiple facets of what you do – if one is a minor activity and the other a major activity, combine and show a richer combined picture.
  3. Keep it current.
    • Make sure you can update it easily, reduce friction by choosing technology that you enjoy using.
    • Show what’s upcoming – tell people what you’re doing next.
    • Avoid showing out of date information by e.g. not using temporally-relative wording ‘this year’ etc.
    • Keep your CV rigorously up to date and centralised (i.e. don’t have Linkedin profiles or freelance CVs sitting out of date around the web). A good hack for this is to use a Google Doc that you update regularly – and link to a PDF-downloadable version of it from your website.
  4. Show people where to go.
    • Show as many of your menu items as you can all at once – don’t hide menus behind fancy dropdowns or multiple click-throughs.
    • Optimise for ‘fewer clicks’. Try to make everything on the site only one or maximum two clicks away. The most important things must be one click away and immediately visible on the homepage.
  5. Get a domain name.
    • Buy your own domain name. It costs almost nothing and it mostly looks more professional.
    • It’s also more future-proof, i.e. if you buy and point it to a wordpress site, or a squarespace site, or a cargocollective site, but then change where you host the site, you can take the domain with you. If you relied on – you’re stuck with wordpress.
    • If you can, use short urls e.g. or – this is relatively portable (as above) so you can change which software you use to produce your website without being tied to software-specific page names and urls.
    • It’s good to have your own domain for email (especially if you’re a freelancer – less an issue in academia where people use institutional emails). However, be careful not to use vanity emails like to sign up for core services. Here’s why.
  6. Use a nice photo of yourself doing something.
    • It’s good to show something about yourself – but try to show yourself doing something relevant to the style and purpose of your site.
    • You might want to use a widely identifiable gravatar so that your website is visually identifiable with your social media profiles/comments from around the web.
  7. Use relevant copyright notices.
    • As long as you’ve created your website, whatever you publish is legally yours whether you add a colophon with a ‘©’ symbol or not. The symbol is just there to advise people on how to use your content.
    • If you are an artist with lots of great visual work – which unscrupulous people love to use without permission – say how you want people to use it.
    • If you want people to spread your work and give you credit, use a license such as the CC-BY – or use the CC0 option if you want to put your work in the Public Domain.
  8. Offer alternatives to audiovisual content.
    • A few images work as well as a video, sometimes better.
    • Consider using a simple explanatory animated GIF so people don’t have to download a whole video. 1
    • Always consider people with low bandwidth, small screens, out of date browsers. Responsive designs are easy these days with lots of great templates available for most website/blogging engines or just HTML5 templates.
  9. Enhance your ‘findability’.
    • Add a list of hardware / software / techniques / approaches used for each project. This shows what you can do, and it helps people using Google to find you and what you know about.
    • In general think of your site as a dragnet for people to find you. It’s much better to be found than to go knocking on people’s doors – so think about who do you want to find you.
    • Use analytics – you should know how people see your site, where from, and which pages they visit – it helps you make decisions about how to change and update it.
    • Link to your social media/other platforms from your site and vice versa (linkedin, twitter, github,, researchgate, your institutional sites etc.)
  10. Show people who you are.
    • It’s amazingly important to care about your web presence these days – make it reflect who you are, what you care about and believe, and make it unique. Of course this also means being critical, self-aware and careful not to project those bits of yourself that might undermine the purpose of your site!
    • Sometimes a web 1.0 site at an address like is a good way to show who you are – if you’re an academic in engineering or computer science. Go with that, engineering academics who are looking to hire you will recognise you as one of their own.
    • A really beautiful, unique and intriguing image of your work – or a great video or poem can be a wonderful hook into an art or design-focused site. Intrigue people, then reward them with more eye candy and carefully thought through information.
    • Show your network – link to others, make sure to credit all collaborators and link to them, they’ll appreciate it!

These are somewhat general tips. There was also a lot more technical advice in our email thread about this workshop, as well as some advice on which website services might be useful. Some of those links are included below – but any further explanation as to what to do with them is well beyond the scope of this post!


  • WordPress – either as a hosted service – or self-hosted on your own server. If self-hosted, beware! It can be tricky to maintain and has had lots of security problems in the past.
  • Squarespace – looks easy, but it’s pretty expensive for a simple portfolio/website.

Intermediate/advanced: (thanks to Victor Loux).


Thanks to Toby Harris, Victor Loux, Daniel GabanaJacob HarrisonJulie Freeman, Laurel Pardue, Raphael Kim, and Betül Aksu for presenting their works in progress and giving great feedback.

Update 7/18/2016:

Travis Noakes suggests (see the comments section below), using a unifying visual metaphor that brings together your website, your visual presentations and even the binding of your thesis. Travis’ excellent research blog uses the “+” sign to do this and is well worth checking out as a great example of a researcher’s site that integrates his description of his roles and foci with the site’s navigation and visual communication. He also suggests using Google’s Blogger platform for enhanced google juice and ease of use.



  1. A good tip on this from Victor Loux: If you’re considering using a GIF to show a specific interaction in a project, also consider that GIFs can be several megabytes big if they’re wide, as well as being lower quality (limited to 256 colours and less fluid). The trick I’ve used for my website (the ‘PeDeTe’ project) is to actually use a <video> element that acts like a gif (autoplay, looped, and no sound); for the same video length and same resolution, it reduced a 4.8 Mb (!) GIF to a 395 kb mp4 file. Most modern browsers support it and you can certainly find/make a polyfill for older ones. The only downside is that iOS will refuse to autoplay it, unlike GIFs, so that’s just not a viable option if mobile is really important.

What can audience members’ embodied, rhythmical movements tell us about their experience of a musical dance performance? And what do their responses reveal about the composition, organisation and production of the performance itself?

Saul Albert, Rhythmical coordination of performers and audience in partner dance. Delineating improvised and choreographed interaction, in "Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa" 3/2015, pp. 399-428, doi: 10.3240/81723

Saul Albert, Rhythmical coordination of performers and audience in partner dance. Delineating improvised and choreographed interaction, in “Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa” 3/2015, pp. 399-428, doi: 10.3240/81723

I wrote a paper that focuses on how partner dancers and audience members move together during an improvised social dance performance. The central finding from this paper is a proposal for how we can draw empirical distinctions between improvised and non-improvised (or choreographed) movements.

This important distinction – which if you think about it, is very difficult to describe in theory – can be made in practice by tracking how participants deal with moments where the rhythmical coordination of (in this case) the audience’s clapping, the musical structure and the dancers’ joint movements seems likely to break down.

The paper then proposes a way of developing this form of analysis using a model of temporal patterning derived from biological systems.

FIGURE 2. Visual depiction of the proposed definitional framework, from Ravignani, A., Bowling, D. L., & Fitch, W. T. (2014). Chorusing, synchrony, and the evolutionary functions of rhythm. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1118.

FIGURE 2. Visual depiction of the proposed definitional framework, from Ravignani, A., Bowling, D. L., & Fitch, W. T. (2014). Chorusing, synchrony, and the evolutionary functions of rhythm. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1118.

This approach, combined with analytical methods that are more often used to study conversation and human interaction, shows how researchers can explore the communicative uses of rhythm as a situated interactional resource, and find out, in specific cases and styles, how people build sophisticated social meanings through embodied interactions.

The whole paper consists of a single case analysis of a 10 second clip from a now-classic Lindy Hop Jack and Jill competition performance by Michael Seguin and Frida Sehgerdahl. Here’s the dance in question – the clip starts at 1 minute in, but really – watch the whole thing.

The systematic ways participants in this situation manage disruptions to the audience’s rhythmical clapping in relation to the dancers’ movements shows how they all work to uphold the relevance of normative patterns of mutual coordination. That’s a fancy way of saying that what is considered ‘good’ in this particular partner dance is not some fixed model of perfect dance movement, but the threat (and eventual narrow avoidance) of screwing up. This kind of analysis reveals how dancers initiate, sustain and complete distinct phases of spontaneous movement as embodied social actions.

The analysis in the paper uses detailed, empirical examples of rhythmical coordination to show how dancers and audience members combine improvisation and set-piece choreography. Here’s an example from the conclusion that shows just a few of the rhythmical patterns we can derive from a detailed analysis of just 10 seconds of dancing.

The audience's clapping mapped to the clapping of a specific member of the audience (Jo Hoffberg!) and the footfalls of each dancer.

The audience’s clapping mapped to the clapping of a specific member of the audience (Jo Hoffberg!) and the footfalls of each dancer.

This kind of analysis may not tell us much about the qualitative detail of the dance. However, it provides a clear empirical resource for further analytical work – which can then be analysed in relation to more everyday forms of rhythmical coordination. This provides a starting point for analysing the dancers’ activities and the audience’s response in a way that draws on empirically observable materials that also focuses on the methods the participants themselves use to make sense of those materials.

The approach proposed by this paper shows how people use whatever materials are available including visible, audible and tactile bodily actions as part of a communicative environment. It shows how they can combine these resources in an ad-hoc fashion to coordinate and communicate their movements – much as we do in everyday talk in interaction.

For example, here’s a diagram that shows some of the empirical distinctions we can make about rhythmical coordination in various everyday activities.

Patterns of rhythmical coordination in everyday activities, derived from Chauvigné, L. A. S., Gitau, K. M., & Brown, S. (2014). The neural basis of audiomotor entrainment: an ALE meta-analysis. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 776.

Patterns of rhythmical coordination in everyday activities, derived from Chauvigné, L. A. S., Gitau, K. M., & Brown, S. (2014). The neural basis of audiomotor entrainment: an ALE meta-analysis. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 776.

Based on this kind of analysis, the paper maps out all the available rhythms in that particular 10 second clip – and shows how they are organised in clearly distinctive patterns.

Coupled and uncoupled forms of rhythmical coordination

Coupled and uncoupled forms of rhythmical coordination in the 10 seconds of dancing in Michael and Frida’s Jack and Jill.

The purpose, and overall take-away from this paper is that when people talk about the ‘language of dance’, it’s not just an empty idiom, or a transposition of linguistic/semiotic theories onto bodily movements. Dance, seen in its broader social and interactional context, and especially in vernacular dance practices actually functions much like language. In fact, it may be quite difficult to draw clear empirical distinctions between dance, sign language and other forms of communicative social action.

Of course this paper doesn’t go that far – it is intended to set a course for future work as part of a larger project on partner dance as an interactional practice. It suggests that a good place to start understanding the ‘language of dance’ is to look at vernacular practices – where improvisation is combined with set-piece choreography through ad-hoc embodied social action. In particular, the paper suggests that rhythm is one way we can begin to look at dance – and other socio-aesthetic practices – as everyday interactional achievements.

Many thanks to Jonathan Jow and the Lindy Library for the awesome video data. If you want to geek out about it, you can watch another version of the same few moments of dance from a slightly different angle courtesy of Patrick and Natasha. Thanks also to the paper’s two anonymous reviewers, and to Chiara Bassetti and Emanuele Bottazzi for their help and for co-editing the special issue ERQ on Rhythm in Social Interaction in which this paper appears.


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