An artificial turn in social interaction research?

Jakub Mlynář, Andreas Liesenfeld, Lynn de Renata Topinková, Wyke Stommel, Lynn de Rijk, and Saul Albert for the 6th Copenhagen Multimodality Day: Interacting with AI

The turn towards multimodality and embodiment in interaction research has yielded new terminology and representational schema in key publications (Nevile 2015). At the intersections between multidisciplinary fields, e.g., ethnomethodological and conversation analytic (EMCA) research exploring interactions between humans and ‘AI’, social robots, and conversational user interfaces, such methodological changes are even harder to track. How do these approaches to the meticulous, naturalistic study of technologies in (and of) social interaction reframe the key terms, schema and practices that constitute AI as a field of technosocial activity? Largely grounded in the EMCA Wiki bibliography, we map this emerging field and report on a bibliometric review of 90 publications directly relevant to EMCA studies of AI (broadly defined) including social robots and their components such as voice interfaces.

We found that the most works cited in the EMCA+AI corpus are classics from the canon of human interaction research (Garfinkel, Sacks, Schegloff, Goffman), including multimodality (Goodwin, Heath), human-machine interaction (Suchman), and STS (Latour). The most frequently cited texts are: Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson’s (1974) ‘turn-taking paper’ (in 45% of items from the corpus), Garfinkel’s (1967) Studies (40%), and Suchman’s (1987) book (31%). Dealing specifically with AI from an EMCA perspective, Porcheron et al.’s 2018 paper on voice user interfaces is the most cited (11%). Apart from this one, two other texts feature as citation hubs: Alač’s (2016) and Pitsch et al.’s (2013) papers on social robots and embodiment. The study aims to provide a starting point for discussion about how concepts such as embodiment, agency and interaction are shared, used and understood through the practice of academic citation.


Nevile, M. (2015). The Embodied Turn in Research on Language and Social Interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 48(2), 121–151.

Moving into step: The embodiment of social structures of action

The abstract for a forthcoming article by myself and Dirk vom Lehn, soon to be liberated from the stalled pandemic year R&R cycle. Draft available if you’re willing to give feedback!


While dance has often featured in sociological theory, there are relatively few empirical studies that explore the social practices through which people learn to dance together. This paper takes as its point of departure the way that partner dance is often featured as a metaphor to illustrate theories about social order and interaction. We examine a corpus of video data gathered as part of a day-long workshop and explore how novice dancers learn to perform some of the basic steps of a social dance in time with their partner and with the rhythmical environment. The analysis shows how dancers use rhythm, bodies, language and other resources to organize their social interactions and shows how ethnomethodology and conversation analysis provide a critical standpoint for examining sociological theories about the relationship between the body and the social.  

Keywords: ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, multimodality, dance, culture, 

Presidential addressing

See the offprint: Albert, S., & Raymond, C. W. (2019). Conversation analysis at the ‘middle region’ of public life: Greetings and the interactional construction of Donald Trump’s political persona. Language & Communication, 69, 67–83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2019.08.001

We’re contributing this talk to Josh Raclaw‘s panel at the AAA 2017 Toward a transdisciplinary coalition in sociocultural linguistics: A collaborative analysis of presidential discourse in Trump’s Black History Month Listening Session. The panel invites scholars from a variety of methodological orientations to address the same bit of data. Our EM/CA-oriented contribution to the panel focuses on the greeting sequences in the first few moments of the meeting.

Chase Wesley Raymond & Saul Albert

This paper is designed as a contribution to an inter- and trans-disciplinary panel investigating President Donald Trump’s Black History Month Listening Session. Here we adopt the theory and method of conversation analysis (CA) to examine the first minute of this multiparty interaction—from Trump’s entrance into the room, to the launch of his prepared remarks. Greetings and other phenomena that occur during interactional openings have been widely studied from a conversation-analytic perspective (see, e.g., Schegloff, 1968), and yet here we see them occurring in a very particular institutionalized setting, with very particular participants, and in the presence of an overhearing audience (i.e., at-home viewers). In this paper, our aim is to unpack Trump’s initial interactions with those present in the room: whom does he greet, and in what ways, and how is he greeted in return? Moreover, we ask how these greeting practices contribute to the business of “‘doing being’ president” (cf. Sacks, 1984), and thus we will discuss the various membership categories (Sacks, 1992) that are made relevant in and through these brief introductory exchanges. Our analysis therefore offers insights not only into this specific individual’s interactional style and this particular setting, but also into how greetings operate more broadly in multiparty discourse of this sort. 


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Clayman, Steven E., & Heritage, John. (2002). The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth. (1984). A new look at contrastive intonation. In R. J.  Watts & Urs Weidmann (Eds.), Modes of Interpretation: Essays presented to Ernst Leisi on the occasion of his 65th birthday (pp. 137-158). Tübingen: Gunter Narr.

Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth, & Thompson, Sandra A. (2005). A linguistic practice for retracting overstatements: ‘Concessive repair’. In Auli Hakulinen & Margret Selting (Eds.), Syntax and Lexis in Conversation: Studies on the use of linguistic resources in talk-in-interaction (pp. 257-288). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Drew, Paul, & Heritage, John. (1992). Analyzing Talk at Work: An Introduction. In Paul Drew & John Heritage (Eds.), Talk at Work (pp. 3-65). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heritage, John. (1984). Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Heritage, John, & Clayman, Steven E. (2010). Talk in Action: Interactions, Identities and Institutions. Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley.

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Hansen, A. D. (2005). A practical task: Ethnicity as a resource in social interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction38(1), 63-104.

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Beginning to dance: methods of mutual coordination between novice dancers

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.

(This paper was written for the 7th Joint Action Meeting in London with Dirk vom Lehn as part of the dance as interaction project.)


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