Drawing Interactions

Read our (2019) OA paper based on this project: Drawing as transcription: how do graphical techniques inform interaction analysis?

The Drawing Interactions project aims to develop new graphical techniques and tools for the transcription, analysis and presentation of research into social interaction.

The Drawing Interactions Prototype App (& source code)

In conversation analytic research, Jeffersonian transcripts of talk are usually used with traced outlines or video stills, and these techniques primarily focus on presenting polished research findings for finished publications. But what about the exploratory phases of research such as initial transcription or collaborative inspection at data sessions? The drawing interactions project uses traditional artistic still life and figure drawing techniques and detailed studies of analysts’ work practices as key starting points to inform the development of graphical tools and techniques for the transcription, analysis and presentation of social interaction.

The project team includes myself, Pat HealeyToby Harris, Claude Heath, and Sophie Skach. We have created a software prototype and a workshop/training format to support the use of drawing for interaction research and the social sciences more generally. 

The idea grew out of The Fine Art of Conversation CogSci workshop which explored artistic methods for depicting interaction in classical painting and sculpture. Here is a demo video of the current prototype and a detailed project report outlining developments so far.


Project links

Thanks to

Re/drawing interactions: an EM/CA video tools development workshop

As part of the Drawing Interactions project (see report), Pat HealeyToby Harris, Claude Heath, and Sophie Skach and I ran a workshop at New Developments in Ethnomethodology in London (March 2018) to teach interaction analysts how and why to draw.

Sophie Skach leading the life drawing workshop at New Directions in Ethnomethodology
Sophie Skach leading the workshop at New Directions in Ethnomethodology

Here’s the workshop abstract:

Ethnomethodological and conversation analytic (EM/CA) studies often use video software for transcription, analysis and presentation, but no such tools are designed specifically for EM/CA. There are, however, many software tools commonly used to support EM/CA research processes (Hepburn & Bolden, 2016 pp. 152-169; Heath, Hindmarsh & Luff 2010 pp. 109-132), all of which adopt one of two major paradigms. On the one hand, horizontal scrolling timeline partition-editors such as ELAN (2017) facilitate the annotation of multiple ‘tiers’ of simultaneous activities. On the other hand, vertical ‘lists of turns’ editors such as CLAN (Macwhinney, 1992) facilitate a digital, media-synced version of Jefferson’s representations of turn-by-turn talk. However, these tools and paradigms were primarily designed to support forms of coding and computational analysis in interaction research that have been anathema to EM/CA approaches (Schegloff 1993). Their assumptions about how video recordings are processed, analyzed and rendered as data may have significant but unexamined consequences for EM/CA research. This 2.5 hour workshop will reflect on the praxeology of video analysis by running a series of activities that involve sharing and discussing diverse EM/CA methods of working with video. Attendees are invited to bring a video they have worked up from ‘raw data’ to publication, which we will re-analyze live using methods drawn from traditions of life drawing and still life. A small development team will build a series of paper and software prototypes over the course of the workshop week, aiming to put participants’ ideas and suggestions into practice. Overall, the workshop aims to inform the ongoing development of software tools designed reflexively to explore, support, and question the ways we use video and software tools in EM/CA research.


ELAN (Version 5.0.0-beta) [Computer software]. (2017, April 18). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Retrieved from

Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J., & Luff, P. (2010). Video in qualitative research: analysing social interaction in everyday life. London: Sage Publications.

Hepburn, A., & Bolden, G. B. (2017). Transcribing for social research. London: Sage.

MacWhinney, B. (1992). The CHILDES project: Tools for analyzing talk. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, (2000).

Schegloff, E. A. (1993). Reflections on Quantification in the Study of Conversation. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 26(1), 99–128.

How to use CLAN and ELAN together for EM/CA transcription

I’ve been teaching EM/CA at Berklee School of Music which has been a delight, and the students are often transcribing situations that involve music, dance, performance, composition and other settings where it’s equally important to transcribe talk and bodily action. What I’ve tried to show them is how to do transcripts that allow them to shift between turn-by-turn action and simultaneous, multi-activity interactions. Lorenza Mondada’s presentation on the differences between types of transcription software has a great explanation of the two basic transcription paradigms (partition-based, horizontally scrolling editors and turn-by-turn, vertically scrolling editors) and what they are most useful for.

I wanted to teach my students to use both paradigms and to be able to switch between them so I made this little how-to video. To follow along with this tutorial you’ll need two files: a small clip from “Game Night”(many thanks to Prof. Cecelia Ford for letting me use her often-cited CA data for this tutorial), and Game_Night.cha – the accompanying CLAN transcription file. They’re both zipped up together in this downloadable folder. You only get a tiny clip of the whole video file here. The idea of this tutorial is that you can use this as a starting point and then replace the video with your own data.

Here’s the youtube video. It was recorded for my Berklee students, so not all parts of it (especially where I refer to the data you’ll have available to you) are relevant to this blog tutorial.