Context that matters: Producing “thick-enough descriptions” in initial emergency reports
2008 (English)In: Journal of Pragmatics, ISSN 0378-2166, Vol. 40, 927-959 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
This article examines how troublesome events are described in children’s emergency calls. In focus forthe analysis are the procedures through which participants methodically deal with contextual informationconcerning the reported emergency event during the early phases of the call, i.e., up to the point where theoperator is able to set emergency priority. This choice is motivated by a set of institutional concerns thatsurface in the interaction typically, but not solely, through the operator’s ways of receiving and managing thecaller’s unfolding report. The initial phase of emergency calls thus offers a locus of order, a phenomenon initself, in addition to offering access to some of the finer details of sequential and categorical organisation ofinteraction in emergency calls. Applying Ryle’s (1968) distinction between ‘thin’ vs. ‘thick’ description(roughly, the description of an observed event vs. description of the meaning of an observed event) to thereporting of emergencies, we argue that determining the relevant level of ‘thickness’ is, above all, a task forthe participants themselves. Hence, our analysis shows that interaction during the early phases of emergencycalls is distinctively geared towards producing a ‘thick-enough’ description of the reported event. Thesefindings are discussed in terms of the methodological problem of how features of the context can enterinteraction analytic accounts of institutional exchanges. Specifically, we argue that relevant features ofcontext ‘brought along’ to emergency calls (to do, for instance, with operators’ institutional agendas orcallers’ situations) are also ‘brought about’ by the participants as part of the interactional work throughwhich one party’s observations are jointly transformed into descriptions that form accountable reports ofemergency events.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 40, 927-959 p.
Emergency calls; Context; Institutional interaction; Talk-in-interaction; Ethnomethodology
National CategorySociology Communication Studies
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-21880DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2007.09.006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-21880DiVA: diva2:241910