Examples of LSI Research

After my last post, you may still be wondering what Language and Social Interaction (LSI) research really looks like. So now I’m going to offer you some of my favorite examples of published LSI studies. I organize each example according to common questions that distinguish different types of LSI research.

What topics are explored?

The great part about LSI research is that it isn’t isolated to a certain context or type of communication. Here are some examples of the breadth of topics covered by LSI research:

  • the perception of authenticity among twitter users (Marwick & Boyd, 2010)
  • narratives of immigrant women’s experiences in the United States (De Fina & King, 2011)
  • feminist perspective on sexual refusals by women (Kitzinger & Frith, 1999)
  • whether catcalls are viewed as harassment or compliments (Bailey, 2017)
  • language ideologies in Pakistan call centers (Rahman, 2009)
  • institutional identity in the telling and retelling of coming out narratives (DiDomenico, 2015)
  • mockery practices among peers that regulate group norms and boundaries (Robles, 2019)
  • environmental communication as a place-based practice (Carbaugh & Cerulli, 2013)

In my own research, I have explored language socialization and storytelling among English language learners, discourses in a church conflict over LGBTQ acceptance, and now I’m focusing on representation and communication among international NGOs. The field is certainly broad, and that is part of why I love it.

What kind of data is used?

Regarding methods and primary data, the sub-areas of LSI include both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Many scholars would say that “naturally occurring” data is favored in LSI scholarship (Gordon, 2015). Audio-recorded data is emphasized in many strands of LSI research because it allows for transcription and analysis of real communication situations. The cultural approaches focus on ethnographic field notes and observations, as do some practice approaches. In comparison, ethnomethodological and pragmatics approaches rely more heavily on audio and transcriptions. Multimodal approaches stress the importance of visual or embodied aspects of texts and events.

Variations in LSI are based on context and the approach to studying it, such as in interpersonal communication or public meetings, and using quantitative or qualitative methods. On an interpersonal level using quantitative methods, White and Malkowski’s (2014) research on bystander intervention effectively examines the communicative challenges present in different contexts that can influence the communication strategies bystanders might use to intervene in a situation.

As an example of a qualitative approach on a larger group level, Tracy’s (2008) research on school board meetings demonstrates how face attacks are situated communication practices that require situated responses. This approach is specifically what makes her research fit into the LSI field, and she demonstrates that when critiquing other theories of politeness that don’t pay attention to the communication context. Regardless of how and what contexts as studied, the attention to communication in interaction is what brings those variations together.

How is data analyzed?

As mentioned in my previous post, LSI encompasses several different analytical approaches, including ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and the ethnography of communication. I don’t have time to cover the details of each here, but I can give you a few specific examples.

Conversation analysis is known for close analysis of naturally occurring talk represented in transcripts. For example, Garcia (2018) examined two transcripts, one of George H. W. Bush and one of Bill Clinton, when they were on the campaign trail and answering interview questions. By examining transcripts and the specific conversational moves each speaker takes, Garcia is able to analyze how the two candidates display knowledge and demonstrate competency.

Discourse analysis is very similar, but it takes closer consideration of the cultural and interactional context. Lie and Bailey (2017) began by analyzing the micro feature of naming practices in a Chinese Indonesian family, and then they connected it to larger discourses of resistance, politics, and power.

Finally, my personal mode of research, the ethnography of communication attempts to understand the knowledge or meaning a speaker is acting upon when they communicate. The general question of EC research is “what does a speaker need to know to communicate appropriately within a particular speech community, and how does he or she learn to do so?” (Saville-Troike, 2008, p. 2). Empirical EC studies include interrogating the practice of ‘listening’ among Blackfeet (Carbaugh, 1999), understanding the importance of Qi in the discourse of acupuncture (Ho, 2006), and examining the practice of dugri (straight) speech in Israeli speech (Katriel, 2012). Each of these demonstrates how EC research can look at situated communication practices to learn about the cultural values of a specific speech community.

What’s next?

Lucky for us, I am (virtually) attending the International Communication Association conference this weekend, so I will learn about new and upcoming research being done in the LSI field. In my next post I will share some highlights with you, so stay tuned!

(If you would like PDF versions or full citations of any article listed in this post just let me know and I can share them with you.)

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