[xmca] Genotypes Are Not Cufflinks

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Wed Nov 26 2008 - 16:44:08 PST

To make up for the sour grapes of my last posting, I do have some observations on Sawchuk and Stetsenko, or at least on ethnomethodology. There's a lot of stuff on ethnomethodology in this issue, both in Sawchuk and Stetsenko and the book review by Timothy Koschmann.
I've always wondered how ethnomethodological principles square with Marx's observation, quoted approvingly by LSV, that if phenotypes wore their genotypes on their sleeves, science would be perfectly unnecessary. I think the answer is that the ethnomethodologists (and conversation analysts, which which I am most familiar) don't think that the procedures by which order is negotiated are explicit or clear, only that they are recoverable from the data. This is an observation well worth having.
We know that painters did not really understand how horses move until the early motion pictures were made (and this is why we still see, but today can actually notice, the ridiculous and impossible gaits of horses and even people in paintings). Incredibly, the same was by and large true of conversation.
A very large number of important ways in which conversation is orderly were simply ignored until we actually started to analyze sginficant quantities of the stuff, and that simply didn't happen until the technical means of slowing it down and stopping it for observation became available, with the invention of the tape recorder and the work of Harvey Sacks.
Take, for example, this short conversation from a suicide help line analyzed by Sacks:
Q: Well, perhaps you want to tell me uh why you feel like committing suicide.
A: (sigh) (sigh) Well it's the same old childish reason that everybody wants to commit suicide.
A: Why is that.
B: You want to find out if anybody really does care. (Lecture 5 in Lectures on Conversation Volume One, Blackwell 1992,1995, p. 32)
I've used this example for years, to show the ubiquity and the difficulty of pinning down what "you" really means in classroom data. But yesterday when I was thinking about this data (because there have been a huge rash of suicides here in Korea and because someone actually killed themselves for twelve hours on the net the other day andnobody actually DID care), I noticed something new.
One reason why "you" means "I" in the suicide's rejoinder is that it comes at the BEGINNING of the sentence. Utterances in English tend to function as bridges between "I" and "you", with "you" oriented information appearing near the end and "I" oriented information appearing near the beginning. (This is why "Look at me" has a slightly jarring, even childish, feeling about it in English).
I don't think this tendency is really recoverable from the data. I think it's the kind of genotype not worn on the sleeve, which only an outside method can really recover. Hands are the parts of us that other people come and shake. Maybe that's why we end up wearing so much of our sensibility, sight unseen, our sleeves.  
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Nov 26 16:45:53 2008

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