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Ho et al. 2009: Learning LSI means doing LSI: Reflections on technology use in two Language and Social Interaction courses
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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication

Volume 19 Numbers 1 & 2, 2009

Learning LSI Means Doing LSI:
Reflections on Technology Use in Two Language and Social Interaction Courses

Evelyn Y. Ho
University of San Francisco

Christopher J. Koenig
Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco and Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute

Leah Wingard
San Francisco State University

John C. Bansavich
University of San Francisco

Abstract: This article reflects on the role of technology in teaching two LSI research methods courses with a focus on ethnography of communication and discourse analysis, respectively. Presented as case studies, we describe two LSI scholars’ experiences and explain our choices in using technology to teach these two undergraduate LSI courses. We describe how technology is used at four key points throughout the research process: capturing communicative practices, preserving them, documenting them through analysis and finally presenting the results. Throughout this process, we show how the use of technology facilitates both the teaching and learning experience. The use of technology enables students to see and to hear communication as situated and contextualized. Finally, we argue that the communication studies curriculum overall is enriched because students must confront their own preconceptions of the process of communication by comi ng to terms with naturally occurring interaction.

The aim of this article is to reflect on the role of technology in teaching undergraduate Language and Social Interaction (LSI) research methods courses. By presenting the decisions that were made and the rationales that led to those decisions, we hope to expose the multiple roles that technology plays both pedagogically and methodologically in teaching LSI research processes to undergraduates. As LSI researchers, we already recognize the important role technology plays in the various steps involved in LSI research processes. As LSI teachers, we posit that technology enhances students’ eyes and ears as a tool to explore the social worlds in which they participate.

Regardless of the methodological tradition in which one works, many LSI scholars use some method of electronic recording (Sanders, 2005). The rationales for using recordings may differ radically (Grimshaw, 1982; ten Have, 2000; Maynard, 2003; Paterson, Bottorff, & Hewat, 2003; Penner et al., 2007; Shrum, Duque, & Brown, 2005; Speer & Hutchby, 2003; Zungler, Ford, & Fassnacht, 1998; Goodwin 1994a). However, one feature that binds together LSI researchers and differentiates us from many others is the desire to see for ourselves the detailed and intricate processes of communication. Technology facilitates analysis by enabling a different k ind of perspective on communication as a process by capturing its details, slowing the process down and enabling multiple replays. Technology enables an empirical investigation of communication and how it works in the social world. While the use of recordings may be pervasive in LSI research in general (Sanders, 2005), different sub-areas within LSI have developed unique perspectives about whether or not information other than the recording itself, such as ethnographic information and fieldnotes, may be used in addition to recordings. [1] In the two case studies that follow, despite the fact that we come from different traditions, we nonetheless choose to employ very similar pedagogical strategies using technology to engage students in looking at communicative practices.

For the LSI researcher, technology enables a different kind of “vision” and “hearing,” which serves to transform the everyday world from a taken-for-granted experience to an explicit communicative practice. While many LSI scholars use technology in their research, some may be reticent about training students in methods and research processes that require them to use technology. We still encounter professors who, despite having access to a wide variety of digital recording options, teach courses with observational components that rely solely on the use of handwritten fieldnotes and participant observation for data collection. However, digital audio recording technology is widely available and many students often have and use these capabilities on their cell phones, through a microphone attachment to their iPods, or by using laptop computers. In fact, a recent study found that almost three quarters of a random sample of college students in the Unit ed States owned some kind of MP3 player (Ferguson, Greer, & Reardon, 2007), and another study found this number (74.7% of students) to be almost equivalent to laptop ownership (75.8%) (Salaway, Caruso, & Nelson, 2007). Some scholars say that teaching with technology is too cumbersome or takes too much time away from other topics, such as focusing on writing rich fieldnotes or developing detailed analyses. Others cite limited resources available either at their universities or among their student bodies as barriers. While these are real concerns that university instructors face, they are not insurmountable and there are substantial rewards for students who use technology-assisted recordings as the basis of analysis for naturally occurring interaction.

Students who use audio or video recording as part of their field repertoire can focus attention on the overall social environment while the recording equipment documents specific communicative behaviors, both vocal (in the case of audio) as well as non-vocal (in the case of video), which can then be replayed with full attention at a later time. Additionally, recordings of interaction allow students the opportunity to compare and contrast interactional phenomena across different types of data. Recordings also allow the student to experience interaction in analytic detail through multiple viewings of the same interaction. Using recordings of interactions enables beginning scholars to focus analytic attention on direct observation (Albrecht, 1985; ten Have, 2000; Sacks, 1984, 1992; Shrum, Duque, & Brown, 2005), to test hypothese s with empirical evidence (Ashmore, MacMillan, & Brown, 2003; Grimshaw, 1982; Penner et al., 2007; Speer & Hutchby, 2003), and to investigate social processes that may otherwise be invisible to unaided eyes and ears (Goodwin, 1994b, 1997; Lomax & Casey, 1998; Paterson, Bottorff, & Hewat, 2003; Sacks, 1992; Shrum, Duque, & Brown, 2005).

Mondada (2006) suggests that technology enhances our abilities to see and hear the social world and the role that communication plays in it. She invites us to consider recording technology as a prosthesis, an extension of the human body in the sense that “we see ‘with’ the camera [e.g., recording device] and not ‘through it’ (Büscher, 2005), and thus to dissipate the fallacy of an independent and pre-existing world transparently offered from ‘out there’ to our observation” (Mondada, 2006). This suggests that through technology students of interaction not only document communicative practices employed by community members in and through interaction, but can also provide evidence for those practices. It is through technology that ephemeral interactional communicative practices are transformed into enduring objects of analytic investigation. In this sense, technology is more than a convenience—technology itself enables the LSI research process.

Both in LSI scholarship and in LSI pedagogy, the important role that technology plays is fourfold throughout the research process. First, technology captures transient communication practices as they occur in real time (data collection). Second, technology preserves those practices for further inspection at a later time by transforming them from raw recordings to useable objects. Third, technology documents those captured practices as a way to learn how they work in everyday life by slowing them down, replaying the interactional events, and connecting the communicative practices temporally (data analysis). Finally, technology allows the scholar to present these practices as research findings. What this suggests is that engaging with technology is not a one-time event, but rather something that happens recurrently throughout the research process. Through technology, scholars and students alike can become sensitized to actual communicat ive behavior.

Case Studies

Following are two case studies of technology used in two undergraduate LSI courses. In Case Study 1, Evelyn Y. Ho (University of San Francisco) describes a lower division course with a focus on ethnography of communication. In Case Study 2, Leah Wingard (San Francisco State University) describes an upper division methods course with a focus on discourse analysis. As will become apparent, although the content areas are distinct, many of the issues and pedagogical choices they have adopted are convergent. Technology use in the research process is a constant theme throughout the two accounts.

Case Study 1: Ethnography of Communication

With more and more people podcasting or otherwise becoming familiar with digital recording, there are a variety of options that make recording easier, cheaper, and more ubiquitous. In this section, I (EYH) will present audio recording technologies that I have used for an introductory level course in ethnography of communication. I recognize that there are many other options for audio recording. The suggestions presented in this case study should, therefore, be read as a guide for considering options for an LSI classroom situation.

Course Overview

This introductory-level course, called Communication and Culture, is one of four required lower-division courses for Communication Studies majors at the University of San Francisco. One of the main learning objectives of the course is to “apply knowledge of communication and culture theories and methods… as demonstrated through a fieldwork based project.” Using the ethnography of communication (Hymes, 1962, 1972; Philipsen, 1992, 1997) as the basis for the main research project, students spend 10 weeks of the semester as participant observers working in pairs  [2] in a chosen fieldsite to examine ways in which speaking is both structured and distinctively social in that setting. In the course, the students progress through the steps of fieldsite selection, informed consent, data collection, data analysis and writing. Students walk through these steps by way of smaller assignments and in-class activities spread throughout the semester. In each of the research steps, the presence and use of technology are an integral part of the work of doing ethnography of communication. The final project includes a field portfolio of jottings (quick notes done in the field), fieldnotes, analytical memos, audio recordings, transcripts, rough drafts and a final written paper. In the final paper students present the valued ways of speaking in their particular communities of interest, drawing on both their fieldnotes and their audio/transcript excerpts as evidence to support their claims. In the paper, students present patterns of communication and dra w conclusions about the “culturally distinctive psychology, sociology, and rhetoric” (Philipsen, 1997, p. 138) of their particular community.

Because this is an introductory class, students are not required (and are not encouraged) to support or explain their experience with outside library research. The primary emphasis of this assignment is the fieldwork itself. Therefore, in an effort to promote learning through doing, students head out to their fieldsites having read no scholarly research with only the knowledge they might already have. While some students choose very familiar sites such as clubs they are already involved with, others choose completely new environments such as sports fan groups or Bingo halls. Using a combination of class discussion and reading various ethnographies in which the researcher is either familiar or new to the communities, students come to see that each situation has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Ethics and Site Selection

In this course, one full class period is devoted to research ethics involved in participant observation and recording. Students are assigned readings prior to class. During class, I establish the ethical standards that students will use throughout the course. I set minimum standards for ethics regarding privacy, informed consent, and recording. To test these ethical standards, one class activity involves students reading a variety of short case studies in which various ethical problems arise. Different scenarios are considered, including: asking people for consent after recording, what to do with recordings with identifiable information, what counts as actual informed consent, and who has access to audio recordings and notes. Working in small groups and using established ethical standards, students re-construct the procedures for problematic case studies. [3]

After setting ethical standards, the students’ first assignment is to submit a short project proposal that contains two viable research options. In the proposal, students describe the prospective speech communities, their relationship to the group or how they will obtain access for participation, observation, recording, if the setting is one in which they can return multiple times over the semester, and why this group of people might be communicatively interesting. Although many students speak to me in office hours or after class about their research ideas, the proposal is the first formal step in which they receive feedback about the feasibility of their chosen fieldsites. Students are required to submit and receive approval for two plans because first plans often fall through. In my experience, every semester one to three groups end up using the already approved backup plan.

Once projects receive approval, students have a short in-class activity in which they practice different techniques for making initial contact with and receiving informed consent for beginning to work with their speech communities. Working in pairs, students practice introducing themselves and their research projects. In these practice sessions, students describe what they will do including observation, writing fieldnotes and recording. They also practice explaining what they will do with those notes and recordings, what privacy safeguards will be put in place, such as leaving out identifying or sensitive information and the option to withdraw participation, and what will be done with the recordings after the class is over. [4] I have found that while students laugh and giggle a lot during this exercise, it forces them to practice something they might otherwise just try to do impromptu. This practice ensu res a greater chance of success once they embark on the project itself.

Recording Equipment

Small handheld audio recorders range in price anywhere from $40 to $500 or more. Because technology changes very quickly and our budget was around $2500, I worked with a colleague who also teaches LSI courses at USF, and the fourth author (JCB), the Director of the Center for Instruction and Technology (CIT), to choose the most suitable option. Although the first consideration when choosing equipment may seem to be budget, I would suggest that instructors look to their course and departmental learning outcomes first to determine what students need to master through the LSI course and what they should master throughout their major course work. For example, one of the department learning outcomes is that “Students will be able to use a variety of methodological tools to analyze interpersonal, intercultural, and rhetorical discourse that structure everyday interactions in both our public and private lives.” With this consideration in mind, and because the depar tment offers a variety of LSI-type courses, we were able to justify the initial investment in equipment in an application for additional funds to enhance teaching. Our rationale articulated that these recording devices were valuable because they would help multiple classes accomplish critical learning goals over time. Instructors should first determine how many courses need recording devices, how many could be enhanced by these devices, and how many students could benefit from owning their own equipment. Because over 160 students every year take Communication and Culture, and they require the use of recording devices to complete course-related assignments, we worked within the budget of the teaching development grant to buy 25 digital recorders at around $100 each. After purchasing, JCB and his staff at the CIT agreed to run a checkout system for students registered in the relevant classes. [5] In addi tion, microphones that attach to iPods can be ordered through university bookstores and sold as required or recommended equipment for the course (akin to required or recommended books).

Because students in this course do fieldwork in which they both participate and observe, it was important to buy small, portable recording devices especially for fieldwork situations where the students would be moving around. Other considerations in choosing equipment for this course were sound quality, built-in microphone, durability, and cost. While sound quality is clearly important, it must be balanced with other considerations. As long as the sound was understandable with multiple voices speaking in a range of about 5 feet away from the device, the quality was good enough for our purposes. Similarly, because students were likely going to be moving and not always in one stationary position, we wanted a durable device that had a strong built-in microphone with the option of attaching an external lapel microphone if necessary. [6]

Given the above considerations, the equipment we chose is the iRiver’s T series of portable audio players/recorders ( The recorders we bought in 2006 have a capacity of 512 MB (Model T30) but current models have up to 4 GB of memory (Model T60). An average minute of MP3 recorded audio can range in file size of 500kb (.5 MB) to 1 MB depending on the desired recording quality setting. A 512 MB recorder can allow for more than 8 hours of recording time. These tiny (roughly 2.6” x 1.1” x 0.87”, 0.85 oz.) recorders are small enough to wear as a necklace (see Figure 1) and often do not cost any more than a new textbook. Because of their small size, durability and relatively clear recording, these devices have proven very useful for conducting ethnographic participant-observation research in even seemingly difficult locations. For example, one semester, a student did a p roject on communication in indoor rock climbing gyms. By wearing the iRiver while climbing – often over 10 feet away from other speakers – he was able to capture actual instances of people shouting and cheering. He used these excerpts alongside his fieldnotes to make an argument about the supportive nature of a seemingly competitive sport. With a little practice, students have found the devices easy to use. Furthermore, recording is very clear even without the use of an external microphone. [7]


Figure 1.Wearing an iRiver portable audio recorder as a necklace.

In my experience, students sometimes own other kinds of digital recording devices, and many cell phones can be used for audio or audio-visual recording. In choosing an audio recorder for classroom use, it is important to have students check to see that the recorded audio files can be uploaded as easily sharable file formats such as MP3. [8]

Data Collection

Students frequently ask, “How many times do I have to go to the fieldsite?” or “How many hours should I record?” These questions are natural given the way most assignments are designed. However, students come to learn in this course that they need to reach a point of saturation. I tell the students that when they are turning up evidence of the same communication patterns over and over again, they may have found a good pattern to develop in their papers. Although most of these patterns are relatively basic, students learn an important lesson in how to base their claims on empirical evidence in the form of fieldnotes, participant observations, and especially recordings. Because the answer “saturation” is often unsatisfying for students, I also explain that on average, the best projects come from students who have spent at least 10-15 hours in the field over 5-8 separate visits, have written at least 20 pages of fieldnotes and recorded ov er 5 hours of naturally occurring talk.

Because this course is focused on finding the valued ways of speaking of a particular speech community, students’ primary use of recordings are to provide evidence to confirm recurrent speaking practices and add to their field note findings and field experience. As Modaff and Modaff (2000) explain, the level of recording fidelity should match the nature of the research study. Recordings are important in that they are able to capture the content of talk. More fine-level conversation analysis-style distinctions are not emphasized in this course. Therefore, students learn how to do recordings with these goals in mind.

To sensitize students to recording issues, I devote another whole class period to recording and transcribing. In the days before the class, the students’ homework is to record at least two people talking. They are asked to bring this digital audio recording to class. The class itself meets in a computer lab on campus where I conduct a workshop designed to teach students basic transcription techniques. After they begin to master basic techniques, students practice transcribing 1-2 minutes of their recorded conversations. [9] One major goal of this workshop is to give students a feel for the adequate level of recording clarity needed from field recordings to complete useful transcriptions. At the end of the transcription workshop, using Blackboard software students post their short transcripts with the audio clip upon which it is based onto a secure online discussion board. The next homework assignmen t asks students to open a classmate’s transcript and audio file, and to revise the transcript after they have listened to the file. This revision process helps students learn that transcripts can always be improved and that sometimes it takes an outside ear to hear complicated portions of an audio clip.

It is only after this series of workshops and assignments that students may go out and begin recording in their approved fieldsites. In the field, they are tasked with practicing recording in a variety of settings in order to assess background noise, microphone distance, and any other hazards that could affect recording quality. Through the process of recording and transcribing, students often express frustration by the quantity of mundane talk. However, as I will discuss later, transcription of this mundane talk, coupled with their fieldnotes, allows students the opportunity to perceive how the mundane conversation establishes the patterns of talk that are perceptible only through the ethnographic research process.

Data Analysis

Transcription. Because students are asked to record as much as possible in the field, and because this course is only one semester, transcription is taught as a first level of data analysis. As part of their final portfolios, students produce crude transcripts in which the main content and topics of conversation are transcribed without noting pauses, overlaps, pitch or anything else conversationally noteworthy. This “loose transcript” of all of their recordings helps to familiarize them with the various levels of phenomena that may lead to a final project.

In order to pare down the large amount of audio data, they learn to use a free, open-source computer program called Audacity ( to cut out chosen parts of their recordings. Audacity is useful both for editing and transcribing audio files. While there are many other software and hardware options for editing/transcribing, I chose Audacity because it is free, easy-to-use and already installed on the IT-lab computers at our university. Although any audio player can be used for transcribing and editing, we find Audacity to be better than iTunes or other audio players such as Windows Media Player or QuickTime especially because of its “loop playback” function and other simple editing features. [10] The “loop playback” function allows students to repeatedly play back a segment of talk at the push of one button. Many students feel this is helpful, especially when a segment of less than five seconds is selected at a time. [11]

Data analysis workshop. Students learn how to use transcripts and fieldnotes by completing a data analysis workshop during another whole class period. They are asked to bring two pages of their favorite (for any reason) transcript section and two pages of their favorite fieldnotes. To begin the workshop, I bring in some already open-coded fieldnotes (see Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw, 1995) and transcripts to show them what stood out to me in a given set of data. Then, as a class, we code a fresh set of notes/transcripts. At this point, students begin to see what open coding means. The students then practice open-coding their own data. I explain that the goal when they leave at the end of the workshop is to begin to identify possibilities for valued ways of speaking or communicative patterns.

Students work in small groups helping one another read and re-read transcripts and fieldnotes. To open-code (Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw, 1995), the students highlight or circle anything that stands out to them. They also note any themes or repetitive patterns of talk by writing them in the margin of the paper. They also pay special attention to any moments in which speech codes may have been “broken” (Philipsen, 1992, 1997). These moments of discursive force (Philipsen, 1992, 1997) are easy places for beginning students to find. However, since most data will not have evidence of these instances, when someone finds a “broken rule,” that student is asked to share the example with the entire class. At the end of their data analysis workshop, every student has at least one possible communication pat tern and partial evidence to support the existence of that pattern.  I close the workshop by having students write an analytic memo about that possible communication pattern that they can pursue in examining the rest of the data.

With some framework for analysis, students are then tasked with homework to go back through their fieldnotes and loose transcripts in their own pair groups. They identify potentially useful short sections of the loose transcripts and only then re-transcribe using a more Jeffersonian style of transcription. The level of transcription detail, however, is matched to the level of analysis and mainly focuses on overlaps, volume changes, emphasis, and long pauses. In this process, the fieldnotes inform transcript excerpt choice and vice versa as an iterative process to compile preliminary evidence to support student claims. Students are then asked to write additional memos as they discover other possible communication patterns that might be at work within their speech communities. As they are developing these possible patterns, they continue to return to the field with these new insights and new opportunities for documenting the communicative patterns. They are also taught t o look for any conflicting evidence that demonstrates that there may be disagreement or multiple perspectives about how a particular pattern may be used by community members. This analysis workshop is conducted before the halfway point of the fieldwork process so that students experience how data collection, transcribing and analysis constantly inform one another in an iterative process.

Final project. After the data analysis workshop, students mainly work on their fieldwork data collection and analysis in their own pair groups. There are two more in-class writing workshops in the last month of class. The first workshop focuses on evidence and claims; the second workshop focuses on overall writing. Because these workshops have little to do with technology, I do not explain them in detail here. The final product for this class is a traditional typed paper with supplemental CDs of corresponding audio clips. [12] Because of large class enrollment (40 students) I do not have time for formal public presentations of findings. However, if students have been generating transcripts and audio extracts throughout the entire term, these data are already be accessible both for writing and for public presentation. [13] In addi tion, because of the many workshops throughout the semester, students are already somewhat familiar with each other’s work and have presented their data in semi-public ways.

The excerpt presented in Appendix 1 comes from a sample student paper. The student who wrote the paper is a student/practitioner of Wushu, a traditional Chinese martial art. For his fieldwork, he studied his Wushu community and attended tournaments and other competitions. His paper provides an example of how technology creates the opportunity for, first, perceiving and, second, systematically documenting a specific communicative practice. In this paper, the author successfully makes a claim about a valued way of speaking, in this case the chant, “Jia you!” [14] as a way to cheer for others in Chinese, and provides both field note and transcript evidence of this pattern. This paper is a prime example of how students are able to make similar yet subtly different claims based on having both fieldnotes and transcript excerpts. The author claims and provides evidence that Jia you! occurs much more frequently in rapid succession when invoked in group settings even if the function of the cheer may be similar to other settings. This observation may or may not have been noticed through taking fieldnotes alone. In addition, the author uses evidence from recordings to claim that in public settings, the cheer allows strangers to participate and communicate with one another. In this case, the dual sources of evidence were able to support the one claim with room to describe subtle differences in a larger pattern of valued communication. Without the use of technology-enabled recordings and transcripts, this paper would likely have been less robust in its findings.


It is noteworthy, perhaps, to point out how simple many of the final papers are. Because the course goal is to engage in the entire research process, the final product itself is less important and even graded with less emphasis than the various parts leading up to that product. The students are only required to find one to three major communicative patterns and to provide evidence for their existence and communicative use. Very few of the papers make completely new discoveries. However, students are sensitized to the often mundane and taken-for-granted nature of speech codes. In their conclusions, they are given liberty to explore the consequences of these patterns for people’s identities and relationships. The entire process allows students to discover firsthand what is “cultural” about their communication and could not be done adequately without the help of recording technologies.

Case Study 2: Discourse Analysis/Conversation Analysis

In this section I (LW) review the relevant considerations for teaching a course that emphasizes the examination of speaking practices from both discourse analytic and conversation analytic perspectives. [15] The course discussed here is titled Research Methods in Language and Social Interaction and typically enrolls a maximum of 25 students. This course is an upper division communication studies course that students in the major may use to meet a methodology requirement at San Francisco State University. Although it is an upper division course, and some students have had another LSI course taught in the department, Discourse and Interaction, the research methods course assumes no previous background in LSI approaches to the study of communication. The course offers a substantive introduction to discourse analysis and draws heavily on conversation analytic ideas and techniques. The main task of this class is for each student to record face-to-face interaction using video cameras checked out from the instructor and to complete a semester project based on data that they themselves have collected. Throughout the process, students work directly with these data. As they accomplish a variety of research-related tasks directly associated with LSI as a research process, they attain competency in a variety of new technologies as well as come to see communication in a new way.

Course Overview

Assignments throughout the course mirror a common research trajectory using LSI methods. These steps include selecting a research site, recording the data, creating an activity log of the data, selecting sequences of particular interest for transcription, creating a collection of transcribed sequences that are related, presenting initial analyses in a workshop environment, and refining analyses and applying relevant literature for a final research paper. Each of the assignments completed in the class are meant to scaffold students into engaging in a different stage of the research process. Because it is a research methodology course, student work is evaluated mostly in terms of how the student engaged in the research process, and less emphasis is placed on evaluating the outcome or findings of the research itself. The rest of this section discusses each of the stages of this process and addresses some of the choices made, the pedagogical benefits of those choices and th e implications for the technologies used.  

Ethics and Site Selection

An important initial discussion in the course is how a student researcher selects a research site. Selecting a research site entails a discussion of the ethical considerations that researchers must attend to in recording face-to-face interaction. Towards this end, students are required to take several modules of an online ethics course. [16] Completing these modules requires students to set up a profile and navigate though the modules online. While not directly related to a process of conducting the actual research, the experience of working with modules in an online environment further enhances the course’s emphasis on technology literacy.

Students are also exposed to research ethics during a class period in which an explicit discussion is held about how informed consent may be achieved with potential research subjects and a standardized consent form. In this course, one standardized consent form is used for all research sites and the consent form follows the structure mandated by the university Institutional Review Board (IRB) for research projects. [17] Discussion of this consent form provides an important forum in the class to clarify and address the ethics concerns as they are relevant for LSI research. Specifically, this includes: what kinds of setting may be too sensitive for filming, what constitutes “vulnerable populations,” how participants during the recording preserve their rights during, and which parts of the recording may or may not be used. Students in the class are taught that participants retain the right to a sk filming to be stopped for any reason at any time and retain the right to determine if the recording itself may be used only in part or in full.

A “data collection questionnaire” assignment is used as a vehicle for the instructor and students to discuss possible site choices. Students are asked to consider several issues about data collection as they engage in the process of thinking about and selecting a site. Students are primarily encouraged to record in interactional settings with which they are already familiar. Students frequently film in environments with people who are intimate in their lives such as at home with their roommates, or at home with their families. However, students have also chosen to film in institutional settings to which they already have access, such as meetings of clubs or organizations or workplace settings in which they themselves, or those they know, participate (Albrecht, 1985; Moerman, 1988). The choice of a familiar setting clearly facilitates gaining access to a site in a timely manner as well as consenting the p articipants, and this choice also has pedagogical implications in the sense that students are encouraged to look more closely at the mundane communication practices in their everyday worlds. This approach to research offers a contrast to the communication research process students have more typically engaged with in other sub-disciplinary areas in which students study the communication of a “subject other.” This may be the only time in their lives that students take a close look at the actual communication that they themselves participate in, or that occurs in their immediate everyday surroundings.

Students are advised to record in settings that minimize the possibility of including participants that the IRB considers “vulnerable subjects.” In class discussion, I focus on what the term means for the IRB in general, and what it means for us as LSI researchers who use video to record interaction and try to make distinctions that seem relevant for our research. For example, while a pregnant woman may be considered “vulnerable” in the case of medical research (on which most IRB guidelines are based) we do not consider a pregnant woman to be vulnerable for the purposes of recording and conducting an analysis using discourse or conversation analysis. Likewise, while elderly persons may generally be considered vulnerable for the purposes of medical research, we include them when they are the natural part of a setting and don’t exhibit any sign of mental impairment (such as dementia) that might impact their ability to make informed decisions about giving their consent for filming. Similarly, a child who is generally considered vulnerable is only filmed if he or she gives consent or assent and his or her parent or guardian is present and has given signed consent.

As students engage in the recording process, we continue to discuss in the class the kinds of ethical dilemmas students may encounter in the field so that the discussion of ethics becomes directly related to the research process itself. Such ongoing considerations about ethics are necessary to consider in the process of the data collection itself, and generally have the pedagogical implication that they put into perspective how and why and an LSI approach to research may be substantially different form other research processes commonly used in communication research.

Recording Equipment

Camera choice will always be contingent on the state of the technologies and costs of various models that are relevant at the time purchase decisions are being made. The budget of the program using the equipment will of course also have a significant impact on the possible purchases. Furthermore, since the video camera market is in a period of constant flux, especially lately in the last year with the appearance of cameras with solid state hard drives, it will be difficult to predict the changes in technologies that will become available that may impact future decision making for LSI program curricula or for instructors teaching LSI courses using video cameras. Major factors in the industry can easily change substantially in as little as a six-month period.

With this in mind, I can merely report on some of the key considerations for camera purchases. 1) First and foremost, the camera should be sensitive enough to get a good quality sound recording for transcription. On the other hand, a full equipment set-up should not be so expensive that it feels irreplaceable and devastating if a camera is lost either through theft or accident, which are conceivable possibilities when students are regularly checking out equipment. [18] Many video cameras in an affordable price range for educational settings will not have an onboard microphone which is sensitive enough to record the sound quality needed to make detailed transcription of talk in many environments due to environmental noise. Cameras purchased for this purpose should therefore have a microphone input jack that allows for the use of an external shotgun (top-mounted) or wireless lapel microphone. 2) Cameras sh ould also have an audio monitoring jack where earphones or earbuds may be plugged in so that the student may be able to monitor sound levels during recording. The student researcher should be able to monitor that sound is in fact being recorded, but he or she can also monitor for controllable ambient noise, which can easily interfere with the quality of the recording. 3) Furthermore, since cameras will most likely be mounted on a tripod while filming, cameras with top or side loading tape mechanisms are preferred since the camera will need to be dismounted from a tripod in order to change the tape. Cameras that load tape media from the bottom could result in significant data loss during the interaction while the tapes are being changed. At the time cameras were being purchased for this class these three key features were difficult to obtain in one affordable camera, which therefore narrowed the field of possibilities significantly.

The camera deemed appropriate in terms of these three features for use in this course at the time that different camera models were being considered was a mini-DV tape camera, the Sony DCR-TRV900. [19] Since this camera was out of production in the first half of 2007, purchases were made on eBay from reputable sellers who had refurbished cameras and provided some warranty. The average cost for each camera was about $1000. This camera model was additionally chosen since many online reviews indicated it was a sturdy camera that could take the wear and tear of regular student use (see Shrum et al., 2005, Section 4; and Bell, Toomey Zimmerman & Clark, 2006).

Data Collection

Before students may go out to collect data, they must attend an instructor-led training session on the equipment they are going to take into the field. Students must additionally have their research site pre-approved with the instructor and have passed the online ethics certification course. Students in the course check out recording equipment from the instructor and are asked to record a minimum of two hours of naturally occurring interaction. While some students elect to record up to 4 or 5 hours in one recording session, the two-hour minimum ensures that students will have enough data for a project even if the quality of sound has been compromised in some parts of the recording.

The data collection period for the class generally lasts from about the third week in the semester until the seventh week in the semester. During this period, students report on their experiences in the field during class time, which becomes a venue for discussing and learning from one another’s experiences of unanticipated contingencies of the data collection process. As students discuss their data collection experiences they often become engaged in critical discussions related to issues of the LSI research process that result in many teachable moments for discussing LSI methodology. Frequent points of discussion include if and when the camera affects the behavior of participants, and if so, how, and how we might minimize that effect (Penner et al., 2007). In particular, noticing the moments that participants overtly orient to the camera raises student awareness of some of the language ideologies participants either consciously or u nconsciously carry with them (ten Have, 2000; Lomax & Casey, 1998; Speer & Hutchby, 2003; Zungler, Ford, & Fassnacht, 1998).

Data Analysis

Digitizing and compression. While students record data, I digitize and compress [20] the recordings into .MPG format files and burn those files onto a CD or DVD that the student can use to view the data on a computer. While having students digitize data might save instructors time outside of class, the process would require easy student access to a lab with computers powerful enough and loaded with appropriate software for digitizing and compressing the very large resulting video files. The process of learning the digitizing process would also take time away from valuable class time deemed better for discussing recognizable and recurrent structures in discourse (Goodwin, 1994a). After weighing the advantages and disadvantages, I ultimately decided that trying to incorporate the digitizing and compression process into the students learning process presented more challen ges than benefits to the student and the course as whole. [21] Once the student has a CD or DVD with files of the recorded data, the student can load any free version of the QuickTime Player to view the files on the computer of their choice and thereby will be able to transcribe and view the resulting video files outside of class time.

Once the video files are available, students familiarize themselves with their data by creating an activity log of the data, which constitutes an assignment in the class. In the activity log, students write descriptive entries for the activities and actions that occur in every one to two minutes of the data and include time codes from the video file so they or the instructor may easily find those segments again in the future. In this process, students start to note instances of talk that catch their eye for any reason (ten Have, 1997; Psathas, 1995; Sacks, 1984). With the support of literature read in the course, students also start to recognize larger activities rooted in talk such as greetings, teasing, gossip, agreement and disagreement, and storytelling as well as smaller clusters of action trajectories they have been exposed to at this point in the semester such as assessments, directives, accounts and formulations. They also start to recognize the basics in turn construction and turn taking from a conversation analytic perspective. For most students in communication studies, this is the first time they have watched recordings of themselves and those they know in interaction in granular detail for a sustained period of time. They are often surprised by what this naturally occurring interaction looks like and report at this point a growing awareness of the recurrent interaction practices they and those they know engage in. After the entries for the activity log have been completed, students complete a second part of the activity log assignment, where they write three brief paragraphs on three separate possible topics for the final project. The activity log assignment allows the instructor to most effectively dialog with the student and guide him or her in the choice of topic for the final project.

Developing collections for analysis. After data have been collected, activity logs have been created and each student has had the opportunity to consider possible topics for analysis, the course meetings from this point forward occur in a computer lab on campus where the computers have been upgraded to QuickTime Pro. [22] QuickTime Pro allows for segmenting of each clip into smaller files. Being able to create smaller self-contained files allows for finer control to playback the sequences that are of analytic interest for the students. This facilitates the transcription of the data segment of possible interest. Additionally, these smaller clips may be more easily transferred to a presentation computer in the lab where the course is taught, so clips may easily be shown to the class and discussed collectively. Smaller segments also allow the student to burn additional CDs so they can transcribe an d repeatedly view the clips outside of the university computer lab. While there are a variety of relatively inexpensive software options for segmenting clips, it has been my experience that QuickTime Pro is the most straightforward. While iMovie is one program that is bundled with Apple computers and, therefore, offers an inexpensive software solution, iMovie has been more difficult to teach and for students to learn for this particular process. [23]

Transcription. Transcription is an integral part of the research process because the activity of transcription is the first opportunity students have to carefully listen and look in a detailed, disciplined way at the interaction itself. Once students have started to isolate segments of data they want to investigate closer, they start to transcribe those clips. As a class activity, students receive training in using and recognizing basic transcription conventions. [24] While several kinds of software are available for transcription, [25] in this course toggling between Word and QuickTime Pro has proved sufficient for segments of less than two minutes each.

In class, students are first exposed to a simplified version of the Jeffersonian transcription conventions (Atkinson & Heritage, 1984; Jefferson, 2004). Next, they are asked to roughly transcribe a range of discursive phenomena. For weekly homework, students are sent on a “scavenger hunt” where they are asked to find and transcribe specific instances of the structures or phenomena they are reading about in class. This task provides an excellent opportunity to compare how similar social acts and structures can be realized in various ways across different contexts and types of recorded data. Students are asked to make clips of favorite examples that are then discussed together in a large group. While course readings provide the guides to look for a repertoire of possible things to “see,” students are also encouraged to notice and transcribe segments that simply interest them. B oth types of transcription encourage students to home in on recurrent practices used in mundane talk that can become the basis for their final projects.

Workshopping data. Another important pedagogical component of this course is the opportunity for the students and instructor to jointly view the data clips selected and transcribed by students. Clips are discussed and contribute to building student analytic skill collaboratively during class time. After an initial, rough transcription, students are asked to refine three segments for the purpose of presenting those clips in front of the class as an outline of a preliminary final project analysis. Workshopping data allows students to continue to see the similarities and differences across different settings and data types. Students present line-by-line analyses while I and other students give public feedback. In this process the class starts to collectively achieve a greater sophistication and understanding of the mechanisms of turns at talk and the larger trajectories of actions that make up interaction. Further, these data workshops provide students with an ong oing tutorial in the inductive methods employed by discourse and conversation analysts. In particular, students learn that the interactional structures they present are used as data to build evidence for the overall analysis.

At this point, students’ initial naïve statements such as “me and my family are really rude we always interrupt one another,” start to become more nuanced as they use the repeated viewing of the video clips to, for example, differentiate interruption from overlap and start to recognize the regularities of overlap. Through their course readings and the data workshops, students also start to better understand the mechanisms by which participants align, disalign, display identities and take other stances. While a student may initially have had a sense that a close friend or family member seems “overbearing,” in this process the student starts to develop an analytic vocabulary to describe in more detail how or why that may be (Nofsinger, 1991). Students may also develop a growing awareness of some of the more problematic kinds of talk they engage in, or are subject to on a regular basis such as recurrent critic ism, teasing that is consistently targeted at one individual in a group or family, or racist or other types of hateful language that is used recurrently within an intimate group. At this stage of workshopping data, students often report that the world of talk starts to open up to them and they start to notice in much more detail their own and others’ interactions around them. Technology enables students to look at interaction in detail and sensitizes students to their own and others’ language use in important ways.

Final Project

Students are asked to write a final project that either analyzes several instances of a recurrent practice, or examines how the use of several different practices are related to how a larger interactive phenomenon is accomplished, such as a display of a particular identity. By this point in the semester students have completed a variety of smaller assignments, and these are all brought together along with a brief literature review to assemble the final paper. While the class is focused on LSI methods, students are encouraged to find relevant literature in communication studies that addresses some aspect of their data, including the setting, activity, population, or other area of interest. Conducting the literature search and reading two or three relevant articles allows the students to further discover the differences between what “really happens” during the naturally occurring talk in which they are now experts and the ways other communication studies resear chers have conceptualized or accounted for a phenomenon in communication.

At this point, students are also encouraged to incorporate ethnographic knowledge (Erikson, 1982; Gottdiener, 1979; ten Have, 2000; Moerman, 1988; Whalen, 1995) about the setting or participants according to what Maynard (2003) has termed a “limited affinity.” Following this approach students are encouraged to incorporate ethnographic context into an analysis in so far as it can substantiate contextual factors in the analysis (including describing contexts and relationships between people, explaining unfamiliar terms or processes, or some other disambiguation of the activity) that would otherwise be difficult to understand. Armed with the basic tools of discourse analysis and conversation analysis, the technology of recording, processing and transcribing data, and an emic perspective for analysis, the students are ready to pull together their final paper.


Students often report that they feel the course is a lot of work. However, they also report that the research experience is meaningful one. There are several keys to successfully teaching this course in a sixteen week semester. First, students are expected to explore a variety of potential research sites within the first two weeks of the semester. By the end of week two, students will ideally have decided on a particular research site with the instructor’s approval. It is helpful to encourage students to have a “plan B,” in case something happens with the first site. Second, students are asked to complete data collection by mid semester (about week six or seven). If this is done, the course as a whole can optimize the use of the data in the remainder of research process, especially for in-class workshops. [26] Third, students need relatively easy access to basic concepts in conversation analysis and discourse analysis and should not be weighed down by heavy reading loads. [27]

Because an entire research project is completed in sixteen weeks, the emphasis is placed on each step of the research process, rather than on the final product. When students do not feel pressured to create new findings they are better able to focus on the research process itself and learn the tools they are being offered. Of course, there are always students who have the academic preparation and the drive to produce the start of some very good research papers that can be taken to regional or student conferences. For those students interested in graduate school, this course can provide insight into the research process and their completed work can provide evidence that they have experience in conducting basic, independent research. Finally, aside from the benefits a course such as this provides students of communication studies, much of the data being recorded for the course will be additionally benefit the LSI community at large since it will soon be available in an o nline LSI archive for researchers using LSI perspectives. [28]


For students learning about LSI as a perspective in communication studies, we argue that learning LSI means doing LSI research. To do LSI research effectively and efficiently, one must use technology. As we demonstrated with these case studies, technology is essential. At multiple points throughout the research process, from learning how to competently handle recording equipment, to preserving and transforming raw recordings into transcriptions, to workshopping, and to making ongoing in-class presentations of possible communicative practices, technology facilitates scholarship. We suggest that engagement with technology is not a one-time event, but an ongoing necessity for both LSI scholars and students alike. If we as LSI researchers agree that technology facilitates our own doing of LSI research, our goal as teachers of LSI should be to equip and instruct students in those same tools and techniques that enable close inspection of the details of talk that constitute ro utine achievement of interaction. While incorporating technology can be challenging, we argue that it contributes to the student’s experience of the LSI research process in multiple ways and should therefore also be an important feature of teaching LSI related courses.

Involving students in the full arc of the LSI research process encourages development of a wide skill set including technical expertise with using recording equipment, various forms of technology literacies, interpersonal skills that allow for the setup and maintenance of site relationships with participants, and perhaps most importantly, experience with using empirical data to make analytic claims in the context of social science research. Purposefully integrating technology use into our LSI research methods courses furthermore allows students to become experts in data that they themselves collect which enables them to write with authority about communicative phenomena.

While ethnography of communication and discourse analysis tend to use technology differently to accomplish different types of analyses, a comparison of the two perspectives reveals that for the pedagogical purposes of teaching undergraduates, they may in fact be similar in several ways. Pedagogically, our goal is to engage students in an interactive research process that asks them to see and to hear the world with new eyes and ears. Engaging students in the primary research process helps students understand how LSI and communication scholarship in general is produced. Aided by technology, students practice critical thinking skills from their research experiences and develop competences endemic to the research process.


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Appendix 1
Sample Student Paper Excerpt

Communicative Ritual: Jia You!

A communicative ritual is a consistent pattern found in the communication of a particular group. It is unique, as well as characteristic and cultural to that group. The communicative ritual in the Wushu community is Jia You. In Chinese (Mandarin), this saying directly translates to “add gas” or “add fuel”. However, it loosely translates to something equivalent to “Go!” or “Push it!” in English.  Jia You is a sign of encouragement and support expressed particularly when Wushu practitioners are performing their routines. All Wushu practitioners, masters, and enthusiasts are familiar with and engage in this communicative ritual. It is a culturally unifying ritual that is practiced not only in the classroom environment but also on a larger scale such as a tournament setting. An example of the use of Jia You in the classroom environment is shown in the following excerpt from my field notes from Friday, March 24:

Next, when Jennifer kicks, Laoshi remarks, “Jennifer, jia you!” Laoshi then has the students do two consecutive front slap kicks, left leg then right. She shows and explains this new kicking sequence. The students then practice the sequence one-by-one moving diagonally down the mat. To conclude their kicking training, Laoshi has the class do consecutive front slap kicks non-stop down the length of the mat. As the students kick, Laoshi screams, “Jia you! Jia you! Jia you!” *clap clap clap*.  All the students are exhausted and breathing hard, though Romy appears to be breathing hardest.

By screaming “Jia you!” Laoshi encourages the students to keep strong, keep going, and keep trying despite their feeling tired and wanting to slow down and exert less energy. An example of the prominence of Jia You in a tournament setting (larger scale) is shown in the following transcript a Chinese Martial Arts Tournament, which was held on Saturday, April 8, 2006:

As shown in this transcript, the Jia You ritual is used more frequently in a larger setting.  Instead of just one person screaming Jia You as seen in the classroom environment, multiple people are screaming—one after the other and at times all at once.  The role of Jia You remains the same when examined on a larger scale.  This ritual is used as a form of encouragement and support for fellow Wushu practitioners—to give the Wushu-ist a “boost” and to “pump them up”.  The use of Jia You is no different than fans cheering at a baseball game.  Because of its role as a unifier, Jia You allows strangers to communicate with one another.  Jia You is not only used with friends and acquaintances.  Complete strangers can also use this ritual as a means of showing friendliness and support.  Furthermore, Jia You is something in which everyone can engage.  It is a cultural aspect of Wushu that keeps its original Chinese form but is nonetheless learned by all members of the greater international Wushu community.  Also, because large scale events, such as tournaments, do not necessarily allow for people to engage in whole conversations—specifically on the competition floor—Jia You is the way in which people communicate with each other.

Author Note

Evelyn Y. Ho is an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco where she teaches courses and conducts research in the areas of LSI (primarily ethnography of communication) and Health Communication.

Leah Wingard is an assistant professor at San Francisco State University where she leads the Language and Social Interaction breadth area in the department. She is affiliate researcher at the UCLA Sloan Center for the Everyday Lives of Families where she has conducted ethnographic fieldwork including video-ethnography and interviews.

Christopher J. Koenig is a joint research fellow at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (PRL-IHPS) at the University of California, San Francisco and Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute (PAMFRI) where he conducts research employing video-based ethnographic methods, LSI research methodology, the provider-patient relationship in primary care, and micro-policy of the medical visit as it relates to quality of care issues.

John C. Bansavich is the Director of the Center for Instruction and Technology and Program Coordinator for the Digital Media and Learning (DML) program in the School of Education at the University of San Francisco. He also teaches part-time in the DML program.

The first three authors contributed equally to this article and are listed in alphabetical order. Portions of this article are based on a presentation made at the “Using technology in language and social interaction research, teaching, and presentations,” Language and Social Interaction Division Pre-conference to the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Chicago, IL, November 2007.

We gratefully acknowledge Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz for taking the initiative to highlight the importance of technology in pedagogy in this special issue. We also thank three anonymous reviewers who encouraged us to clearly articulate the advantages of including students in the full LSI research process. Articulating this process encouraged us to be reflective about the process we engage students in as we teach the courses described in the paper. Finally, we would like to thank the student author who allowed us to reprint his paper excerpt.

Correspondence concerning this article – including requests for assignment sheets, instructional handouts, or other pedagogical materials – should be addressed to Evelyn Y. Ho or Leah Wingard


[1] For example, there has been scholarly controversy regarding the role of context (Goodwin & Duranti, 1989; Schegloff, 1997). Some conversation analysts claim that context is local and procedurally consequential for the members themselves (Schegloff, 1987; 1992). Opponents of this view see context as extra-situational, but influential on members’ actions (Bourdieu, 1977; Moerman, 1988). Maynard (2003) recognizes various intermediate positions, which he terms the “mutual affinity” perspective where conversation analysis might exist in addition to traditional fieldwork, thereby enriching both methods (Frankel, 1989; Maynard, 1984; Whalen, 1995). Maynard advocates a “limited affinity” perspective, in which the role of context is acknowledged but limited to describing settings and identities of participants, explicating unfamiliar terms, activities, and courses of action, and explaining patterns that sequential analyses may reveal, but not adequately explain. The role of context in LSI is an ongoing, substantive area of debate. We feel more public discussion about this and related issues continue to be important.

[2] The original decision to have students work in pairs was a practical one. With enrollment at 40 each semester, it was too difficult to grade and manage 40 different fieldwork projects. However, over time, it has proven beneficial for students to share fieldwork. They are not required to write their papers together; however, many choose to turn in one paper and share the grade.

[3] As a class, students are not required to obtain IRB approval for their research. In this class, the ethical standard I establish requires all students to receive oral (audio-recorded) informed consent for all recordings and oral informed consent for participant observation. Students also use pseudonyms in all writing including fieldnotes and transcripts and are told to delete any potentially damaging identifiable recordings.

[4] Students typically destroy their recordings at the end of the semester. As such, they are not archived for future use.

[5] For our classes, we have a library of 25 iRiver digital recorders that are available for students in designated LSI classes for a 24-hour weekday checkout and on weekends from Friday to Monday. At the beginning of each semester, a list of names is given to the CIT where these are housed. We also have an undergraduate technology Teaching Assistant who holds weekly office hours to help students with any iRiver problems that arise. We have used this system successfully for the last 2½ years.

[7] In our experience, the only drawback to our particular devices is that they were originally sold to work only with Windows-based PCs. With some extra configuration to use the device as a “mass storage device,” we were able to use these with Macs as well. The more current iRiver models are compatible with Mac or PC, but instructors should thoroughly check device compatibility before purchasing equipment. Students can also record using many versions of Apple’s iPod. While there is a wide range of iPod models, not all of them are easily configured for digital recording. For around $50-$70, students can purchase (or these can also be purchased by a department for check-out) an attachable microphone that turns the iPod into a digital recorder. Three popular microphone attachments are the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo for iPod, the Griffin iTalk Pro, and the XtremeMac Micromemo. Each of these devices wo rks with the video iPod and some nano models (compatibility should be checked before purchasing). Many students find the iPod easy to use because they are already familiar with iPod menus and commands. When the iPod is synched with a computer, the voice memos will be playable in iTunes (in the playlist marked “Voice Memos”). These files can also be extracted as MP3 files for use in other programs/applications and are both Mac and PC compatible.

[8] Common audio file formats include:

  • MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3). This is the default audio standard and the most common compressed audio format. MP3 files can be opened on most computers.
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). This is the default compressed audio format for iTunes and iPod.
  • WMA (Windows Media Audio). This is the default compressed audio format for Windows Media Player and other compatible players.
  • WAV (uncompressed Microsoft Windows standard audio format). Most audio players can open these files but file sizes can become very large.

[9] To assist in transcribing, in this class, we have students use a free and open source program called Audacity. The benefit of Audacity for transcribing is that in particularly difficult sections to understand, users can take advantage of the “looped playback” function. By highlighting and then holding down the Shift key while pushing Audacity’s “Play” button, the button will change from a triangle to two green rotating arrows. Clicking this button replays the selection over and over again. Students new to transcribing also find that highlighting short sections of audio to play (not necessarily replay) helps make transcribing work less frantic because the audio selection ends, students can catch up, and then move forward.

[10] Note that Audacity will automatically save files as Audacity files (.aup extension) that cannot be opened on other computers without first installing the Audacity software. To save an audio file as an MP3 file you need to select from the Audacity “File” menu, “Export as MP3.” These files can then be shared and easily played on most computers and audio devices. In order to convert files in Audacity to the MP3 format, you will need to first download the LAME Encoder plug-in from the Audacity website.

[11] The use of USB footpedals also greatly facilitates transcription. Similar to their analog counterparts, USB footpedals can often be programmed to execute specific macros while transcribing. For example, when listening to a portion of audio or video recording, the footpedal could be programmed to backspace in 5-second intervals. This frees the transcriptionist’s hands to focus on transcription, and converts the activity of transcription into a multi-limbed activity. There are several companies who sell different grades of programmable footpedals at various price points. Following are some of the options are available for footpedals, including:

Before purchasing equipment, please confirm its compatibility with the systems and software you will be using it with.

[12] Papers can also be submitted electronically where audio files are embedded in the actual paper. This can be done in a variety of formats. In Microsoft Word for Mac 2004 use the “Insert” pulldown menu, select “Movie,” and then browse to the appropriate audio file. In Microsoft Word 2003 (Windows) use “Insert,” “Object,” “Create from file,” then browse for the file and select “Display as an icon.” Other presentation formats can include: adding audio clips to an Adobe Acrobat document, embedding audio in a web page, and a host of other multimedia presentation formats.

[13] MP3 audio files can easily be embedded in PowerPoint or other presentation software and transcripts (printed or on screen) can easily be formatted to assist in delivery. The process is very similar to embedding audio into a Word document, keeping in mind that audio files need to be in the same folder as the PowerPoint document in order to play correctly on a computer other than the computer where the presentation was created. Especially for those new to this process, we highly suggest testing presentations before the presentation day on the computer to be used to insure that all audio files will play correctly.

[14] What is remarkable about this paper is that it was written in 2006, long before news coverage of the Beijing Olympics spoke of the ubiquitous nature of the tradition of chanting “Jia you!”

[15] I have been trained in both conversation and discourse analytic perspectives and feel it is important that students receive basic training in key ideas from both strains of research.

[16] While there are several websites that offer online ethics training, the choice for this class is to use the online training that is approved and recommended by the IRB at San Francisco State University, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative course ( This course is appropriate because it has modules designed specifically for student researchers. Also, while many online courses emphasize ethics within a bio-medical paradigm, the CITI course explicitly addresses research concerns relevant in social and behavioral science.

[17] While IRB approval would not be strictly necessary for recording data solely for pedagogical purposes, the data collected in this course is pre-approved by the university IRB for use in an online LSI archive, which is anticipated to be available to access for pre-approved researchers by the end of 2009.

[18] Students check out a recording kit, which includes camera, mini-DV tapes, extended life battery, battery charger, shotgun microphone, tripod and soft carrying case.

[19] While mini-DV technology may by some standards be considered outdated, it has proven to be a sustainable and well-tried format for this kind of work. While newer technologies will no doubt eventually replace the mini-DV format altogether, problems regarding proprietary formats kept me from venturing into this unknown territory.

[20] Digitizing refers to the process of converting analog recordings from mini-DV tape to digital files that can be eventually be used for analysis on a computer. The mini-DV tapes are placed into a mini-DV tape deck similar to a VCR and converted into digital files using Apple’s Final Cut Pro software. The resulting files are quite large, for example, 1 hour of video can easily take up over 10 gigabytes of hard drive space. To make the files smaller and therefore more useable, they must be compressed. Files are compressed using Compressor, which is a program bundled with Final Cut Pro. Custom compression settings are used that allow a 1-hour file to easily fit onto a CD, or for multiple one-hour files to fit onto a DVD.

[21] One clear place for future development of this course would be to find a way to make it possible for students to digitize and compress their own data either supervised by a teaching assistant or a lab assistant on campus without using valuable class time.

[22] While QuickTime Player is free (, QuickTime Pro provides the additional feature of being able to easily make short “clips” of interaction. The upgrade at the time of purchase for 25 workstations in the university lab was about $35 per workstation.

[23] iMovie also had the disadvantage that mini–DV tapes have to be digitized into the program itself. In the case of this class where the program is on lab computers, using iMovie would mean using class time to digitize and compress data, and since tapes digitize at the rate of playing the data (e.g., 1 hour of data equals 1 hour of digitizing) digitizing the data during class time would use time that is better spent on other more valuable learning experiences.

[24] There are two excellent conversation analysis transcription tutorials available online. They can be found at the following links:

[25] The two most notable programs are Transana ( and CLAN-CA (, although there are others as well, such as Express Scribe Transcription Playback Software (

[26] I generally send a preliminary e-mail out to students who are enrolled in the course a month before the course starts giving them a brief explanation of what they will be asked to do in the course and asking them to consider possible research sites for recording.

[27] In this class I try to especially avoid a lot of reading that is written in styles that are hard to access for undergraduate students, which is unfortunately the case for the majority of literature published in conversation analysis.

[28] Although both conversation analytic and discourse analytic approaches rely on recordings of naturally occurring interaction to produce collections and justify analytic claims, such recordings are difficult and time consuming to both collect and process. While LSI researchers have traditionally worked with personally collected corpora for their analyses, and some groups have created corpora that are only accessible to a few researchers, more researchers and research groups are starting to create archives that are accessible to wider groups of LSI researchers. Examples of these include TalkBank (, the Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English (, and the CHILDES Database (http://childes.p However, while such archives are becoming more common, a number of issues arise when creating them. A full discussion of the issues that surround archived and publically accessible recorded materials for LSI research could constitute a full scholarly article. Some of the issues to consider however include determining the best formats and media to ensure the long term stability of such recordings, negotiations with IRBs who often hesitate to allow permanently archived data and are not familiar with addressing naturally recorded interactions as research data, and establishing ethics guidelines that must govern the use of such data. How to write about participants in the analysis phase can also present some challenging ethics when working with archived data. For a good example of how to address the ethics of the analysis itself, please see the ethics statement associated with TalkBank (

More publically accessible archives have the advantage of benefiting the overall advancement of the use of naturally occurring interaction and LSI methods in general and therefore benefit the LSI community of researchers at large. When the energy of recording and processing the interactional data have been expended and when participants in the recordings explicitly agree to it, those recordings might as well provide dual functions of providing data for a student’s semester project as well as providing data for the LSI research community at large. Thus, as the field of LSI grows, university courses like the ones described here constitute an important opportunity of advancing the larger availability of such materials for scholars in the field. Authors of this article are happy to dialog further with researchers who would like more orientation in these issues.

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