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Topic construction and speaker involvement : some features of the social organization of meetings Amren, Rudolph Wayne

Abstract

Two brief excerpts of transcribed talk from the First Annual General Meeting of a Co-operative Association, and some additional background information from 'field observations', are taken as data for the study of participants' organization of that occasion through their conversational practices. Employing a methodological perspective directed toward the discovery of the formal structures of practical actions first proposed by Harold Garfinkel and Harvey Sacks,² ³ ⁶ a descriptive analysis is offered of members strategies for constructing this talk as socially organized activity. We find, through the activities of 'beginning', '.constructing a way of proceeding', 'constructing a first item of business', and 'keeping track of topics and speakers', that the occasion is constituted as a 'meeting'; and by noting the resources called upon in 'constructing topics' and 'doing membership categorization' we find the production and display of that occasioned-group as a 'meeting of a formal organization'. With respect to topic-choice and speaker-selection problems, we observe that a fundamental aspect of the character of that group-occasion is provided in their particular solution, the propriety of which turns on the interpretive scheme provided via the 'reasons for the meeting'. We have also shown how 'invoking authorship', 'doing biographical analysis', and 'calling for an autobiographical account may be directly implicated in controlling the talk at that point in the occasion. Numerous other features of these activities are discussed with a similar concern for displaying how they are ‘situated’ with respect to such resource classes as 'the Co-op Organization', and 'the sequential organization of that occasioned talk'. In retrospect, and by way of characterizing what we have accomplished in the analysis, we are able to relate some of our findings to published material in the field. If we are permitted to extrapolate from our experience with these two small excerpts of talk, we are led to conclude that further study of 'the meeting', as a pervasive and accessible form of social activity, promises to contribute to our understanding of the social organization of multi-person gatherings and the production of occasioned talk in natural settings.

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