ICCA2018 – knowledge, network, and inspiration
Attending a conference can be time consuming and costly. As a Ph.D. student I am working towards a strict deadline, and nothing should come between me and my primary focus – to produce a proper thesis and submit it on time. Why, then, did I spend weeks in preparation, more than a full week away from the office and a good part of the project’s operational funds to participate at ICCA2018 in July?
Jessica Pedersen Belisle Hansen (Photo: Nadia Frantsen / UiO)
Last summer, while I was still blinded by the dazzling novelty of my new job as a Ph.D. candidate, the conversation analysists at the office began talking about the upcoming International Conference on Conversation Analysis (ICCA). I find that conversation analysis (CA) provides the perfect lens to analyse the complexity of interpreted interaction and therefore use CA for my project on video-mediated interpreting in Norwegian hospitals. My supervisor agreed that ICCA was the right place for an aspiring conversation analyst, so I signed up for a full week at Loughborough University with three pre-conference workshops. Despite that I didn’t yet feel I had much to show for, I got an abstract accepted for a panel on mediated interaction. Who would have thought!
The presentation – showing off my early work and getting feedback from experts
I am well aware from previous work that giving presentations is a good way to advance my presentation skills and to let people know about my current work. I enjoy getting feedback and questions, it puts my work into new perspectives and helps me develop future output. While preparing my talk, I realized that this presentation meant even more to me with my ongoing project. The talk was on a topic which might be suitable for a first article. I was giving the presentation at a panel, so the entire panel session was relevant for my work. This also meant that people interested in mediated interaction would be present. I could trial my work at an early stage and get feedback from experts – experts on mediated interaction and experts on CA. After the panel session, I got the chance to talk to several people whom I usually quote in my work, and I met people with similar academic interests and relevant projects. What more could a Ph.D. student wish for?
Pre-conference workshops – getting to know the field
At the Multimodality workshop, Mondada guided us through methodological possibilities and technical choices related to video recordings, and the analytical consequences and theoretical presuppositions of these choices. Heritage and Raymond’s workshop on Epistemics gave a thorough overview over literature and discussions on the topic. My reading list grew by the minute!
Giovanni Rossi’s workshop, “Best practices in presenting non-English data”, covered researchers’ considerations when working with transcripts and translations, and practical tips for working with and presenting non-English data. I was a little disappointed, although not surprised, to see that there were few, if any participants present working on English data. While the discussion revolved around making non-English data available in English, there was no discussion on the analytical consequences of relying on theoretical and analytical assumptions from studies on English data in the analysis of non-English data. Marja-Leena Sorjonen’s plenary later that week was therefore a thrill, and I will return to this shortly.
The conference – knowledge, network and inspiration
The conference program was rich in content, and with the many parallel sessions, choosing where to be when was no walk in the park. I identified strands on multimodality, embodied resources in interaction, mediated interaction, multilingual interaction, and interpreting, as these topics are relevant to my project. I also kept an eye out for presentations on interaction in signed languages since this is an academic interest of mine. Every now and then I went to a presentation that didn’t fit my academic profile at all, just to expand beyond my immediate interests and to get some fresh, new input.
Jeffrey Robinson, Rebecca Clift, Aug Nishizaka, Marja-Leena Sorjonen and Tanya Stivers provided a nice variety of plenary talks, all bringing forth different aspects of interaction. To me, as a student, both their findings and their different research designs were of interest. Marja-Leena Sorjonen’s plenary on how ‘oh’ is translated in four Finnish translations of Alice in Wonderland, resonated with my thoughts from the workshop on non-English data. Leelo Keevallik’s tweet summed it up nicely: “Marja-Leena Sorjonen: Let’s not get stuck in linguistic categories when figuring out what languages do in terms of action”.
Several interesting discussions moved onto Twitter, lifting the debate beyond the confines of the conference and inviting others to participate. In addition to meeting new people at the conference sessions, breakfasts, breaks and the conference dinner all provided occasions to talk to fellow conversation analysts in informal settings. I even got to know some of my Norwegian colleagues from other universities better during the week at Loughborough.
Inspired and exhausted
This was an intense week. On my way home it felt like sparks were flying off the top of my head: Many new people, many new thoughts and ideas, a lot to read and new approaches to try out. I was headed for my summer vacation but was already longing back to the office to revisit my data with post-ICCA eyes. Naturally, not every conference I have attended has been the great experience that this was. The week at Loughborough was a reminder for me as a Ph.D. student of how important it is to participate at the right conference, to prepare well and to really make the most of it. Well, I guess I should get back to work and start writing up a draft for that article I mentioned earlier.