Innocence and Nostalgia in Conversation Analysis: The Dynamic Relations of Tape and Transcript

Malcolm Ashmore, Darren Reed


This paper attempts an analysis of some of the methodological practices of Conversation Analysis (CA); in particular, tape recording and transcription. The paper starts from the observation that, in the CA literature, these practices, and the analytic objects they create (the tape and the transcript), are accorded different treatment: simply put, for CA the tape is a "realist" object, while the transcript is a "constructivist" one. The significance of this difference is explored through an analysis of the dynamics of CA practice. We argue that the "constructivist transcript" is premised on an understanding of CA as predominantly concerned with maximising its "analytic utility": a concern of one distinct temporal stage of CA work: that of the "innocent" apprehension of objects in the "first time through". The "realist tape", in contrast, is based on a different aspect of the work of CA: its quest for greater "evidential utility", achieved by the "nostalgic" revisiting of previously produced objects for purposes of checking them against each other; work done in the "next time through". We further argue that both the ontology and the epistemology of CA's objects are changed in any next time encounter. We conclude with a cautionary speculation on the currently-projected, transcript-free, digital future of CA. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs000335


conversation analysis; tape recording; transcription; rhetoric; epistemology; phenomenology; realism; constructivism

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Copyright (c) 2000 Malcolm Ashmore, Darren Reed

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