"If You Want to Understand the Big Issues, You Need to Understand the Everyday Practices That Constitute Them." Lucy Suchman in Conversation With Dominik Gerst & Hannes Krämer


  • Lucy Suchman Lancaster University
  • Dominik Gerst University Duisburg-Essen
  • Hannes Krämer University Duisburg-Essen




ethnomethodology, Garfinkel, human-machine interaction, science and technology studies, feminism, mundane practices, mutual intelligibility, documentary method, intervening social science


With her book "Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication," Lucy SUCHMAN (1987) not only opened up a whole new domain of scientific interest but also showed how the scope of ethnomethodological inquiry can be widened in a fruitful way. Since then she is best known for her extensive contributions to the field of science and technology studies. In this interview, SUCHMAN gives insights into how she brought ethnomethodological sensibilities to new research fields, including human-machine interaction and feminist scholarship. She shares personal anecdotes of her meetings with Harold GARFINKEL and reflects upon key ethnomethodological elements such as the analysis of mundane practices and the fundamental sociality of mutual intelligibility. Discussing the relevance for material studies and how ethnomethodology can contribute to a politically engaged social science, SUCHMAN strikingly demonstrates the actuality of ethnomethodology's program.


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Author Biographies

Lucy Suchman, Lancaster University

Lucy A. SUCHMAN, professor of anthropology of science and technology in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University since 2000. After earning her BA (1972), MA (1977) and PhD (1984) at the University of California at Berkeley she worked for twenty years as a researcher at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. She has been a visiting senior research fellow with the Work, Interaction and Technology Research Group at King's College London, an adjunct professor at the University of Technology, Sydney's Interaction Design and Work Practice Laboratory, and is currently an adjunct professor at the Information Technology University in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her research interests within the field of feminist science and technology studies are focused on technological imaginaries and material practices of technology design, particularly developments at the interface of bodies and machines.

Dominik Gerst, University Duisburg-Essen

Dominik GERST, born 1986 in Kassel, studied sociology and German philology at the Georg-August University in Göttingen. From 2014-2016 he received a doctoral scholarship in the post-graduate program "Perceiving and Negotiating Borders in Talk." From 2017 till September 2018 he was research associate in the research group "Border & Boundary Studies" at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION. Since October 2018 he is research associate at the Institute for Communication Studies at the University Duisburg-Essen. In his dissertation project at the faculty of cultural and social studies at the Viadrina he is working on border knowledge in the German-Polish field of security. His research interests are border & boundary studies; ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, esp. membership categorization analysis; sociology of knowledge; qualitative methodology.

Hannes Krämer, University Duisburg-Essen

Hannes KRÄMER, born 1980 in Weimar, studied communication studies and social sciences at the universities of Duisburg-Essen, Maynooth and Bern. He was research associate at the Excellence Cluster 16 at the University Konstanz. He received his PhD in 2013 for his work on creative work at the faculty of cultural and social studies at the European-University Viadrina. From 2014-2016 he led the research project "Temporal Boundaries of the Presence" and afterwards he led the research group "Border & Boundary Studies" and was scientific coordinator at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION. Since 2018 he is professor of communication in institutions and organizations at the University Duisburg-Essen. His research interests are studies of work and organization; cultural sociology; practice theory and micro-sociology; border & boundary studies; sociology of time; mobility studies; ethnography.




How to Cite

Suchman, L., Gerst, D., & Krämer, H. (2019). "If You Want to Understand the Big Issues, You Need to Understand the Everyday Practices That Constitute Them." Lucy Suchman in Conversation With Dominik Gerst & Hannes Krämer. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.2.3252

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