Formulating and managing neighbourhood complaints: a comparative study of service provision

2019-04-11T11:28:32Z (GMT) by Marc Alexander
This thesis investigates how members of the public report neighbourhood problems in telephone inquiry calls to antisocial behaviour, environmental health, and mediation services in the United Kingdom (UK). It provides the first comparative analysis of how similar kinds of concerns (e.g., noise, smells, property access) are designed for different organizations that, in their own way, have a remit to provide service. Despite neighbourhood problems, and neighbour disputes, being such a widespread and pervasive concern in the UK, little is known about the service provided by the somewhat diverse organisations that exist to remedy them. This research examines actual interactions that take place in these institutional settings, focusing on the ways in which people formulate complaints about their neighbours conduct, and how different services offer (or reject) assistance. In so doing, the thesis contributes in new ways to our understanding of how institutional identities, relationships, actions, and activities are shaped in these encounters. Further, it enriches our knowledge of the organisational features of social interaction. The empirical basis for the research comprises a corpus of over 340 telephone recordings of interactions between members of the public and antisocial behaviour, environmental health, and mediation services. The data were transcribed and analysed using the approach of discursive psychology (DP), as embedded within the methodological framework of conversation analysis (CA). The four analytic chapters are organised around different aspects of service provision, and in their own way, address the two core CA concepts of comparative analysis (i.e., comparing interactional features in or across environments) and recipient design (i.e., formulating talk designed to display an orientation to co-present others). The first analytic chapter examines how noise disturbance is initially recipient designed and establishes two predominant formulations callers use - agentive (neighbours are invoked) and agent-free (neighbours are omitted). In mediation calls, the agentive formulation is always used, whilst in environmental health calls, agent-free design is predominantly used. The second analytic chapter investigates the emergence of service-side business and demonstrates how concomitant shifts (i.e. from caller experience to institutional concern) by call-takers treat certain information as adequate, and how callers are given interactional space (or not) to complain in various ways. The third analytic chapter comparatively examines how third-party agencies (TPAs) are recipient designed when making the case for aid specifically, as service-referrals and service-mentions , and brings into focus, the interconnectedness of organisations that manage similar problems. The final analytic chapter investigates call outcomes through offers and signposting to TPAs. Offers might recruit callers in future courses of action or may only be treated as offers by next-turn-proof-procedure. Signposting typically involves rejecting the case for assistance sometimes in normative terms, or in the vehicle of an offer. Through comparative analysis, this thesis contributes significantly to our understanding of the interconnectedness of services and underscores the flexible ways in which neighbourhood problems are recipient designed for, and managed by, call-takers in organisations. This thesis lays the groundwork for future research by introducing new institutional environments for service provision antisocial behaviour and environmental health agencies.