Loughborough University
Albert et al Discourse Studies 2018 IR version.pdf (1.84 MB)

The conversational rollercoaster: conversation analysis and the public science of talk

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-09-08, 12:43 authored by Saul AlbertSaul Albert, Charlotte Albury, Marc Alexander, Toby Harris, Emily Hofstetter, Edward Holmes, Elizabeth Stokoe
How does talk work, and can we engage the public in a dialogue about the scientific study of talk? This paper presents a history, critical evaluation and empirical illustration of the public science of talk. We chart the public ethos of conversation analysis that treats talk as an inherently public phenomenon, and its transcribed recordings as public data. We examine the inherent contradictions that conversation analysis is simultaneously obscure yet highly cited; it studies an object that people understand intuitively, yet routinely produces counter-intuitive findings about talk. We describe a novel methodology for engaging the public in a science exhibition event, and show how our ‘conversational rollercoaster’—involving live recording, transcription and public-led analysis—addressed the challenge of demonstrating how talk can become an informative object of scientific research. We conclude by encouraging researchers not only to engage in a public dialogue, but also to find ways to actively engage people in taking a scientific approach to talk as a pervasive, structural feature of their everyday lives.


The authors would like to acknowledge funding for the Conversational Rollercoaster from Queen Mary University of London and Loughborough University. We also acknowledge our funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the Media and Arts Technology Programme, a Research Councils UK Centre for Doctoral Training (EP/G03723X/1), and support for Edward J. B. Holmes' participation by Economic and Social Research Council doctoral award conferred by the Department of Sociology at the University of York. Dr. Hofstetter's participation was funded by Alex Stein, partner.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Discourse Studies






ALBERT, S. ... et al, 2017. The conversational rollercoaster: conversation analysis and the public science of talk. Discourse Studies, 20(3), pp. 397-424.


SAGE (© The Authors)


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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Publication date



This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Discourse Studies and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445618754571






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