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Omnirelevance and interactional context

Fitzgerald, Richard, Housley, William ORCID: and Butler, Carly W. 2009. Omnirelevance and interactional context. Australian Journal of Communication 36 (3) , pp. 45-64.

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Within conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis, the warrant for any instance of analytic interest is always the demonstrable relevance and consequentiality of the phenomena to the interactants. Demonstrating participants’ orientations to social structural contexts poses methodological difficulties, as such orientations are often fragmentary, which weakens the possibility of exploring social structural features as omnipresent and influencing the understandings and actions of participants. In this paper, we revisit Sacks’s (1995) discussion of omnirelevance, in order to explore the possibility of approaching context within a multilayering of categorical relevances. We argue that, within the layering of membership devices in an episode of interaction, there is an analytically observable orientation to an omnirelevant device. This omnirelevant device operates as background to the occasioned topic devices as a kind of ‘default’ orientation that organises the participation context. The analysis draws upon a transcript of an (ordinary) conversation in which various touched-off topics generate interactional and membership devices. While these devices are seen to organise the topic at hand, there are occasions where topic talk is suspended and a different membership device is oriented to. The omnirelevant device reveals itself through the cracks, joints, and articulation of touched off-topic devices, suggesting a layering and hierarchy of membership devices. By exploring the notion of omnirelevant devices within interaction as part of a layering of topical membership devices, this paper argues for the possibility of exploring a wider participant orientation within interaction and the warrant to analytically invoke a backgrounded organisational device.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: The University of Queensland
ISSN: 0811-6202
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Last Modified: 19 Oct 2022 10:48

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