5.2 Seeing (and hearing) with categories and/or concepts


As we watch and, of course, listen, to the video recording, we are using everyday social categories to identify the persons (and other social agents) in the video. Ethnomethdology and conversation analysis refer to this sense-making as membership categorisation analysis and it is documented in detail in xxxx (LINK) of this resource. To put it briefly, we constantly and competently use social categories such as ‘parent’, ‘child’, ‘car’ to not only understand (and misunderstand) what we witness unfolding but also to witness it at all. It is not that we have seen an X doing something and then afterwards attached the label ‘parent’ but rather that we use the concept of ‘parent’ to see the thing for what it is, all in one go. Look at the video below:



Video 1

Membership categories and the rules for their application are one of the resources that analysts utilise to make sense of the video we are analysing. Here, then, we see 'customers' and 'staff'. Remember though, the approach we are using here is concerned with trying to recover what categories the participants in the setting will be using to make sense of their situation.

Categories, and how they are applied provide both post hoc by researchers and in vivo participants, with a shared sense of the situation. Conversation analysis and ethnomethodology are concerned with avoiding importing foreign categories (which is a constant temptation in doing research). A temptation because there are topics that are current and relevant to the social sciences that we bring with us as our concerns such as age, gender, materiality, identity and so on. Sometimes these are indeed relevant to the settings we analyse on video but the concern here is with the participants’ sense-making first and what this might teach us later about the ideas we have brought to the video recording we are studying.