Conversation Analysis and the X Factor

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Part 1

I have selected an interview with X-Factor judge Kelly Rowland, in which she finds out that contestant Frankie Cocozza has been 'kicked off' of the show.

Transcription methods vary depending on what the analyst chooses to investigate. In this particular case, as I was interested in, not only how the speakers perform social activities through language (Seedhouse, 2008), but also the contribution of their non-verbal actions, I chose Conversation Analysis (CA). However, one must point out that, although CA emphasises empirical, data-led research "to guard against building speculative theories," (Hewings, 2008, p.34), it is futile to suppose one single, authoritative version of the original event exists (Graddol, 1994). Furthermore, not all features of spoken interaction can be captured, nor can specific motives be attributed to a certain non-verbal action.

01Reporter: of course we are a:bsolutely huge fans of you on the[x factor

02Kelly: [thank you

03Reporter:(loving watching [you

04Kelly: [thank you

05Reporter: um (.) but b.but (.) w.we're sho(cked to hear today ((fiddles with hair)) that Frankie's (.) gone (.) what can you tell ºus º w.what do you make of that

06Kelly:(0.2) what(=

07PA:= I don't we don't we've been lo(cked in a room [all day

08Reporter: [oh re::ally( hah hah (.) oh gosh yeah( th.they released a statement saying that he um (.) that he's decided to leave

09PA:(.) oh I don't know I think we'll have [to ( )

10Reporter: [oh I'm sorry I ( )

11Kelly: ((holds up hand as if to stop)) [yeah cos that would be quite the face to have from [that oh my god

12Reporter: [I'm so sorry I didn't realise it like broke all over twitter (.) and I um we got a º statement º about it

13PA:((Kelly looks at her PA)) (0.2) I don't know we'll have to cos (Ellen's not (here from (.) talkback we haven't we'd need to get that [verified

14Kelly: [ye: :ah [I'm sorry

15PA:[ ( ) music interview [today

16Reporter: [like no no I'm sorry I didn't mean to=

17PA: =well hahhah

18Reporter:I I didn't mean to [like

19PA: [ ( )

20Reporter:Yeah sorry I didn't mean to [like um I didn't realise that you (.) didn't know

21Kelly: [ ((she sighs loudly)) (0.3) (poor guy(

380 words

Part 2

Conversation Analysis is based on the idea that what is said draws a vast amount of meaning from what is left unsaid (Maybin, 2007). Seemingly incoherent conversations are actually organised in an orderly fashion, centred around the cooperation of participants (Hewings, 2008). The excerpt I have chosen is particularly interesting as, although it stems from a potentially scripted situation, due to Kelly's misinformation, the entire conversation immediately shifts to unscripted.

The conversation begins with informal 'small talk,' known as phatic communion (Malinowski, 1923.) Its primary purpose is not its content, but rather to bind the reporter and Kelly together before 'getting down to business.' The reporter's opening comment of being an absolutely huge fan of hers on the X-Factor establishes an interactional framework for the encounter. As the interviewer, she is expected to lead the conversation, yet her continuous opening compliments - "loving watching you"- show that she is aware of Kelly's higher status and, thus, is paying far more attention to face needs (Levinson, 1987). "Face" is a term coined by sociologist Goffman (1967) for people's public self-image. Here, the reporter, keen to obtain a successful interview, uses compliments to focus on positive face needs, fitting with Holmes' (1994) research that women are more likely to give compliments as a way of gaining popularity through 'egalitarian norms.'

Although turn-taking may be taken for granted, it is actually...
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