Analysing visual material
In this chapter, we will be looking at ways of analysing how people communicate with one another. We will begin by looking at the approach known as conversation analysis, which explores some of the observable processes occurring during conversations, seeing them as an example of social behaviour with its own patterns and rules for conveying meaning. There are several different perspectives which researchers can adopt while they are analysing conversational data, ranging from an objective description of the timings and speech behaviours shown by individuals, to an exploration of how social meanings and consensual interpretations of acts are constructed during the course of a conversation. Discourse analysis - the other approach we will look at in this chapter – deals with communication in a slightly broader sense. Although discourse analysts do study conversations, they also study other ways that human beings convey information – through written text, through explanations or formal interviews, and even through visual material. Discourse analysts see meaning as a co-operative process, not an individual one, and conversation as one of the ways that meaning is developed. The conversation is studied as a social event worthy of analysis in itself- as one of the ways social meanings are constructed.
Conversation analysts are also interested in the construction of shared meanings, and many of them work quite closely with discourse analysts – indeed, conversation analysis is sometimes described as a kind of discourse analysis. But not everyone who uses conversation analysis