Ethnomethodological Studies of Visuality


  • Kristina (Author) Popova



The article considers how ethnomethodology (EM) studies visuality. Historically, there were four approaches to visuality in EM: visuality as an observable activity, images, practices of vision, and language constructions. The first approach is built on Harold Garfinkel's idea of witnessability equated with observability, which implies that phenomena of order exist in observable methods of their production. Understood in this way, any EM study might be a visual one because it implies the description of the methods of order production. Beyond the idea of observability, in the 1980-1990s three separate projects of visual research were developed in EM by Michel Lynch, Charles Goodwin, and Jeff Coulter. All of them tried to present practical approaches to visual perception (in contrast with perception as an individual psychological process) but found solutions in studying different aspects of visuality, which were images, practices of vision, and language constructions describing different modes of perception. This article considers the relationships between these three conceptions and the initial Garfinkel's idea of witnessability/observability. It analyzes ideas which Lynch, Goodwin, and Coulter added to Garfink's EM program; and shows how other ethnomethodologists use these additions. The article demonstrates that, although none of these projects were completely implemented inside EM, together they produced EM's approach to visuality. It's based on Garfinkel's idea of witnessability/observability, supplemented by the opportunity to study perception as a practical social achievement situated into local interactional contexts.