Article : Beyond the observer’s paradox: the audio-recorder as a resource for the display of identity

Cynthia Gordon. Beyond the observer’s paradox: the audio-recorder as a resource for the display of identity. Qualitative Research June 2013 vol. 13 no. 3 299-317.

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Instead of viewing the ‘observer’s paradox’ or the presence of ‘tape-affected speech’ as a methodological problem that spoils ‘natural’ data, in this article, I advocate exploring the opportunities that a recorder offers to research study participants, and the insights tape-affected speech gives to researchers. In my discourse analysis of the week-long self-audio-recorded discourse of members of four American families, I draw on the notions of ‘frame’ and ‘footing’ to uncover the various ways the recorder is conceptualized and oriented to in interaction—as an object and a person, and in literal and playful ways—and demonstrate how participants use the recorder as a resource for identity work in interaction. Analysis reveals how recording shapes the interactions that constitute ‘data’ and how study participants manipulate the presence of the recorder to display identities.

Françoise Acquier

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