Over the past few years, together with comments at the Work, Interaction & Technology Research Centre (Christian Heath and Helena Webb) at KCL, Will Gibson at the Institute of Education and the optometrists Bruce Evans, David Thomson and Peter Allen I worked on research and knowledge exchange projects exploring the practical work of optometrists and developing communications training material. some of the research now has been written up and a few months ago a paper “Engendering Response: Professional Gesture and the Assessment of Eye Sight in Optometry Consultations” was published in Symbolic Interaction. This paper focuses on a particular procedure, the so-called Subjective Refraction that involves optometrist and patient in a sequence of interaction through which some of the characteristics of any corrective lens the patient might need, are determined. Some may recognise the test as the better/worse test as it is characterised by a procedure during which the optometrist alternates a patient’s vision by placing a lens in front of their eye as asking, “better with or without”. Our study here was particularly interested in the practice of placing the lens in front of the patient’s eye, a practice that we described as “professional gesture”. Although not specifically taught in optometric training the optometrists in our research deployed the lens by moving it in a particular way in front of the patient’s eye. The gestural movement of the lens in front of the patient’s eye followed almost exactly the same route through the air in all consultations that we filmed. Our analysis reveals that such a carefully designed gesture is required for the optometrist to be able to arrive at reliable and robust data about the patient’s sight. They need the patient to respond to a series of different stimuli presented in front of them without reflecting about it.
Here is a video-abstract on the YouTube channel of Symbolic Interaction in which the lead author of the paper, Helena Webb, discusses the content of the paper and shows the gesture.
A bit of self-advertisement… in May my book “Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology” was published by Left Coast Press. The book discusses Garfinkel’s creation of ethnomethodology, its anticipation of and important influence on a range of contemporary developments in sociology, including the sociology of science and technology, the new sociology of knowledge, the sociology of work, gender studies and others.
The book is based on and expands the German version published by UVK Verlagsgesellschaft in 2012.
Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology (Left Coast Press.)
There is growing concern that despite planning pregnancy women delay taking pre-pregnancy supplements like folic acid as advised by experts who argue that these supplements substantially decrease the risk of birth defects that can impact the brain. These concerns have been raised in newspapers lie The Guardian and the Nursing Times.
A study concerned with the uncertainty towards their pregnancy and potential risk to it that become apparent in antenatal screening has just been published on Early View of Symbolic Interaction where I am book review editor. Alison Pilnick and Olga Zayt’s article explores the interaction between participants during antenatal screenings. In their analysis they focus on the ways in which this uncertainty is used to manage the institutionally defined category of ‘high risk’.