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From Garfinkel’s ‘Experiments in Miniature’ to the Ethnomethodological Analysis of Interaction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-326
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

King's Authors


Since the 1940s Harold Garfinkel developed ethnomethodology as a distinctive sociological attitude. This sociological attitude turns the focus of the analysis of interaction to the actor’s perspective. It suggests that interaction is ongoingly produced through actions that are organized in a retrospective and prospective fashion. The ethnomethodological analysis of interaction therefore investigates how actors produce their actions in light of their analysis of immediately prior actions and in anticipation of possible next actions. Ethnomethodologists describe the relationship of actions emerging from this analysis as “sequential”. This article discusses how Garfinkel’s description of practical action as “experiment in miniature” can be seen as a precursor to the concept of “sequentiality” that defines today’s ethnomethodological analysis of interaction. Having discussed the intellectual background to ethnomethodology the article briefly explores two fragments of interaction audio-/video-recorded in a museum and an optometric consultation to illustrate the key concerns of this kind of analysis. The article closes with a short reflection on current developments in ethnomethodology and their relationship to sociology.

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