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Seeing as accountable action: The interactional accomplishment of sensorial work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Will Gibson, Dirk Vom Lehn

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-96
Number of pages20
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


King's Authors


In this article it is argued that the growing field of the sociology of the senses has had a strong methodological focus on people’s accounts of their sensorial experiences at the expense of studying the practical achievement of sense work as an interactional phenomenon. Recent work has called for more innovative methods in sensorial scholarship and the use of creative approaches to explore the senses. While applauding this move, in this article the authors show the importance of a focus on micro-behavioural actions in studying the senses. Drawing on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, they analyse video recordings of near vision tests in optometry consultations illustrating the highly routinised, but also the embodied and improvised character of the actions through which the vision is made available for scrutiny. They argue that sensorial scholarship has sidelined the study of social context as a lived-order and demonstrate the importance of treating sensorial actions as routinised, embodied and improvisatory. The authors agree that using more creative methods would be valuable but caution against relying exclusively on methods that do not sufficiently contextualise the senses as a lived and practical social accomplishment.

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