Professor Ian Hutchby
Professor of Sociology
BA (Middx), DPhil (York)
Room: Attenborough Tower 316
Tel: +44 (0)11-6223-1259 (direct line)
I joined the University of Leicester in 2007, from Brunel University where I had been Professor of Sociology and Communication. Before that I was a Research Fellow in the Social and Computer Sciences Research Group in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey, following a doctorate in sociology at the University of York (1993). Between 2012 and 2014 I was Head of the Department of Sociology at Leicester.
The area in which I work is known as Conversation Analysis (CA). Since the early 1990s I have been applying this approach to a range of topics in media, technology, childhood and health communication. In 1998 I published (with Robin Wooffitt, University of York) the book Conversation Analysis: Principles, Practices and Applications (Polity Press, 1998; 2nd Edition, 2008), which is now widely used around the world to support the teaching of CA.
My principal research interest is in broadcast talk on radio and television, especially those forms that involve the participation of ordinary citizens (phone-ins, talk shows, public debates and the like). Early work included Confrontation Talk: Arguments, Asymmetries and Power on Talk Radio (Erlbaum, 1996), a study of how institutional dimensions of arguments between radio phone-in hosts and callers are related to interactional power, as expressed in discourse strategies. A few years later, Media Talk: Conversation Analysis and the Study of Broadcasting (Open University Press, 2006) offered a broader discussion of the relevance of talk, and the methods of CA, for an understanding of mass communication processes.
My current work in this area is an investigation of evolving forms of political interviewing in the contemporary multi-channel landscape of television. In particular, I am analysing new hybrid, argumentative and belligerent forms of broadcast interview and their discourse practices, in the context of the changing nature of televised political journalism.
A second strand of work, based initially around the book Conversation and Technology: From the Telephone to the Internet (Polity, 2001), applies CA to study the interface between structures of conversation and the affordances of technological devices that mediate talk and interaction (the telephone, videophone, computerised expert systems, speech-based artificial intelligence systems, and internet conferencing). In recent years I have applied the same approach to investigations of mobile telephony and text messaging. I also have a longstanding interest in the nature of human interaction with robots.
A third strand of work is concerned with health communication, especially in child counselling and family therapy settings. The Discourse of Child Counselling (John Benjamins, 2007) emerged from an ESRC-funded study using CA to look at interaction in the child counselling clinic – a space in which counsellors and children interact without the possible intervention of parents, who are not present in the room during sessions. The research contributes to knowledge of children’s understandings of the dynamics of family break-up, and how these are mediated by the incitement to speak that operates within the institutional discourses of counselling.
Current research continues this focus on 'therapeutic vision' and the evaluation of emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) in children within family therapy. Along with Michelle O'Reilly and others in the Greenwood Institute for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, I am investigating psychiatric assessments in family presentations at a child mental health clinic. This project has generated a video data corpus of 27 families from a range of backgrounds visiting the clinic to discuss the problematic behaviours of their children. We are using CA to examine the speech practices and epistemological resources through which issues to do with the mental life of troubled children are identified and made therapeutically relevant in the course of interaction; as well as how decisions are made with regard to future treatments. This project contributes new knowledge of the interactional processes underpinning clinical evaluation of EBD, gate-keeping, and stake-management in this highly sensitive area of family health and social care.
More broadly in the sociology of childhood, I have co-edited two books with Jo Moran-Ellis of Sussex University: Children and Social Competence (Falmer, 1998) and Children, Technology and Culture (Routledge, 2001).
I am always willing to receive applications from potential PhD students interested in the above areas, or indeed who wish to develop their knowledge and analytical skills in CA and apply the approach to any chosen topic, social institution or set of social practices.
'Responding to Family Separation: An Analysis of Children's Talk in Counselling', Principal Investigator, Economic and Social Research Council, UK. [£41,128]
'Digital Tools for Language Teaching in Secondary School', Co-investigator with Prof. T. Wydell and Prof. M. Cortazzi, KTP Grant (collaboration between Brunel University and Slough Grammar School), Economic and Social Research Council, UK. [£89,672]
‘Decision-making in Child Mental Health Assessments’, Consultant with Dr K. Kharim, Dr M. O'Reilly and others. NHS: Heart of England Hub. [£13,009]