FIMS Publications


Informing Relationships: Small Talk, Informing and Relationship Building in Midwife-woman Interaction

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Information Research


Introduction: This article analyses small or relational talk as a setting for exploring socially- and temporally-situated practices that constitute informing in a particular context.

Method: Transcripts of forty clinic visits between Canadian midwives and childbearing women are analysed to show how relational talk is put together and what functions it performs. Analysis. Conversation analysis is used to show how speakers establish their entitlement to background knowledge and negotiate authority to speak on various topics.

Results: Speakers display and deploy evidence of their developing relationship in and through their talk together. They situate talk about themselves and one another in the context of the relationship to work it up as news and to frame questions so that they are understood to address new or previously known concerns. They take up previous talk as informative and use it to make claims about one another. Through making arrangements they establish a single encounter as a member of a series and orient themselves to the past and future of the relationship. They call on their previous interactions as informative to the business at hand and present themselves as informed about the relationship and about the other(s) in that relationship.

Conclusions: Small talk is a rich site for analysis. Considering an interaction as a situated member of a series rather than as an a-temporal snapshot allows for an analysis of the ways that the unfolding relationship itself becomes a resource for its members.

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