Unknown unknowns (ed. Epistemic adverbs in instructional sequences: The case of the Danish “jo”)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review

How can I tell someone what I want to learn or know about an object, when I know neither the object, what can be learned about it nor what I would benefit from learning about the object? This is an issue that visually impaired people (VIP) often encounter when being introduced to new, potentially helpful, technology: Having limited visual access to the world VIP obviously cannot see what it is they cannot see or do, and thus they cannot tell an instructor what they need to know or what features of a technology might potentially be helpful for them in their everyday life. We call this phenomenon an ‘unknown unknown’.
This paper is concerned with how these ‘unknown unknowns’ are created in a particular type of instructional sequences produced by ICT-consultants in collaboration with visually impaired people (VIP) when talking about and introducing to a Google Home Assistant (GHA). In these sequential environments participants are either asked to tell – or self-selects and starts a telling - about unknown unknowns. We provide empirical evidence of it from instructional situations where ICT consultants are engaged in the overall activities a) assessing the VIP’s epistemic status with regards to the technology and its features b) assessing the VIP’s individual need for the GHA; c) teaching them about its features; and d) instructing them in their use of the technology.
Using ethnomethodological (EM) multimodal conversation analysis (CA) (Streeck et al., 2011) this paper provides detailed analysis of video recordings from sessions where ICT consultants introduce VIP to and instruct them in the use of GA. We provide examples from initial openings of instructional sequences where ICT-consultants are producing different turns in order to assess the current needs and epistemic status of the VIP. Examples are extracted from a corpus of 25 hours of video recordings, and through these we demonstrate how VIP and ICT-consultants construct a space of unknown unknowns as a baseline for the overall assessment in and through social interactions. Via this detailed analysis this paper contributes to literature on epistemics by introducing the socially accountable complexity of dealing with unknown unknowns and providing new knowledge of instructional sequences and knowledge-related questions as action formations by exploring the initial opening that consists of practices for assessing current epistemic status. Also it contributes to the EM/CA research in instructional practices (Macbeth, 2011) and epistemics (Heritage, 2012) by showing how epistemic status is interactionally built turn after turn in a context of a fractured perceptual field.

Heritage, J. (2012). Epistemics in Action: Action Formation and Territories of Knowledge. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45(1), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2012.646684
Macbeth, D. (2011). Understanding understanding as an instructional matter. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(2), 438–451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.12.006
Streeck, J., Goodwin, C., & LeBaron, C. (2011). Embodied Interaction: Language and Body in the Material World. Cambridge University Press.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventInternational Conference on Conversation Analysis 2023: Branching Out - The University of Queensland , Brisbane , Australia
Duration: 26 Jun 20232 Jul 2023
Conference number: 6


ConferenceInternational Conference on Conversation Analysis 2023
LocationThe University of Queensland
Internet address

ID: 358461969