By Douglas Benson
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Extra info for The Perspective of Ethnomethodology
Biographies have another feature worth mentioning: they are constructed with hindsight and it is easy to give the impression that ethnomethodology, or any other approach for that matter, is a direct logical descendant of identified antecedents. For some purposes this may be a valuable insight, but here our aims are more limited. To establish a case of direct lineal descent we would need to know a great deal more than we do about the personal his36 Ethnomethodology and the submerged tradition tory of the participants, their teachers, their intellectual biographies, and other details.
18 In this way, individual action cannot be mechanical but must be seen as the mutual creation of interacting 'selves'. It was this insight which, in one form or another, provided the basis for the symbolic interactionist enterprise. 'Selves' and meaning become pre-eminently social, and hence sociological phenomena, and constitute the 'worlds' in which individuals spend their lives. Social life, then, is very much a creation of individuals interacting with each other and the study of this life must, of necessity, concern itself with exploring the processes by and through which social actors mutually adjust lines of action on the basis of their interpretations of the world in which they live.
One can also see. this in the research technology currently used by much of 'conventional' sociology, such as questionnaires, attitude scales, interviews, participant observation, and so on: all of which essentially rely upon eliciting talk in some form or another from subjects or respondents. In the light of this it is perhaps surprising, given the emphasis 'conventional' sociology places upon enhancing the precision, accuracy and validity of its research instruments, that little attention has been given to the phenomenon of talk itself.