My research has required many different approaches and skills, driven by a recurring interest is in how interaction and culture are intertwined.
Talk shows are a major part of the American television landscape. From the very start of the morning into the night talk shows of one form or another play on the major television networks. These shows are often considered to be mere entertainment, but as the media landscape has fractured and reformed they have become an important stop for campaigning politicians who want to reach a wider audience. In this new role talk shows have become a part of the public sphere, contributing the national discussion of political and cultural issues.
My dissertation explores both the typical celebrity interview on talk shows like The Tonight Show, The Late Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and The Daily Show, and builds on these findings to map how political guests shape the interview environment.
I argue that talk shows are driven by two norms of interviewing. The first is personalization, which leads hosts to appear personally invested in the interview. The second is congeniality, which leads hosts to attempt to showcase the guests in the best possible light. These two norms create a unique interview environment, but when politicians are the guests these norms are reshaped to accommodate new public pressures. I coded and analyzed the interviews in my dataset to show that when politicians are guests on talk shows the interview norms become a blend of traditional news interview norms, and typical talk show norms. This blending is partially a result of shifting between political and personal questions, but even the most political questions never become fully like a news interview question. Questions on talk shows, even with politicians and even on political topics, tend to be shorter and more personal. Politicians also have more options for response than in the news interview.
In charting these changes I draw on mixed methods. I use both conversation analysis, and quantitative methods to precisely show how political interviews on talk shows differ both from typical talk show interviews, and typical political interviews on news programs. I collected over 100 interviews, and developed a coding scheme based on earlier qualitative findings, to code each interview for statistical analysis using Stata.
I am also working on another project looking at how interactional practices shape and are shaped by the political landscape. With Steven E. Clayman, I am looking at how question design changes over time as the political consensus on a topic shifts. Our test case for this project is the issue of same-sex marriage which has experienced rapid shifts in public and political perception over the past few decades. We are examining how these shifts are reflected in talk show interviews. To do so I examined hundred of interviews over a 25 year period, and then, using the coding scheme we developed, coded these interviews for statistical analysis.
My Masters project looked at another facet of culture, religion. I explored how different practices of interaction could help to create and reflect different religious experiences. For this project I used a combination of interaction analysis and ethnography, attending meetings and filming sessions, for qualitative analysis.