Hofstetter: Thinking & groaning, at CARDS Ulster

Hofstetter presented and had a data session and seminar at the CARDS research group at Ulster University, Belfast.

‘Thinking (and some groaning): Revealing vs. creating ‘inaccessible’ experience’

In this presentation, I will present ways in which (ostensibly) inaccessible phenomena are made relevant and accessible by participants in interaction. Phenomena such as thinking are supposedly ‘inaccessible’ by virtue of being private. Supposedly, unless a participant actively works to make thinking available and perceivable, other participants cannot necessarily assume that thinking is currently ongoing. This is a question of what Lynch (2013) called ‘ontography’: how do participants of everyday interactions orient towards and determine the ontology of actions, events, or experience?

Discursive psychology has, historically, avoided the question of ontology. Its agnostic stance towards the existence of internal experience has been criticized as inconsistent and insufficient (Coulter, 1999; Hammersley, 2018). I argue that although these criticisms have partly arisen from misunderstanding, we can at least engage with the question of ontology, especially when it becomes a members’ concern, and see how it informs our agnostic commitment in analysis.

I examine board game players during moments of ‘thinking’. I will demonstrate how board game players ‘do thinking’, and through embodied displays of thinking achieve game-relevant action, and I will present an understanding of thinking as organized through players’ practices for local sense-making. I will discuss how the players orient to the ontological question of what constitutes ‘thinking’ vs. absence of action, which has consequences for their playing. I ultimately conclude by questioning whether we can maintain agnosticism if there is an interplay between practice and outcome.