More than words? Conversation analysis in arts marketing research

O'Sullivan, Terry (2010). More than words? Conversation analysis in arts marketing research. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 4(1) pp. 20–32.



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of Conversation Analysis methods in arts marketing research.

Design/methodology/approach – Eight telephone interviews are conducted with members of the audience of a regional UK symphony orchestra who self-identified as users of online message boards (�web forums�). The interviews are transcribed and interpreted using techniques from Conversation Analysis, an approach to qualitative data analysis which pays close attention to the details of language-in-use as a form of activity by and between speakers.

Findings – Conversation Analysis-led interpretation suggests that motivations for participation in web forums are more complex than literal analysis of interview data might reveal. Conversation Analysis' detailed attention to how communicators manage their interaction emphasises the co-production of data between respondent and interviewer. The manner of emotion and meaning (re)construction through such exchanges provides valuable cues for researchers in interpreting respondent motivations. Because of the personalised nature of arts experience, this highly specific, context-oriented approach to understanding respondent meanings offers particular potential to arts marketing researchers.

Research limitations/implications – The use of produced data (interview transcripts) rather than naturally-occurring data (spontaneous talk) in Conversation Analysis is controversial, but the paper defends this choice.

Practical implications – Insights from Conversation Analysis enrich the interpretation of interview data to enhance qualitative research in the arts.

Originality/value – The paper demonstrates the extra value scholars can leverage from qualitative data interpretation by Conversation Analysis, and thus adds to an understanding of arts consumers.

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