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Co-Operative Action

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Part of Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives

  • Date Published: November 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521866330

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About the Authors
  • Co-Operative Action proposes a new framework for the study of how human beings create action and shared knowledge in concert with others by re-using transformation resources inherited from earlier actors: we inhabit each other's actions. Goodwin uses videotape to examine in detail the speech and embodied actions of children arguing and playing hopscotch, interactions in the home of a man with severe aphasia, the fieldwork of archaeologists and geologists, chemists and oceanographers, and legal argument in the Rodney King trial. Through ethnographically rich, rigorous qualitative analysis of human action, sociality and meaning-making that incorporates the interdependent use of language, the body, and historically shaped settings, the analysis cuts across the boundaries of traditional disciplines. It investigates language-in-interaction, human tools and their use, the progressive accumulation of human cultural, linguistic and social diversity, and multimodality as different outcomes of common shared practices for building human action in concert with others.

    • Illustrates formal patterns of organization that cut across diverse phenomena, thus creating possibilities for discovering common practices implicated in the constitution of human practice, social life, path-dependent historicity, and knowledge
    • Demonstrates how to move from what people do and know to build the actual events that create their cognitive and social lives, to the analysis of general practices that organize what might appear to be quite dissimilar events
    • Moves beyond the analysis of separate modalities to investigate how their intrinsic diversity as semiotic fields makes possible unique forms of action when joined to each other
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    • Winner, 2019 Edward Sapir Book Prize, Society for Linguistic Anthropology

    Reviews & endorsements

    'With Co-Operative Action, Charles Goodwin has cemented his legacy as one of the most creative, insightful, and unfettered scholars of human social action in interaction. The effects of his research over four decades are felt in fields from linguistic anthropology to cognitive science to microsociology to digital ethnography to communications. He leaves us with the tools to see how that vision - and, in particular, its core concept, culture - can be causally grounded in the temporally framed experience of co-operative, copresent life.' N. J. Enfield, American Anthropologist

    'In his new book, Co-Operative Action, Goodwin synthesizes a large portion of work over his career, making a broader argument that is only possible through the breadth of instances and depth of analyses presented.' Danielle Teodora Keifert and Ananda Maria Marin, Cognition & Instruction (

    'This is a substantial and impressive text … Through Co-Operative Action Goodwin has left us an integrated vision of human capacities, and indeed of what it is to be human, and to my mind this impressive book helps realize that vision as an example of collaborative co-operative action in its own right. This book is more than just a tour de force, therefore, it is something to be taken up and put to work for new ends.' K. Neil Jenkings, Symbolic Interaction

    'The book provides a wealth of insights into the particulars of what it means to be a human being in a world of others. It leaves the reader with a new understanding of the pervasive and specific nature of human cooperation and co-action, and it provides detailed insights into the diversity of semiotic resources available to us in interaction.' Johanne S. Philipsen, Journal of Pragmatics

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521866330
    • length: 550 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 159 x 35 mm
    • weight: 0.9kg
    • contains: 166 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. Co-operative Accumulative Action:
    2. Co-operative accumulation as a pervasive feature of the organization of action
    3. The co-operative organization of emerging action
    4. Chil and his resources
    5. Building complex meaning and action with a three word vocabulary: inhabiting and reshaping the actions of others through accumulative transformation
    6. The distributed speaker
    Part II. Intertwined Semiosis:
    7. Intertwined knowing
    8. Building action by combining different kinds of materials
    9. Intertwined actors
    10. Projection and the interactive organization of unfolding experience
    11. Projecting upcoming events to accomplish co-operative action
    Part III. Embodied Interaction:
    12. Action and co-operative embodiment in girls' hopscotch
    13. Practices of color classification
    14. Creating professional vision co-operatively
    15. Environmentally coupled gestures
    Part IV. Co-operative Action with Predecessors: Sedimented Landscapes for Knowledge and Action:
    16. Co-operative action with predecessors
    17. The accumulation of diversity through co-operative action
    18. Seeing in depth
    19. Co-operative action as the source of, and solution to, the task faced by every community of creating new, culturally competent members with specific forms of knowledge and skill
    Part V. Professional Vision, Transforming Sensory Experience into Types, and the Creation of Competent Inhabitants:
    20. The emergence of conventionalized signs within the natural world
    21. Calibrating experience and knowledge by touching the world
    22. The blackness of black: color categories as situated practice
    23. Environmentally coupled gestures and the social calibration of professional vision
    24. Professional vision
    25. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Charles Goodwin, University of California
    Charles Goodwin, Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies at University of California, Los Angeles, has received honorary doctorates from universities in Sweden and Denmark, and is the author of 'Professional Vision', the most cited article published to date in the American Anthropologist.


    • Winner, 2019 Edward Sapir Book Prize, Society for Linguistic Anthropology

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