Book annoucement, education, Uncategorized

Facebook and Conversation Analysis: The Structure and Organization of Comment Threads (Book abstract)

Facebook book

This book, written by Dr Matteo Farina, explores how people communicate on Facebook. It addresses questions like: is there a clear organisation that characterises conversations that take place on Facebook or do Facebook conversations consist of messages that randomly follow one after the other? If so, what is this organisation? Facebook and Conversation Analysis: The Structure and Organization of Comment Threads (2018) applies concepts and ideas of Conversation Analysis (CA) to describe the structure of comment threads, the “conversations” that take place on Facebook. CA is a methodological approach which is normally used to explore the structure of spoken conversations, however, Farina has turned it towards Facebook comment threads. He uses CA to provide clear and important insights into the organisation of Facebook interactions. He shows that comment threads are not made of random messages, but they have a clear structure. This structure is based on the actions performed by Facebook users in comments published within comment threads. In other words, Farina claims that people perform actions when they post messages on Facebook such as questions, responses, apologies, tellings and so on.

Facebook and Conversation Analysis: The Structure and Organization of Comment Threads, has received highly favourable reviews from Linguist List and CALICO, and was the 2018 bestselling monograph across Bloomsbury’s Linguistics List. In his book, Farina explains that it is possible to understand the structure of Facebook interactions by examining the actions performed in messages posted in comment threads. This book is recommended to anyone interested in applied linguistics, conversation analysis, sociolinguistics, and especially readers interested in understanding how people communicate in social media.

About the author:

Dr Matteo Farina is a Casual Course Coordinator at The University of Adelaide and Flinders University. His research is in the fields of Applied Linguistics and Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC). Matteo applies concepts and ideas of Conversation Analysis (CA) to investigate how people communicate in everyday social interactions. He is especially interested in studying online interactions, like Facebook comment threads.

education, Politics

You Go to School, You Take on Some Debt

Markedsføringsmateriale fra forskellige universiteter

During my anthropological fieldwork in Wisconsin in 2017, I encountered what some of my interlocutors called a “forced timeline”. It denotes a specific route in life that many young Americans feel pressured to comply with: “it’s like you go to school, you take on some debt, you know, you find a good job and you pay it off”. I wondered why so many of the people I met expressed criticism towards this idea while at the same adhering to it.

I later realised that one answer could be the aspiration for a good life, which for many entails upwards social mobility or the opportunity to get a secure and well-paying job. Due to credential inflation, jobs that used to only require a high school degree now require a college degree; and attending a high-ranking university may increase one’s chances to do well in a highly competitive job market (Ho 2009). However, college degrees and especially those from high-ranking universities are costly.

Since the 1970s and 1980s, many universities have seen state funding slowly diminish. In the state of Wisconsin, for example, state spending on education is now the same today as it was in 1966 (Goldrick-Rab 2016). For most Americans, higher education is now the second largest expenditure in their life, only surpassed by homeownership (Hacker and Dreifus 2011). A generation or two ago, students had the possibility to finance their education by working throughout the summer. As my oldest interlocutor told me at a private college, when she was reflecting on all the changes that had happened to the educational landscape: “It’s extraordinary. Nobody can do what we did”. So, what does this mean for Americans and their ability to pay for their education?

It has been and continues to be the norm to take out loans in order to finance one’s education; in fact, students are more likely than ever to work part-time and take out loans at the same time (Goldrick-Rab 2016). Essentially, loans allow students to borrow money from a future in which they are financially better off, and as one woman from Illinois told me: “What is a few loans if it guarantees time and resources to study? (…) Instead of (…) losing my whole future?”

The choice to take out student loans seems to be a no-brainer when entering university, but upon graduation, many are hit by a grim realisation. For example, one of my interlocutors broke down in tears when she explained that her loan burden meant that she would not be able to give her unborn child the same kind of financial support as her parents did for her. For this reason, she needed to quit her current job and was searching for higher-paying jobs.

Her story is not exceptional; 45 million Americans currently owe a total of 1.6 trillion USD in student loan debt. For many, that debt structures their life according to the logic of repaying one’s loan, which means that debtors have to constantly think about their financial choices so as to continuously meet every single payment deadline (Lazzarato 2011, 2015). First of all, many debtors simply have to accept any job opportunity that presents itself (and turn down unpaid internships), even if it is completely unrelated to one’s education. Secondly, they may have to move back home to their parents to save money and postpone buying a house, which has a negative effect on the U.S. national economy (Cooper 2017). There is virtually no possibility to declare bankruptcy because of student loan debt, and the debt carries a racial and gendered dimension as it disproportionately affects women and people of colour (Houle and Addo 2018). For example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said about her own situation: “(…) it was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt”.

While some scholars and politicians argue that student loan debt is “manageable” and “not a lot over a lifetime” (Akers and Chingos 2016), the lived experiences of American debtors reveal a more nuanced picture. Whether through anthropology or other disciplines, attending to people’s everyday life and vocalising what is taken for granted remains a contribution of utmost importance to the debate about the double-edged sword that is student loan debt.


  • Akers, Beth, and Matthew M. Chingos. Game of Loans: The Rhetoric and Reality of Student Debt. Princeton University Press, 2016.
  • Cooper, Melinda. Family Values: between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism. Zone Books, 2017.
  • Goldrick-Rab, Sara. Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream. UNIV OF CHICAGO PRESS, 2016.
  • Hacker, Andrew, and Claudia Dreifus. Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids – and What We Can Do about It. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011.
  • Hess, Abigail J. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: To Pay off Student Loans ‘I Had to Do Something That Was Nearly Impossible’.” CNBC, CNBC, 25 June 2019,
  • Ho, Karen Zouwen. Liquidated: an Ethnography of Wall Street. Duke University Press, 2009.
  • Houle, Jason N., and Fenaba R. Addo. “Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2018.
  • Lazzarato, Maurizio. Governing by Debt . (Semiotext(e)), MIT Press, USA, 2015.
  • Lazzarato, Maurizio. The Making of the Indebted Man: an Essay on the Neoliberal Condition. (Semiotext(e)), 2011. MIT Press, USA

About the Author:

Mathias Sosnowski Krabbe works as a Research Assistant at the University of Southern Denmark. He has fieldwork experience from Hiroshima, Japan and Wisconsin and Illinois, USA. He completed his MSc in Anthropology from Aarhus University in 2018.

education, Writing

Episode 10: Ethnography as Creative Writing

Dr Ann Wand discusses with Dr Kayla Rush, Ellen Wiles and Dr Alfonso Del Percio the importance of ethnography as an academic form of writing and the benefits ‘creative writing’ can add to the academic discipline.

Careers, education

Encouraging academia to engage with the public: The C&C host offers her thoughts

Working in academia can be a rather isolating experience, especially for those individuals, like myself, who thrive on personal communication. I deliberately chose to pursue a career in Anthropology due to my passion for human interaction, but found that during the course of my doctorate I was anything but ‘interactive’. Many countless hours were spent in front of the computer, a device I learned to love as well as hate, only to emerge from my cocoon as a tired, albeit accomplished doctoral graduate. After receiving my degree, I embarked on the arduous job search only to realize how very few day-to-day people were familiar with my discipline, let alone the topics that I encountered. ‘Do you work with dinosaurs?’ one person asked. ‘Oh, I know! You’re like a pediatrician!’ ‘Well, not exactly,’ I would reply, trying to suppress my frustration.

It was only after many months (now years) of disappointing emails which read, ‘We regret to inform you but…’ that I decided to take unemployment by the horns and redirect my energy towards something more productive. I initially created the educational forum ‘Exploration through Education’ back in 2016 as a way to connect with the public, but also to allow academics and non-academics alike to access research conducted in different fields. Why should people with a general interest in education have to register with JSTOR when they could learn about up-and-coming research through my website and others? But by 2017 I decided to up my game and began a podcast series instead called ‘Coffee and Cocktails’. The theme of the first show? Addressing unemployment issues and job insecurity for early career researchers, the results of which eventually turned into an academic peer-reviewed blog article. While my family was apprehensive that this podcast would eventually become a show for people to jump on their soap boxes, I wanted to re-establish the purpose of dialogue to allow individuals to discuss solutions. As academics continue to advance their careers on a gradually precarious, slippery slope, we need to remember that by interacting with people outside of academia we are only helping to promote our discipline(s) by introducing the research we have done.

Ann Wand is a Research Affiliate of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University. When she’s not familiarizing herself with social media, or working on her monograph, she is teaching her daughter how to speak ‘American’, and playing with her Dalmatian, Buddy.

education, Environment, language, Parenting, Teaching resources

Episode 9- How storytelling and ecology can promote environmental awareness

Dr Ann Wand sits down with community storyteller, Dr Joanna Gilar to discuss her newest project, ‘The Giant’s Garden’, designed to encourage literacy and sustainable interaction for children and their parents.

education, ETE announcements, history, language, Politics, Religion

Coffee & Cocktails: Podcast 6- English language policy and UK security

Dr Kamran Khan from the University of Lleida, in Catalonia, Spain and visitor at King’s College, London tells us about his most recent work on citizenship, ESOL policy and (Islamophobic) suspicion in the UK.

education, ETE announcements, language, media, Politics

Coffee & Cocktails Episode 5: The use of Camfranglais amongst the diaspora

Constance Mbassi Manga, doctoral researcher at Lancaster University, talks about migratory issues faced by Cameroonian ex-pats in the UK, France and US and how identity is made sense of through the use of Camfranglais.

Host: Dr Ann Wand (Oxford University)

Episode 5: The use of Camfranglais amongst the diaspora

education, ETE announcements, media

Coffee & Cocktails Episode 4: Dealing with isolation in academia

Dr Chelsea Robles, Research Specialist at the Institute of International Education in New York City, talks about coping strategies she has developed when dealing with isolation in academia.

Host: Dr Ann Wand (Oxford University)

education, language, Teaching resources, Travel

Coffee & Cocktails Episode 3: Translanguaging in Senegal


Two academics, Samantha Goodchild and Miriam Weidl, from SOAS, University of London discuss their research with Dr Ann Wand regarding translanguaging practices in two Senegalese villages in the Casamance region and how their research can be used to understand how language learning can develop thanks to local mobility practices.

Coffee & Cocktails Episode 3

Here’s their link to online teaching material:

education, Teaching resources

Coffee & Cocktails- Episode 2 Excerpt re: Early Career Researchers and the job market


Below is an extended excerpt based on Dr Ann Wand’s interview with Dr Nicolette ‘Niki’ Makovicky and Dr Robert ‘Bob’ Parkin of Oxford University on some of the items discussed during Coffee & Cocktail’s second podcast on ‘ECRs and the job market’.

Ann: Since this podcast is partially designed to dispel the myths for ECRs working on job applications, I asked each of you before the show to create a short list of check-list items you normally look for when going through applications. The objective of this first list is to give ECRs an understanding of how the job application process works.

Since this is a rather extensive list I have divided it up into four parts: 1) those looking for post-doctoral or research positions 2) those looking for temporary lectureship positions 3) those applying for permanent posts and 4) any additional advice you may have to those ECRs applying for the job market.

1) Post-doctoral and/or research positions:

Niki: If it is a post-doc/ research officer post on, for example, a larger project, the committee will most likely be looking for someone with strong research and publishing credentials and very good organisational skills. They will want to find someone they can rely on to do good research (fieldwork, etc.), help develop a solid methodology and potentially co-author some publications – but also someone whom they can rely on to do the organisational work that comes with administering a large grant (keeping track of data, finances, the contributions of team members, setting up and running seminars, etc.) because they are usually very busy with a host of other duties.

Bob: I have provided a bullet point list below of what is required for those applying for post-doctoral positions:

  • The applicant often needs institutional backing as well as a staff member to be the PI (Principal Investigator).
  • Post-docs are often recruited as salaried employees.
  • The applicant needs to account for full economic costing when working on their application (and will need to be precise).
  • There may need to be prior consultation with ‘research consumers’ (e.g. the ESRC).
  • There needs to be an international dimension to the post-doctoral project, e.g. EU funding = multiple partners
  • Funding bodies often like multidisciplinarity, which of course necessitates someone forming a team of researchers from different disciplines, rather than going it alone.
  • FYI: ECRs may either 1) be expected to do some teaching as part of the fellowship; 2) be restricted in how much they teach (a common restriction is six hours a week); 3) not be allowed to do teaching at all.

Below are the qualities expected for research proposals:

  • Pay attention to the application requirements and restrictions (if any)
  • Show an originality of theme and/or its treatment
    • Originality of topic: What gaps does your research fill in? How topical is it? Why does it need doing, and why now? Show the relationship of your project to previous ethnographic work in same area.
    • Originality of approach is important both theoretically and methodologically; the latter is especially more difficult to be original about, but some funding bodies place a great deal of stress on it, and attention should always be paid to it.
  • Clarity and sharpness of expression
    • Be bold as well as clear in expressing what your project is about without being arrogant or dismissive of others’ work.
  • Make every word count! Do you really need that adjective?!

How to structure a research proposal:

  • There is no one ‘right way’ to structure a proposal.
  • However, a common structure might look like this:
  • Provide a brief statement of the problem to be investigated.
  • Provide a brief review of relevant previous literature and what is wrong with it or what is lacking.
  • Develop your research proposal with more detail of its intellectual content and     trajectory.
  • State your methodology (this may be quite simple: e.g. participant observation     and interviews).
  • State the feasibility of your project (and link it with the methodology): Can the     project be completed in the time allowed? If fieldwork is proposed, are there any     obstacles to entering the field that are apparent? Do other proposed methods make sense in terms of the project overall?

2) Temporary lectureships:

Niki: If it is a temporary lectureship, the institute where you apply will want to be sure that you are a capable educator (and that you have relevant experience teaching in the subject/direction they ask) and can do a good job mentoring and supervising students. They will want someone who enriches the research programme and if you are nearing REF (Research Excellent Framework), they will want someone who publishes enough to be submitted to REF on behalf of the institution. Finally, they will be looking for someone who can take over administrative duties.

3) Permanent posts:

Niki: For a permanent post, publications take first place, followed by grant income and administration. The institution where you apply will want to see the whole package or at least potential for it. You must be ‘REFable’ as they say (this may mean that you need to have a book/ book contract, but not necessarily, you ‘just’ have to fulfil the criteria for REF) and be able to demonstrate that you have undertaken some large-ish administrative jobs in the department. Your future colleagues will want to know that they can rely on you alleviating the enormous administrative burden we are under. And finally, you will be expected to show you have had the potential to attract substantial research funding, as these revenue streams are vital to the finances of the department and university. Finally, if you have done something the department can put forward as ‘impact’ (e.g. influencing policy, innovation or collaboration with industry and/or arts), then so much the better.

4) Additional advice:

Niki: I think as an ECR you spend a lot of time trying to ‘crack’ the job market by finding out ‘what they want’. So you feel torn between getting teaching experience, arranging and attending conferences, searching for jobs, writing grant applications and trying to publish – feeling like you need to do it all because you don’t know what will be ‘the’ thing that gets you a job. While it is true that a committee looks for a candidate who does ALL of these things, it is worth creating a hierarchy of what is most important and concentrating on that – simply by spending much more of your time on it. For example, use no more than a day to write your standard conference paper of 20-25 minutes (two – maybe three days if you are working with brand-new material and not something from your thesis). Conferences are good for networking, but after a few years you’ll have been to so many you’ll stop putting them on your CV and most people will not remember what you said (and feedback is rarely good).

Teaching experience – unless you need the money (and you often do), also teach as little as you can get away with (i.e. a few hours or something very close to home where you don’t need to spend days preparing for each class). But do teach, because the committee will want to see experience. However, spend most of your time publishing and writing grant proposals. Aim to publish 1-2 REFable articles within a year of getting your PHD – find the easiest parts of the thesis to convert to articles and just get them out as soon as possible. If nothing else, that will make you tempting to any UK department. [Some people publish nothing for 2-3 years and then come out with a book. This is also a good strategy BUT only if you have some employment for those 3 years like a post doc. Otherwise you will simply look like someone who has not published].

In reality, it is almost impossible to know what a certain research committee wants, and there can be many reasons why they choose to go with a certain candidate which is not immediately obvious from the job advert. Don’t forget, like in any job, we also look for someone who we think fits the departmental culture and will be a good colleague.


Remember when working on research proposals:

1) Don’t get bogged down in detail unnecessarily.

2) Don’t over-emphasize one’s own credentials: keep it simple and to the point, but don’t boast for the sake of it!

3) Being up-front is more acceptable in the USA; but may be seen as boasting in Britain or Europe.

4) Don’t lack clarity when focusing on research aims and methods.

Ann: For the latter part of this show, I’ve asked you to create a short list of additional responsibilities that come with being a full-time academic, especially for those ECRs who are unfamiliar with how academia works behind the scenes.

Additional responsibilities:

Niki: This is the single biggest shock when you do get an academic post. The entire machinery of the academic department, the publishing system, and the grant system are pretty much hidden to you as a student – its vastly more work than you might imagine and you need to put up guards to stop it from taking up all of your time.

List of duties (not comprehensive):

On top of teaching (including syllabus development, making reading lists, teaching, examining, etc.) and thesis supervision, teaching provision involves this: examining (not just you own but other people’s courses and theses) and all the administration that comes with it (making exam questions, vetting exam questions, sitting on exam boards, mediating any issues with exams and theses), admissions (a huge job, which requires reading 200 applications, monitoring English language requirements for students, dealing with complaints or people visiting who are interested in your course), student matters (anything from mental health and health issues, crises of various kinds, wanting to change courses or subjects requiring paperwork, special needs because of disabilities, which requires more paperwork, etc), central administration matters (departmental financial matters, various inspections/ quality control, contractual matters of staffing, staffing and student ratios, continually changing policies on health and safety, research codes of practice, plagiarism policies, policies about students taking courses from other departments or gap-years, or exchange programmes), and dealing with cross-departmental teaching matters. If you are in Oxford, you will have all the same matters and meetings once again to deal with in whatever college you are a member. So think double the trouble.

Then you have to deal with the department’s external examiners and being an external examiner yourself. This requires examining PhD theses several times a year (reading 300 page whoppers each time), and various interim exams before; producing lengthy reports for each of these and then re-reading the corrections.

On top of actual research publications you have to apply for grants (which is huge run up of researching and writing grants, plus dealing with research services, internal evaluations of the application of various kinds, dealing with the finance officer to work on the budget, etc); but then there is also the other side of the story – reviewing other people’s grant applications, reviewing other people’s articles, book proposals, and book manuscripts – and producing detailed reports on these for the editors. And perhaps being an editor for a journal yourself which means at least skim-reading every submission, and (usually with the help of an assistant) being responsible for their review, correction and publication.

And then there is going to conferences, seminars, etc (some of which you run yourself – typically including running your own departmental seminar). And giving invited talks.

And then there is the organisational/ association work – if you run an association or even simply an interest group within a larger disciplinary association (say, the Economic Anthropology group in the American Association of Anthropologists). This will come with all sorts of organisational tasks (like inviting speakers to events, or running a website, or handling the finances, or vetting conference papers submissions to major conferences).

Bob: Below is a list of all of the responsibilities I took on while working as an academic at Oxford University.

  • I was recruited to Oxford’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) as a departmental lecturer in 2002 and immediately given the task of admissions officer to perform. This also led me to work to some extent with more than one Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), a post I eventually took over as well, in around 2006, and I’ve kept it ever since.
  • Below are the roles the DGS performs ex-officio:
    • Signing forms regarding student progression (everything from temporary suspensions to signing off doctoral vivas)
    • Vetting funding for language and other skills training
  • I’ve been a member of the School Management Board (the highest level body within SAME) as well as a member of School CUREC committee (i.e. its ethics review) and the Chair of Awards Committee (which decides internal funding applications). I was also a member of the Social Science Division (SSD) Teaching Committee (which brings together all SSD DGSs to discuss policy and practice within the Division)
  • Other admin tasks as DGS have included:
    • Listening to and seeking to resolve students’ problems
    • Giving general advice on rules and regulations, best practices, etc. to both students and colleagues
    • Running our ‘Options Fair’, where students listen to colleagues’ presentations of which options are being offered in that particular year
    • Liaising with Divisional officers
    • Getting course regulations formally changed
  • DGS work continues throughout the year, though it is most intense during term time, least intense in the long vacation
  • I have also regularly been involved in examining, both doctoral and taught courses, though never as chair of examiners.
  • I have also acted as course director for both the social anthropology master’s degrees and the doctoral programme, which involves arranging the teaching, writing or revising of the course handbooks, etc.
  • At times I have done all of these simultaneously

How do you deal with work/ life balance?

Niki: It’ll probably be tilted towards ‘work’ for the first few years of your academic career (you have to be prepared to put in evenings and weekends during pressured times). BUT, there are ways of alleviating this. As I said above, don’t allocate too much time to CV fillers. Secondly, don’t be tempted to say ‘yes’ to everything – I think most of us suffer from this problem and it takes a long time to unlearn. If someone asks you to come and speak to a relevant audience, say yes. If someone asks you to take on administrative work or step in to teach extra sessions, or arrange a conference, evaluate whether it is worth it. It might be good to have this particular teaching or administrative assignment on your CV, or it might just be a poorly paid gig someone wants to get rid of.