"This system's so slow": Negotiating sequences of laughter and laughables in call-centre interaction

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines sequences of interaction in calls to a gas-supply company. The sequences follow long silences as employees wait for the computer to access the customers’ account details. Employers then comment on the slowness of the system and are responded to with laughter. In the majority of instances there are further references to the system that constitute a move away from the serious business of the call and are accompanied by laughter. Thus, there is a move from explicitly institutional talk to less formal interaction. In this delicate environment - i.e. where the slowness of the system leads to a hiatus in dealing with the customers’ requests - they evince moments of affiliation and carefully negotiated transitions away from enacting institutional roles. Thus, they demonstrate that what might loosely be called ‘non-serious’ interaction is not necessarily a complete departure from serious interaction: serious actions are achieved. Further, it is possible to see how they are the product of subtle negotiation over turns rather than sudden and absolute transitions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultiple Perspectives on Language Play
EditorsNancy Bell
Place of PublicationBerlin, Germany
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781501503993 , 9781501503962
ISBN (Print)9781501511844
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2016

Publication series

NameLanguage Play and Creativity
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
ISSN (Print)2363-7749


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