Noticings as a Means for Invoking and Coordinating Activity in Co-present Interaction

Activities are inadequately operationalized in conversational analysis and interactional linguistics. This is partly due to the way in which we analyze phenomena in talk-in-interaction: analyses of interactional practices are comprised of collections of excerpted sequences of talk, and while these excerpts preserve their sequential contexts, they often lose analytical grasp of the longer, more extended courses of activity in which they are situated. As a consequence, these analyses can efface how people orient to more extended structures (like activity) as units of action that emerge within—and are constituted through—interaction. This study addresses this gap by analyzing participants collaborating in temporally-extended multi-component activities with a focus on methods they use to coordinate their current actions longitudinally as either being part of one continuous interaction, or several distinct, temporally-unfolding activities. We point to one set of methods—noticings—that people use in ways that routinely display the relevance of these actions to participants' current understanding of the activity in progress. 
Our data comes from two sources: the first involves video-recorded interactions of senior and student geologists participating in a field-course, where they conduct multi-day projects over large terrains that require them to maintain group organization over extended durations and multiple activities. The second involves audio recordings of talk between gallery visitors as they encounter and work to evaluate an unconventional artwork.
We use conversation analytic methods to demonstrate that participants routinely treat noticings as actionable phenomena---not with regard only to current talk---but also to the larger organization of activity that the co-participants orient to as currently in operation. We argue that participants in these interactions deploy noticings as a means for invoking one activity as taking priority over another, and for commenting on other participants' current conduct. These practices provide a means for co-participants to negotiate or resist what activity they subsequently treat as currently underway.  Noticings transform otherwise innocuous utterances, events, or other as-yet-unnoticed resources into observable, reportable, and actionable phenomena by embedding 'what-we-are-doing-now' within a larger activity. This procedure generates "activity" and/or "settings" as inferentially rich environments for the participants in conducting their situated work (Sacks, 1995, p. 516).