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Talk and social organization in interactions between clients and professionals in the public sector

An interdisciplinary study of the The Swedish Board for Study Support.

Like many other public agencies today, The Swedish Board for Study Support (CSN) uses telephone conversations to communicate with clients about inquiries and problems that cannot be easily handled through letters, e-mail messages, or chat. Within these conversations, clients can present complex situtations that involve the disclosure of difficult and delicate financial, social, and personal circumstances. Student aid counsellors are expected to handle these situations in an efficient and professional manner.

The overall aim of the project is to study how CSN:s mandate to administer student loans is implemented in direct interactions between aid counsellors and loan applicants. The data consists of 1500 audio recordings of telephone conversations. The conversations are drawn from different facets of the organisation such as loan applications and management of repayment of loans. The data also consists of interviews with professionals on different levels in the organisation, and a case study based on video recordings at one local office. The study combines macro- and microanalytical approaches from communication studies, conversation analysis, and sociology to relate interactional patterns on the microlevel to such macro phenomena as public policy, organizational control, and professional identity. Our research questions explore four areas: decisionmaking, epistemic assymetries, troublestalk, and the interface between institutional policy and rationality on the macro level on the one hand and the implementation of talk on the other.

Project leader: Mats Ekström
Other researchers/participants: Anna Lindström Uppsala University and Anders Bruhn Örebro University
Financed by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)


Page Manager: Mats Ekström|Last update: 4/19/2016

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