Thirty years on since I first got interested in how applause works in speeches, I'm still adding gems to my collection of video clips. This year's star exhibit came when the accountability of clapping (or not) became headline news with David Miliband's reproach to Harriet Harman for applauding his brother's declaration that something she'd voted for was wrong.
It reminded me of a fascinating moment from the Thatcher era, when the accountability of not applauding in the right places was highlighted by Peter Snow in a Newnight interview with Francis Pym:
Viewing applause as 'anthropologically strange
When people ask me how I came to do the research that changed my life (see Our Masters' Voices and the Claptrap saga, links to which are listed HERE), my answer is that I was merely trying to follow one of the central pieces of methodological advice from the founders of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis.
According to them, the starting point for escaping from the limitations of the hypotehetico-deductive model of science that had held (and continues to hold) sociology and psychology back was to follow the maxim: try to view the familiar and the ordinary as 'anthropologically strange', no matter how mundane it may be.
To give you an idea of what this means (and by way of bringing my posts on this year's conference season to a suitable close) I've spliced together some close-ups of audiences in action over the past few weeks.
Before watching it, imagine that you're a Martian anthropologist. You've just been beamed down to earth on your first mission of exploration, you've arrived in the middle of an audience at a party conference and this is what you see. Then ask yourself what, if anything, you'd make of what members of this alien species are doing:
A research project?
If, having watched it, you're wondering why it ends with an artificially extended sequence of Michael Gove in action, it's because I think there might be something going on here worth further examination. Having watched it several times (!), I get the impression that there could be a connection between his eye-blinking and the rhythm of his hand movements.
As it happens, I have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue it further. But if anyone else can be bothered, I'd be fascinated to know what, if anything, you come up with.
This year's conference season posts:
- Delayed applause at a key point in Nick Clegg's conference speech
- Party conference season prize competition
- Delayed applause in Vince Cable's speech (at same point as in Clegg's)
- More lessons from Vince Cable's speech
- Labour Party leaders' acceptance speeches" Neil Kinnock, 1983; Ed Miliband, 2010
- Ed Miliband "gets it" in his bid to bond with the brethren
- Did David Miliband lose because he was too old and experienced?
- Delayed applause for Ed Miliband's claims on the 'centre ground'
- 'Clap on the name': a practical tip for Ed Miliband and/or his speechwriters
- Delayed applause for William Hague's boast about being in government
- What a peculiar Tory backdrop, Part 2: What do the flags mean?
- Tories 'Bomb Middle England' - by Banksy
- Delayed applause, poor speech writing & delivery strike again in Osborne's speech
- Delayed applause for Cameron's government - from the Conservatives!
- BIG SOCIETY: little applause
- Conference season competition results