Charles Goodwin

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Contact Information

Office  3330 Rolfe Hall
Phone  310-825-7974
I use video to investigate the co-operative organization of human language and action, conversation, aphasia, and scientific practice.

My research focuses on the organization of language, action, perception, cognition and embodiment within human interaction. To investigate this I use video to record what people do in a variety of settings, including family interaction (Goodwin 2006b, 2007c, 2009, Goodwin and Goodwin 2013, Goodwin 2006), the work of archaeologists (Goodwin 1999, 2000, 2003d, 2007a, 2010), oceanographers (Goodwin 1995b) chemists (Goodwin 1997), and geologists (Mogk and Goodwin 2012), conversation between a man with severe aphasia and his family (Goodwin 1995a,2000b, 2003a,2003b, 2004 2006a, 2010a, 2011 , children in the home (Goodwin 2006b, 2007c), at play (1990, 20001), etc.

I am interested in how individual actions are co-operatively built by combining different resources such as language, prosody, gaze, gesture and objects (Goodwin 2012).

The ability to combine different kinds of semiotic resources in a single action is central to the organization of human language, social organization, cognition and the social and political organization of perception. Thus lawyers won the acquittal of the policemen who were videotaped beating Rodney King by using language categories, gesture and highlighting simultaneously to shape how the jury was to see kicks and blows as manifestations of proper police practice (Goodwin 1994).  My earliest research examined how visible, embodied displays of a hearer, including gaze and facial expressions, led to changes in the emerging sentences of speakers (Goodwin 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1986a, 1987). The way in which individual utterances can incorporate the separate contributions of participants occupying structurally different positions enables an aphasic man to act as a powerful speaker making complex statements despite the fact that his entire vocabulary consists of only three words: Yes, No and And. Through rich expressive prosody, gesture and interventions into the emerging talk of others he can guide them to produce the rich language structure required for his actions in conversation (Goodwin 1995a,2003b,2004, 2006a,  .2007b, 2010a, 2012).

Another strand of my research focuses on the activities of scientists in the field, such as archaeologists doing excavation (Goodwin 1994, 1999, 2000a, 2003d, 2007a 2010b), oceanographers in the mouth of the Amazon (1995b), and geologists in the back country of Yellowstone ()Mogk and Goodwin . All of these communities are faced with the task of building new, cognitively rich members with the professional vision and embodied tool use required to operate on the world in just the ways that make the activities of their scientific communities possible. This is accomplished through local sequences of interaction where the skilled senior scientist can look at both the world that is the focus of scientific investigation, and actions of the newcomer upon that world, and then intervene through subsequent interaction to shape understanding, professional vision and skilled tool use (Goodwin 2010b). Such interactions are not restricted to the current local participants. By making use of semiotically charged cognitive objects, such as a map or a Munsell chart for classifying color, local action incorporates as a crucial part of its current structure a rich history of earlier cognitive activity by predecessors (Goodwin 1999, 2012).

Semiotically rich interactions across generations as a site for endogenous pedagogy, for example learning to read recipes in the midst of cooking, are also one focus of my research on family interaction (Goodwin 2009).

In my current research I am examining how a wide range of human action, from subsequent utterances to tool use, is built through accumulative, structure-preserving transformations on a public substrate constructed by others. Through the way in which such operations decompose and reuse the structure provided by the existing substrate to build new action, they constitute both a site for the organization of grammar as public practice, and the place where the diversity of human culture emerges through histories of local accumulative transformations (Goodwin 2012).

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Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Law, New York University School of Law

B.S., Honors in English, College of the Holy Cross

Fields of Study

Human Action, Video Analysis of Embodied Talk in Interaction, Distributed Cognition, Aphasia in Discourse, Gesture, Ethnography of Science