Given by Kenneth Liberman,
Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon
Tuesday Oct. 10 2016

Lecture given at the University of Southern Denmark, Dept., of Language and Communication where Ken Liberman had been HCA Andersen visiting professor for 3 years.

Kenneth Liberman: Rules as Ethnomethods: the case study of the surfers’ lineup

Since its inception sociologists have been writing about rules, but their accounts have been of closed, autonomous systems mostly inherited from common-sense social mythologies that do not reflect how rules really function in the actual world. Harold Garfinkel has suggested that rules are resources parties use to organize local orderlinesses, but his thesis requires more specification. The way that surfers organize who has the right to take off on an approaching wave is taken as a naturally occurring tutorial in rule-governance. Dozens of surfers who are congesting around a ¨break¨ where waves afford rides to only a single surfer (no more than two) must somehow organize matters so that one person gets the ride without risking anyone else’s safety and while ensuring that no wave goes unridden, and they must do this for a cohort of surfers who are often resistant to rule conformity, and without the benefit of officials who monitor compliance. This self-organizing orderliness is a continuous local accomplishment, wave after wave, and many rules and principles are available for application by those who concert their activities mostly without verbal interaction. Videotapes of the surfers’ lineup at locations world-wide are the basis for an ethnomethodological analysis of naturally occurring local order.