|Title||Doing Waiting: An Ethnomethodological Analysis|
|Tag(s)||EMCA, Waiting, Ethnomethodology, Queuing, Public places, Urban environments|
|Journal||Journal of Contemporary Ethnography|
Waiting is an activity that is virtually carried out by everybody at every time and everywhere. In contrast to other occupations, such as playing the piano, it does not require painstaking training efforts. Notwithstanding, we do possess methodically employed techniques of indicating to others that we are waiting—that is, we make our waiting recognizable as such.
Many forms of waiting in everyday life are bound to specific places: waiting shelters, waiting rooms, waiting halls. The waiting person is thus visible and frequently forms a waiting community with fellow waiting people. Moreover, many forms of waiting take a specific form (a queue). But also in situations where such recognizable social formations are not possible (e.g., when waiting alone), people make clear to themselves and to others that they are waiting. Primarily people waiting in publicly accessible spaces demonstrate to each other and to others what they are doing—that is, waiting. They do so in a methodical way and thus make their actions accountable for themselves and others as an ordered structure. Hence, there is a sense in which waiting people wait competently, making their waiting visible to others as a “doing”—a “doing waiting” in the sense of ethnomethodology.
The essay pursues the question of waiting people’s particular handling of the space they are in and the material available to them: which spatial resources are made available to them by the specific locality? Which material resources are provided? In what ways do waiting people make use of this space and the objects to which they have access? How do they use other elements of the physical environment? Which additional resources are brought along? The article addresses these questions by using empirical data of natural situations of waiting (ethnographic fieldnotes, photographs, drawings, and video recordings).