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'Put the Cheetos Down': Camouflaging the Institutionality of an Interaction
Unformatted Document Text:  2 Home and work--main domains in people’s lives. As researchers examine how people separate and navigate boundaries between these two, they are finding the distinction increasingly tenuous. As Hochschild (1997) sees it (see also Nippert-Eng, 1995), work is taking over home life. Others have argued (Cameron, 2000; Fairclough, 1993) that a personal, intimate style has become the required face in work and public encounters. While erosion of boundaries may be seen as a societal problem, the change raises an issue for scholars who study interaction. Are organizational members doing conversational work to make “ordinary” the institutionality of their interaction? Are ordinary interactions serving institutional purposes? Recent investigations in institutional settings have started to answer these concerns by showing that the distinction between business talk and small talk is increasingly blurry (Holmes, 2000). Indeed, many scholars have pointed to the multi- faceted nature of small talk (Coupland, 2000) and the various institutional goals this type of talk activity serves. Previously conceived as unimportant and trivial, small talk is being recognized as multifunctional and serving a range of institutional goals. We extend this focus to consider what is probably the prototype for small talk: the chit-chat that goes on among people as they assemble for a meeting. In such interactional spaces, people converse with each other, often helping themselves to coffee and snacks; they wander around the meeting room chatting and, eventually, they take seats at a table. Pre-meeting talk, the label we use to describe these moments of interaction that occur before a meeting “officially” begins, is this study's focus. In institutional settings, we will argue, part of doing one’s work is to blend (or integrate) ordinary and institutional ways of doing things: to make “ordinary” the

Authors: Mirivel, Julien. and Tracy, Karen.
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Home and work--main domains in people’s lives. As researchers examine how
people separate and navigate boundaries between these two, they are finding the
distinction increasingly tenuous. As Hochschild (1997) sees it (see also Nippert-Eng,
1995), work is taking over home life. Others have argued (Cameron, 2000; Fairclough,
1993) that a personal, intimate style has become the required face in work and public
encounters. While erosion of boundaries may be seen as a societal problem, the change
raises an issue for scholars who study interaction. Are organizational members doing
conversational work to make “ordinary” the institutionality of their interaction? Are
ordinary interactions serving institutional purposes?
Recent investigations in institutional settings have started to answer these
concerns by showing that the distinction between business talk and small talk is
increasingly blurry (Holmes, 2000). Indeed, many scholars have pointed to the multi-
faceted nature of small talk (Coupland, 2000) and the various institutional goals this
type of talk activity serves. Previously conceived as unimportant and trivial, small talk
is being recognized as multifunctional and serving a range of institutional goals. We
extend this focus to consider what is probably the prototype for small talk: the chit-chat
that goes on among people as they assemble for a meeting. In such interactional spaces,
people converse with each other, often helping themselves to coffee and snacks; they
wander around the meeting room chatting and, eventually, they take seats at a table.
Pre-meeting talk, the label we use to describe these moments of interaction that occur
before a meeting “officially” begins, is this study's focus.
In institutional settings, we will argue, part of doing one’s work is to blend (or
integrate) ordinary and institutional ways of doing things: to make “ordinary” the


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