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Time Reference in the Service of Social Action


The present study investigates the ways that members of society refer to time. Concrete methods for communicating about points in time and locating events in relation to them make relevant and thereby ground abstract time-reckoning in the lives of interactants. Through a taxonomy of references to time—termed absolute and event-relative, each with subcategories— we describe the intrinsic affordances that different designs provide coparticipants engaging in social interaction. In analyzing talk from both ordinary and institutional contexts, we demonstrate how these affordances can be mobilized in the co-construction and maintenance of intersubjectivity, in managing interpersonal relationships, and in conjunction with a variety of social actions. By describing how sociotemporal ordering is invoked, put into use, and contextually achieved in the immediacy of quotidian conduct, we posit that time-reckoning categories are social not only in their construction but also in their everyday use.

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