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Accountability in Social Interaction$
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Jeffrey D. Robinson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190210557

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190210557.001.0001

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Epistemic Asymmetry and Accountability in Service Interaction

Epistemic Asymmetry and Accountability in Service Interaction

Chapter:
(p.175) 6 Epistemic Asymmetry and Accountability in Service Interaction
Source:
Accountability in Social Interaction
Author(s):

Seung-Hee Lee

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190210557.003.0006

This chapter examines issues of accountability associated with epistemic asymmetry between service seekers and providers. It examines ways in which airline-service agents and customers orient to, and manage, such asymmetry in ways that preserve agents’ epistemic authority. Cases are examined wherein customers have credible grounds for knowing about reservation-related matters, yet agents do not know about customers’ preexisting knowledge. Customers nonetheless design initial inquiries into such knowledge in ways that orient and defer to agents’ epistemic authority, while not exposing their own preexisting knowledge, for instance, by using interrogative forms of polar questions. When agents’ responses confirm—at least for customers—knowledge incongruities between parties, customers pursue their resolution with counter-informings. In doing so, while customers expose their knowledge and its incongruity, they nonetheless continue to orient and defer to agents’ epistemic authority by accounting for “how they know” in ways that mitigate their epistemic claim.

Keywords:   conversation analysis, accountability, epistemic asymmetry, authority, institution, service, question, counter-informing

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