The problem with problems: new methods for analysing problem-solving talk in the Clinton Email Corpus

‘The problem with problems: new methods for analysing problem-solving talk in the Clinton Email Corpus’

Dr Rachele de Felice (Open University) 

In this talk, I present a corpus-based approach to detecting problem-solving talk in workplace emails. In particular, I will address the following two questions: 1) Can we automatically identify discussion of ‘problems’ in a workplace email corpus? 2) What does analysis of these instances contribute to our understanding of how people talk about problems? The research is based on the Clinton Email Corpus (De Felice and Garretson 2018), which is an ideal resource for this task. As well as its size (over 33,000 emails), we know most of the participants’ identities, so the analysis can include information about workplace hierarchy and interpersonal relations. The corpus also includes a range of problems to study, from scheduling miscommunications to serious political crises and natural disasters. The talk will describe the method we developed to identify instances of problems, and present some specific case studies highlighting the key communicative features of problem-related language.

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