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The Indexicality of Meaning

The gestures, cues, words and other information sent and received by interacting parties have meaning in a particular context. Without some knowledge of the context the biographies of the interacting parties, their avowed purpose, their past interactive experiences and so forth-it would easily be possible to misinterpret the symbolic communication among interacting individuals. This fact of interactive life is denoted by the concept of indexicality.To say that an expression is indexical is to emphasize that the meaning of that expression is tied to a particular context.

This phenomenon of indexicality draws attention to the problem of how actors in a context construct a vision of reality in that context. They develop expressions that invoke their common vision about what is real in their situation.

The concept of indexicality thus directs an investigator's attention to actual interactive contexts in order to see how actors go about creating indexical expressions-words, facial and body gestures and other cues to create and sustain the presumption that a particular reality governs their affairs.

According to Mehan and Wood, ''the ethnomethodological theory of the reality constructor is about the procedures that accomplish reality. It is not about any specific reality. This emphasis has led ethnomethodologists to isolate the general types of methods employed by interacting actors.