Problems in the neighbourhood: Formulating noise complaints across dispute resolution services

Marc Alexander, Elizabeth Stokoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


When people are in dispute with their neighbours, there are multiple routes to resolution, and different services have a range of remits to support it. This article explores how noise complaints are reported to dispute resolution mediation and local council environmental services in the United Kingdom. A collection of 315 recorded telephone calls were transcribed and analysed using discursive psychology, underpinned by conversation analytic methods. Analysis focused on how the same kinds of noise complaint were formulated for the remit and provision of the service called. In mediation calls, callers directly attributed the source of the noise to the agent of its production (e.g., “it's about the neighbour”). However, reference to “the neighbour” was typically omitted (at least initially) in calls to environmental health services (e.g., “I need to speak to someone about disturbance”). This comparative analysis of different settings reveals the significance of service remit for the design of complaints and the relevance of attributing cause in making a case for aid. Comparing two settings provides a propitious opportunity to demonstrate that noise is not a physically objective phenomenon or neutral category but institutionally formulated social conduct.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-370
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • complaints
  • recipient design
  • conversation analysis
  • discursive psychology
  • environmental health
  • mediation
  • neighbour disputes
  • noise


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