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Multimodal student interaction online: An ecological perspective
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies. Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
2009 (English)In: ReCALL, ISSN 0958-3440, E-ISSN 1474-0109, Vol. 21, no 2, 186-205 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article describes the influence of tool and task design on student interaction in language learning at a distance. Interaction in a multimodal desktop video conferencing environment, FlashMeeting, is analyzed from an ecological perspective with two main foci: participation rates and conversational feedback strategies. The quantitative analysis of participation rates shows that as far as verbal interaction is concerned, multimodality did not have an equalizing effect in this context, contradicting previous research on multimodal student interaction. Additionally, the qualitative analysis of conversational feedback strategies shows that whereas some multimodal strategies were employed, the students did not manage to fully act upon the communicative affordances of the tool, as the feedback ratio during and after the often long broadcasts was relatively low. These findings are related to task and tool design and the article discusses how design improvements in these areas might result in a more constructive language learning ecology.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2009. Vol. 21, no 2, 186-205 p.
Keyword [en]
Language learning ecology, task and tool design, multimodal desktop video conferencing, equalization, common ground, conversational feedback
National Category
Communication Studies Specific Languages
Research subject
English; Education
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26058DOI: 10.1017/S0958344009000184OAI: diva2:236347
Available from: 2009-09-22 Created: 2009-09-22 Last updated: 2012-08-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Making sense digitally: Conversational coherence in online and mixed-mode contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making sense digitally: Conversational coherence in online and mixed-mode contexts
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Successful interaction makes sense to its participants – it is, in other words, coherent. As different resources are employed to indicate mutual orientation by showing which actions are linked and where attention is paid, coherent conversation can be said to be achieved multimodally. This thesis builds on an interactional and ecological theoretical basis, and investigates how strategies for sense-making vary depending on the context of interaction.

Specifically, this is a study of interaction in different types of multimodal and multiplex communication situations. The characteristics of these technology-rich communication situations are mapped and, primarily through ethnographic methods and interaction analysis, it is investigated how conversational coherence is maintained. Furthermore, it is suggested how the findings can be applied to inform interaction design.

The analysis presented is based on results from four case studies, dealing with different aspects of coherence creation in different English speaking contexts. Study 1 investigates coherence in intertwined threads in dyad instant messaging (IM) interaction, and Study 2 focuses on coherence through conversational feedback strategies in interaction in a multimodal desktop video conferencing system. Study 3 has a somewhat broader focus, as the multiple communication channels in which one participant is involved are all taken into consideration in the investigation of sequential coherence. Finally, in Study 4, the physical and digital interaction in a partly shared studio space is investigated, with an emphasis on how mutual orientation is established during conversation initiation.

The findings show that when addressing coherence it is important to acknowledge both dynamic aspects of context, such as activity and participants, and more static aspects, such as communicative affordances of environments and tools. In online and mixed-mode interaction, the notion of context becomes particularly complex, as participants are simultaneously part of both the individual context, which may include digital tools for communication, and the shared context of interaction (polycontextuality). In this thesis, it is further shown that this has consequences for coherent conversation initiation and possibilities to engage in multiple semi-simultaneous conversations (polyfocality). Additionally, the results emphasize the importance of explicit linguistic strategies in computer-mediated interaction.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2009. 85 p.
Umeå studies in language and literature, 7
Conversational coherence, context, communicative affordances, conversation analysis, multimodality, cohesion, sequential structure, attention, polyfocality, polycontextuality
National Category
Specific Languages Communication Studies
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26060 (URN)978-91-7264-852-4 (ISBN)
Institutionen för språkstudier, 901 87, Umeå
Public defence
2009-10-17, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-09-25 Created: 2009-09-22 Last updated: 2009-09-25Bibliographically approved

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Örnberg Berglund, Therese
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