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Coherent conversation initiation in multiplex communicative ecologies
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies. Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
2010 (English)In: Human IT, ISSN 1402-1501, E-ISSN 1402-151X, Vol. 10, no 3, 89-130 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article reports on results from an ethnographic study of student interaction at a design school. The aim of the article is to explore the relation between communicative affordances, mode choices and coherence strategies in multiplex communicative ecologies. This is done through a focus on the choices made when initiating conversations in this setting. First the complete communicative ecologies of three international students in the design school are mapped, in order to demonstrate the options available, and focus is then turned to in-group interaction in particular. It is shown that the choices made can be related to the communicative affordances of the tools and the environments in relation to different considerations regarding attention. Whose attention do you want? When do you want attention and what kind of attention do you need? Can you get the attention of the other through the mode of your choice, and is now a good time to do so? In this discussion, also the physical location of the participants is taken into account. Furthermore, it is suggested how balanced awareness can be of relevance for coherent conversation initiation, and suggestions for design are presented.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 10, no 3, 89-130 p.
Keyword [en]
Communicative ecologies, communicative affordances, coherence, conversation initiation, instant messaging
National Category
Specific Languages Communication Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26089OAI: diva2:236507
Available from: 2009-09-23 Created: 2009-09-23 Last updated: 2012-01-31Bibliographically 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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