Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taking my turn

Belated congratulations to Dr Tamara Jones whose thesis looked at power and the patterning of spoken interaction in a reality TV show!! Bouncing from that to a bit of online teaching using Adobe Connect made me acutely aware that online interaction (can we still call it CMC?) is not the real world. And even though it's generally pretty smooth and quite immersive, it's virtual after all. Tamara's work reminded me how the old-school world of Conversational Analysis in which speakers were supposed to take polite turns, stay on topic and repair any hitches or perturbations is now about as idealistic as attempts to apply written grammar to speech. In other words most everyday conversations are littered with overlaps, as well as being punctuated by attempts to take the floor or change the topic. On the other hand conversational interaction in Connect cannot proceed in that way, because it's stripped down, with only the video feed of a talking head for a listener cue. Our best solution is to do turn-taking, and of course the environment encourages that in its design (mikes on or off, and onscreen icons to flag one's intention to speak). I think the upshot is that the conversational flow is different, turns are longer, collaborative meaning making as well its opposite, disputation, is harder to achieve. It's my sense that individuals talk for longer periods of time than they do in most face-to-face encounters and that they may be more measured in what they say. Certainly it's another of those instances of virtuality in which it seems deceptivley like RL, particularly as the technology gets better and the connection less vulnerable to glitches; deceptively like RL, but nothing like it!

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