Interactional competence in the institutional setting of the international university: talk and embodied action as multimodal aggregates in institutional interaction

Committee members:

Jürgen Streeck, Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Trine Heinemann, Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark and University of Helsinki
Hartmut Haberland, Professor mso, Roskilde University
The written evaluation for the PhD thesis can be downloaded here
Dennis Day, Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark
Susanne Kjærbeck, Associate Professor, Roskilde University


This project investigated social practices in co-present encounters between administrative staff and students at an internationalizing university. The project utilized audiovisual data of interactions, recorded at a number of sites at a Danish university. These concerned service encounters at the International Office help desk, and study guidance counselling meetings both at the central administrative offices and a number of university departments.
The research angle for the project focused on how co-participants coordinate collaborative institutional activities through the deployment of a range of embodied resources, including talk, bodily conduct and the material surround. Analyses focus on how co-participants in talk-in-interaction orient to their co-participants’ situated embodied actions produced in conjunction with linguistic utterances, and reflexively produce their turns within the sequential organization as multimodally constituted social action in interaction. Leading on from this, the analyses sought to explore whether situated embodied practices serve to enact-into-being the institution of the international university. Research into these dynamically multilingual and culturally hybrid settings has often emphasized the linguistic component of such encounters. The current project adds to this by considering participants’ interactional competencies, denoting their situated methods and interactive practices through which they are able to co-construct in situ their social world.
The thesis includes an overview of activities and linguistic resources encountered in the data. The main lines of analysis, however, are presented in five research articles. One article describes systematic practices for entering into a focused encounter at a help desk. The paper demonstrates how participants orient to a particular step-wise sequence of actions as they coordinate their moving into an institutionally oriented encounter. Similarly, the second paper demonstrates how participants use institutionally relevant material objects as resources to demarcating between stages of an institutional interaction. These objects feature also in the third paper, which describes a practice where objects are utilized in the construction of multimodal utterances, and are developed as a thematic device over a sequence of talk. Orientations to objects in the surround are also a theme for the fourth article, which explores how participants’ treat ongoing recording activity in the setting. This methodological article investigates how participants in the setting treat the recording activity, and use it for performing identity work. One final paper also has a methodological focus, namely a discussion of audiovisual data transcription practices. This paper argues for a wider adoption of transcription linking software.
The main methodological approach for the research has been Conversation Analysis, supplemented by micro-ethnographic methods for investigating situated embodied conduct in interaction, notably Context Analysis. These approaches share a commitment to how they treat the phenomena of human interaction, including a reluctance to use contrived data or experimental settings. The current research offers a synthesis of the analytic orientations, specifically in foregrounding the reflexive, conjoint, and co-reliant nature of the multiple modalities, rather than emphasizing one modality over another.


Denne afhandling undersøger de social praksisser i face-to-face samtaler mellem administrativt personale og studerende på et internationalt universitet. Projektet anvender audiovisuelle data af social interaktion, der registreres på et antal steder på et dansk universitet. Disse vedrører service-møder på et Internationale Kontor helpdesk, og studievejledningsmøder på det centrale administrative kontor og i en række universitetsinstitutter.

Udgangspunktet for projektet fokuserer på, hvordan deltagere koordinerer institutionelle samarbejdsaktiviteter gennem Iscenesættelse af en række ressourcer, herunder sprog, kropsholdning og bevægelse, gestik og fysiske objekter. Analyserne fokuserer på, hvordan deltagere i samtalen orientere sig mod deres interaktionspartneres visuelle handlinger produceret i forbindelse med sproglige ytringer, og refleksivt producere deres tur i den sekventielle organisation som multimodalt konstitueret social handling i interaktion. Ud fra dette undersøge analyserne, om visuelle praksisser tjener til at embody-into-being institutionel social orden af det internationale universitet. Forskning i disse dynamisk flersprogede og kulturelt hybride steder har ofte understreget den sproglige bestanddel af sådanne interaktioner. Det aktuelle projekt bidrager til dette ved at overveje deltagernes interaktionelle kompetencer, der angiver deres situerede metoder og interaktive praksisser, hvorigennem de sammen er i stand til konstruere deres sociale verden in situ.

Afhandlingen indeholder en oversigt over aktiviteter og sproglige ressourcer, som er fundet i datamaterialet. Analyserne følger bagefter, og præsenteres i fem forskningsartikler. Den første artikel beskriver systematiske praksisser for at indgå i et fokuseret møde ved en service desk. Artiklen viser, hvordan deltagerne orienterer sig mod en bestemt trinvis sekvens af handlinger, idet de koordinerer deres vej ”ind i” et institutionelt orienteret møde. Tilsvarende viser den anden artikel hvordan deltagerne bruger institutionelt relevante fysiske og grafiske objekter som ressourcer til at signalere ændringer i orientering af deltagelse. Disse objekter er også centrale i den tredje artikel, der beskriver en praksis, hvor objekter bliver brugt i konstruktionen af ​​multimodale handlinger, og er udviklet videre som tematiske komponenter over en diskursenhed. Orienteringer mod objekter i omgivelserne er også et tema for den fjerde artikel, som undersøger, hvordan deltagerne behandler den igangværende optagelse i deres interaktionsrum. Denne artikel undersøger, hvordan deltagerne behandler optagelsen som aktivitet, og bruger den til at konstruere social identitet. Den sidste artikel har også et metodisk fokus, nemlig en diskussion af transskriptionspraksisser omkring audiovisuelle data. Her argumenterer vi for en større udbredelse af transskriptionssoftware.

Jeg tage udgangspunkt i den etnometodologiske konversationsanalyse (CA), suppleret med mikroetnografiske metoder til at undersøge kropslig adfærd i interaktion, bl.a. Context Analysis (Kendon, 1990). Disse tilgange deler en forpligtelse af hvordan de behandler fænomenerne af menneskelig interaktion, herunder en modvilje mod at bruge eksperimentelle data. Afhandlingen tilbyder en syntese af de analytiske retningslinjer, specifikt i fremhævelsen af den refleksive karakter af de mange modaliteter, snarere end at fremhæve en modalitet frem for en anden.


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