Conversation analysis (CA) is a discipline that was developed by sociologists in the US in the 1960s to investigate the social organization of action in situ. Originally focused on the study of spoken interaction, in a growing body of work in CA video is used to analyze gesture, gaze, posture and other means of communication alongside talk. Conversation analysts who study interaction beyond speech rarely define their work in terms of multimodality, but the term is beginning to gain currency (for instance, the theme of the 2010 edition of the International Conference on Conversation Analysis was ‘Multimodal Interaction’). ‘Multimodal’ CA studies are based on close observations of people who are engaged in an activity of some kind. For instance, Heath, Hindmarsh and Luff (2010) discuss snippets of interaction in auction houses, consultation rooms and control rooms. Goodwin (2000) discusses the work of archeologists and children playing hopscotch. Researchers in this area use fine grained transcription and analysis of small strips of video recordings (e.g. 10 seconds) to explore how multimodal interaction unfolds moment-by-moment. They demonstrate how people coordinate their actions and anticipate the actions of others in collaborative work; how people negotiate roles and position themselves in relation to others; and how participants use all parts of their body alongside or in the absence of speech to achieve this. A key concept in this work and CA more generally is the notion of sequentiality, that is, the temporal ordering of action as a means of achieving understanding.
Editor: Jeff Bezemer
Other contributors: Will Gibson
Goodwin, C. (2000).
‘Action and embodiment within situated interaction’
Journal of Pragmatics 32, 1489-1522
Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J. and Luff, P. (2010).
Video in Qualitative Research: Analysing Social Interaction in Everyday Life
Los Angeles: Sage
Streeck, J., Goodwin, C. & LeBaron, C. (eds). (2011).
Embodied Interaction. Language and body in the material world.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.