Multimodality in the Classroom: An Introduction

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Junko Takahashi
Di Yu


As a methodological approach that studies naturally occurring social interaction in various settings, conversation analysis (CA) uncovers how social actions are organized in the moment-by-moment details of interaction and how participants as Members make sense of each other in situ (Psathas, 1995; ten Have, 2007). Due to technological limitations, early CA research largely relied on audio recordings of telephone conversations (see Lerner [2004] for a collection of first-generation studies on topics including turn-taking and sequence organization). From the 1970s, as video recordings became a possibility, CA pioneers also started to turn their attention to the interactional details and multimodal resources visibly accessible in face-to-face interaction. Issues addressed in their seminal work include how listenership can be displayed through gaze and other embodied behaviors, and how mutual orientation is established through gestures and other embodied resources (Goodwin, 1981; Heath, 1986). Overall, such work on multimodality views social interaction as Members’ practical actions organized by and accomplished through concerted talk and embodied actions, and investigates interactional resources available through the visual, auditory, and haptic channels as made relevant by participants of an interaction.

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