Multimodal Activities in Technology-mediated Training

Hannele Palukka & Inka Koskela

Department of Sociology and Social Psychology University of Tampere, Finland


The poster presents an ongoing study concerning training practices in air traffic controller ab initio training. The study is concerned with the nature and the dynamics of social interaction between the trainee and the trainer. The study develops a perspective from which to investigate interactive training as situated accomplishments that emerge from their practical management within language, social configuration and material resources. Talk is the primordial site at and through which trainer and trainee express their understanding of the training situation, and negotiate their division of roles for participation in it. Talk makes the sense of the social activities intersubjectively available, amounting to what Heritage (1984) has called the architecture of intersubjectivity. However, talk and social actions are not two separate plenums, talk being the medium for orchestrating activities through emerging agencies.

It is not talk as such, but the coordination of talk and action that establishes the sense of the ongoing action (Goodwin 2000). Coordination is especially important in high reliability organizations such as aviation in which multimodality dominates. The air traffic control involves organized ways of coordinating technically assisted teamwork that counteracts potentially hazardous errors and safety gaps. The goal of air traffic control is to handle large volumes of traffic both safely and efficiently. The work is characterized by the redundancy which can provide “back-ups” in case of possible errors. Our study shows how multimodality of interaction makes sense of the ability to respond, to monitor and to anticipate with irregular events and potential errors.

The video-taped research data was gathered during the years 2006 – 2007 from two environments, the aerodrome control simulator and in real work settings in tower control during on the job training phase among ab initio trainees. The analysis of video recordings combines the study of oral interaction and visually observable physical actions. The spoken interaction is transcribed using the conventions of conversation analysis, and visual actions are linked with the stream of verbal actions. We will show how intersubjectivity, the shared understanding of ongoing training action is accomplished by multiple modes of communicative resources (Palukka & Arminen 2005) These resources include verbal and non-verbal practices in interaction and technology use in on the job training. The interactive training practices cannot be reduced simply to speech acts and practices, but are distributed through multimodal communicative practices and technological artefacts both in simulated learning environments and an authentic work environment.

As a hole, the study discusses how talk and other activities as ongoing achievements contribute to the emergence of social actions, not merely trying to understand talk or the organization of action. It identifies salient forms of interactional patterns that constitute to establishing the social world as perceived.


Goodwin, Charles. (2000): “Action and embodiment within situated human

interaction.” Journal of Pragmatics 32: 1489-1522.

Heritage, John. (1984): Garfinkel and ethnomethodology. Oxford: Polity.

Palukka, Hannele & Arminen, Ilkka (2005) Bodily coordination of air traffic

control team work. Paper presented at The 2nd Conference of the International

Society for Gesture Studies, France June 15-18.

Session: POSTERS: Focus on interaction, discourse, media, professional settings
Friday, April 4, 2008, 12:45-15:45
room: foyer