Exchanging glances while talking and driving

Lorenza Mondada

ICAR research Lab, Univ. of Lyon, France

WS167: What can face and gaze tell us about language use in interaction?

The paper focuses on the distribution of glances during conversations held in cars between one or more passengers and a driver. This situation is characterized by a number of peculiar features : it involves a multi-activity (i.e. multiple simultaneous activities are going simultaneously, such as talking and driving), it is characterized by a multiplicity of foci of attention (participants can glance at each other but also at the surrounding space; they look at objects inside or outside the car), participants are disposed side-by-side, and they can display possible convergent or divergent orientations.

In this peculiar context, the economy of glances and gestures as multimodal resources for the organization of social interaction is peculiar, especially when compared to ordinary face-to-face conversation (as analyzed by Kendon, 1990 or by Goodwin, 1981). For instance, mutual glances are less frequent than in ordinary conversation. However, their positionings within talk remain deeply sensitive to the its sequential organization: orientations toward details relevant for the activity of driving are orderly embedded within the sequential organization of conversation. They can even be exploited as resources for dealing with sequential features such as dispreferred answers or the management of disaffiliation.

The analysis is based on a corpus of videorecordings of various naturally occurring car journeys. The integration of the multimodal details within the organization of turns-at-talk opens for questions about the reflexive relation between material and spatial environment on the one side and turn organization on the other side; about the sequential order of multiple concurrent activities; about the consequences of spatial arrangements of participants’ bodies on the management of interaction, and about the participation frameworks shaping and shaped by multi-activity.

Session: Workshop
What can face and gaze tell us about language use in interaction?
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 06