‘It was a place where we were connected’: Affordances in personal video-conferencing
This paper presents research in the field of Video Mediated Communication (VMC) within the context of multimodal interaction and digital discourse analysis. It focuses on personal use of video-conferencing (VC) as a method of keeping in touch with loved ones at a distance. The methodology combines micro-analyses of recorded VC sessions and follow-up interviews with the same participants as well as with additional participants. The different types of data are integrated by using the framework of mediated discourse analysis (MDA), which holds that the affordances of a medium do not determine the actions that can be taken through it, but merely create tension between what a person wants to do and what can be done (Norris & Jones, 2005).
MDA is especially well suited to analysing VMC because, despite efforts to make VMC resemble face-to-face interaction as much as possible, there is still a clear mismatch between the repertoire available in VMC and face-to-face interaction. Thus, I suggest that instead of focusing on how VMC ‘fails’ to recreate a face-to-face conversation, it is more productive to analyse the meaning-making practices users have developed which are exclusive to this medium. A prime example of such practices are ‘arising topics’, when participants discuss something prompted by the video feed. For example, in my recordings participants discuss the rooms they are in and the food they are eating, which would be clearly visible in a face-to-face conversation. These topics seem to create a common ground between distant interlocutors and highlight that the parties are doing something together while orienting to a better understanding of the situation. As indicated by the quote in the title (taken from one of the interviews), feeling connected is one of the key goals for these participants. The practices that help them achieve this are identified in the videos and interviews, leading to a better understanding of the affordances of this medium.
Norris, S., & Jones, R. H. (Eds.). (2005). Discourse in Action: Introducing Mediated Discourse Analysis. London and New York: Routledge.