SAS senior and AP Research + Catalyst student, Louis Gordon, has spent his year working on his research paper titled "Say what? A conversational analysis of the turn-taking system of modern synchronous computer-mediated communication."

The write up is as follows (written by Louis himself): Previous research on synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC), or instant messengers, has examined antiquated or irrelevant conversation media lacking many features present in modern-SCMC. One such feature is the typing indicator that allows participants see when other participants are typing. Because of this, the typing indicator may act as a nonverbal cue of other message producers in a conversation.

While many previous studies (most notably: Daft & Lengel 1984; Herring 1999; Kiesler et al. 1984) have shown the apparent incoherence of SCMC, in this paper, I posits that a) the typing indicator may increase the coherence of the SCMC medium at hand and that b) participants will be able to navigate the incoherent medium of SCMC using their face-to-face communication skills.

This study is based on a qualitative conversational analysis of a Facebook Messenger conversation among three high school students. I examined turn-taking, adjacency pairs, and typing indicators in 73 lines of talk using framework laid out in Anderson et al. (2010), Garcia and Jacobs (1999), and Sacks et al. (1973).

In this single case analysis, the typing indicator was not shown to have a visible effect on the turn-taking system of the medium at hand: participants tended to ignore whether or not they could see the typing indicator of others, and participants tended to speak without regard for whether or not someone else prompted them. While the conversation did appear disjointed and incoherent from my perspective as the researcher, the participants did not appear to notice.

The conversation continued fluidly, almost reaching the ideal of “no-gap, no overlap” (Sacks et al. 1973). It is clear that more single-case analyses are needed in order to fully understand the turn-taking system of SCMC. More research could lead to implications for the design and structure of modern and future SCMC media.

Louis will be presenting on Tuesday, April 24, 2018
12.50 p.m.—1.20 p.m. If you're interested in his project, come check it out!

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