Akiyama, Yuka (University of Tokyo)

Although the quality of personal relationships greatly impacts the success of telecollaborative activities, few studies have examined the role of multimodality in the development of social interactions. Since videoconferencing is not an innate ability but a skill that develops over time (Kern, 2014), we need to examine how telecollaborative participants develop the skill and use it for socialization. Using interactional sociolinguistics and multimodal discourse analysis concepts, the study examined how eTandem dyads utilized technological affordances, their bodies, and the surrounding environment, inside and outside the designated curricular modality of Google Hangouts.

Out of 30 dyads that participated in the eTandem project between Japan and the U.S., the study selected three dyads that demonstrated contrasting behaviors and perceptions about the project. Analysis of their discourse data revealed that, while the most successful dyad utilized screen sharing to create what I call virtual joint attention and resorted to various multimodal resources to increase social presence (Short et al., 1976), the least successful dyad suffered from the limited sense of social presence due to the way they used the material surround (e.g., electronic dictionary). The other dyad, whose interactional behavior changed after a critical incident of “coming out,” started to communicate “in the wild” by utilizing Facebook Messenger. Consequently, their shared repertoire (i.e., intertextuality) increased, allowing them to establish a community of practice.

Based on the findings, I argue that we need to take into account the impact of medium on interactional processes and emphasize the digital side of eTandem by placing digital literacy learning as one of the primary goals and benefits of engaging in telecollaboration. The findings of the study also call for a holistic approach to the study of online social interactions through which we investigate interactions that naturally emerge outside the official, curricular sphere of telecollaborative learning, so we can understand how language learners expand the use of various technological platforms to maintain their personal relationships.


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