Material and embodied resources in the accomplishment of closings in technology-mediated business meetings

Tuire Oittinen


This study uses conversation analysis (CA) and video-recorded data from an international company to investigate closings in technology-mediated (i.e. distant) meetings. The focus is on the situated affordances and multimodal resources that the chair and participants deploy to transition from meeting talk to a coordinated exit. Due to restricted access to bodily-visual leave-taking behaviours, other mutually recognized practices need to be implemented to initiate and advance closings: (1) when closing is made relevant as the next step, (2) when opportunity spaces to move out of the closing emerge, and (3) when departure from the meeting needs to be negotiated. This progression requires the close coordination of co-participants’ vocal and embodied conduct in the physical setting and rendering actions publicly intelligible via the screen at specific moments. The analysis portrays closings as emergent, collaborative accomplishments, in which the import of multimodal turn constructions and (dis)aligning behaviours must be negotiated in situ.

Publication history
Table of contents

Business meetings today are frequently organized between people in different geographical locations. Previous studies show that engagement by participants in multiple interactional spaces (see e.g. Mondada 2013) affects the ways in which participation frameworks are organized at the beginning of meetings (Heath and Luff 2000; Muñoz 2016; Markman 2009; Oittinen and Piirainen-Marsh 2015; Rintel 2013) and become reshaped at other junctures in meetings, e.g. in moments of interactional trouble (Oittinen 2018). However, findings on the ways distributed work groups end their encounters are scarce. In face-to-face meetings closings include initiating and traveling through a “closing track” (Button 1991), shifting from one turn-taking format to another, i.e. from meeting talk to multiparty talk (e.g. Boden 1994; Nielsen 2013), and doing the actual leave-taking. All these stages require the mutual coordination of talk and embodied actions that are produced in conjunction with each other and the ongoing activity (see LeBaron and Jones 2002). In technology-mediated settings, where the participants have limited or no visual access to each other’s environments and conduct, the joint utilization of interactional resources and bodily configurations for the sequential work of closing is more challenging. The present study investigates the situated affordances and multimodal resources that the chair and participants draw on to manage this practical problem when ending audio-based multiparty meetings.

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