Blurring the boundaries between domestic and digital spheres: Competing engagements in public google hangouts

Laura Rosenbaun, Sheizaf Rafaeli and Dennis Kurzon


This study explores the phenomenon of multiactivity during recreational video-mediated communication (VMC) through the analysis of competing engagements. From a data corpus of naturally occurring interactions in public Google Hangouts, we focus on instances of competing engagements triggered by the co-presence of unratified participants in broadcasters’ physical environments. As users are immersed in their everyday spaces, interferences from their domestic sphere are common occurrences that break the participatory framework established in the digital sphere. Following a conversation analytic approach, we intend to show that these interferences lead to competing engagements that can be exploited rather than simply dealt with. Drawing on literature on multiactivity, we argue that participants at times organize and coordinate these multiple engagements to add playfulness and advance their interactions. In sum, this study aims to highlight how situated competing streams of action are coordinated and the purpose they may serve in recreational VMC.

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