Christoph Hottiger

Christoph Hottiger, MA

Doctoral student SNSF Video Group

Phone: +41 (0) 44 634 39 65

Address: Freiestrasse 16, 8032 Zürich

Room number: FRF J 1

Christoph Hottiger is a doctoral student at the URPP Language and Space since 1. February 2017.

Provisional title: Doing Reading in Interaction - A Conversation Analytical Investigation of the Interactive Use of Exhibit Texts in a Science Centre (PhD Project)

My PhD project is part of the larger project Interactive discoveries: A video and eye-tracking based study of knowledge construction in science centres, which is led by Wolfgang Kesselheim and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). The goal of this project is to improve our understanding of visitors' interactive processes of understanding and discovery when they are using hands-on exhibits in the Swiss Science Center Technorama in Winterthur, Switzerland. In order to do so, we employ a methodological framework rooted in multimodally enhanced conversation analysis. In this context, my PhD project focusses on the texts attached to exhibits and the way they are used interactively by visitors to the museum.

This focus on exhibit texts and their use in a science centre was developed in a data-driven way: Our team compiled a corpus of over 35 hours of video and partially eye-tracking data which document interactions of pairs or small groups of visitors in the Technorama. When screening this data, it became clear that despite the museum's explicit focus on hands-on exhibits, visitors rarely did not make some kind of use of exhibit texts during their examination of an exhibit. This indicates that the use of exhibit texts is an important component of the social practice of using exhibits in the Technorama. Therefore, my project focuses precisely on the different techniques of using these texts while interacting at the exhibits.

Analytically speaking, the actual use of the exhibit texts in visitors' interactions takes centre stage. In this process, the methods and concepts developed in conversation analysis, multimodal interaction analysis and workplace studies are used. Questions of interest in this process include the following:

  • What are the exhibit texts used for in interaction? That is to say, what pragmatic use do visitors ascribe to the texts?
  • When are the exhibit texts used? At the beginning of the process of engaging with an exhibit as an instructional tool? Or at the end to look for answers and background information?
  • How are the texts used and how do participants indicate that they are using the texts? For instance, do visitors read passages of text aloud or do they simply mark their reading by mumbling? Are bits of text fed into the participants' verbal interaction after reading and if so, how are they marked as coming from the text (e.g. codeswitching)?
  • How do the participants indicate that their use of the exhibit texts does not constitute a deselection of interaction? For instance, this could be done by positioning the interactants' bodies in specific ways, by marking longer passages of silent reading as accountable, or by marking text usage as a side sequence.
  • How are different types of knowledge gained at the exhibit (practical knowledge gained by using the exhibit vs knowledge acquired by reading the text) negotiated in interaction?

The PhD project is supervised by Wolfgang Kesselheim and Heiko Hausendorf.

Netzwerk Raumtheorien

Christoph Hottiger and Christina Brandenberger chair the so-called “Netzwerk Raumtheorien,” a group of doctoral students and master students who regularly meet to discuss data and theoretical texts related to questions about language and the construction and use of space in interaction.

Workshops organised

Workshop on knowledge in interactionon (Technorama, Winterthur, Switzerland) (with Wolfgang Kesselheim and Christina Brandenberger)

Workshop «Ein Entdecker kommt selten allein» at Scientifica, University of Zurich (with Wolfgang Kesselheim and Chrsitina Brandenberger)

December 2016
Workshop with Federico Rossano, University of Zurich (with Wolfgang Kesselheim, Christina Brandenberger and Kenan Hochuli)

Workshop participation

Seeing and Noticing – Videoanalyse in Action (V) Gattungen, Formen und Strukturebenen, Graduate  School, University of Bayreuth (Data session chaired: Visitor interaction in museums)

Doctoral School, Workshop in Leysin on Question-answer sequences, Speakers: Hebert Clark, Stanford; Mats Ekström, Gothenburg; Joanna Thornborrow, Université de Bretagne Occidnetale; Tanjy Stivers, UCLA

Conferences attended

Creative Collisions: Ecsite Annual Conference, Geneva. Presentation: Analysing visitors' conversations (with Armin Duff, Wolfgang Kesselheim and Christina Brandenberger).

VALS-ASLA Conference. A Video Turn in Linguistics? University of Basel. Presentation: What is the phenomenon? The multimodal achievement of joint discoveries in science centres (with Wolfgang Kesselheim and Christina Brandenberger).

GAL Sektionentagung der Gesellschaft für Angewandte Linguistik 2017, University of Basel.

Boundaries and Transitions in Language and Interaction: Perspectives from Linguistics and Geography, URPP Language and Space, University of Zurich, MonteVerità, contribution: Poster: Defining the Boundaries of Exhibits in Science Centres – Between Architecture and Visitors’ Usage (with Christina Brandenberger).

Young Researchers Conference of the Centre for Research on Social Interactions (CRSI-YR) 2017, CRSI Doctoral Program, Universität Neuchatel. Presentation: Making Individual Sensorial Experiences Available in Interaction: A Video and Eye-Tracking Based Study of Knowledge Construction in Science Centers (with Christina Brandenberger).


Interactive Discoveries. Oder: Wie wird im Technorama gemeinsam Wissen konstruiert? (with Wolfgang Kesselheim and Christina Brandenberger). Staff event of the Swiss Science Center Technorama, Winterthur.

Sharing perception when using hands-on exhibits in science centres: The case of vocal depiction (with Christina Brandenberger). Research afternoon of the URPP Language and Space at University of Zurich – Project presented as part of the research group ‘Interactional Spaces.’


Brandenberger, Christina & Hottiger, Christoph (2018): Sharing perception when using hands-on exhibits in science centres: The case of vocal depiction. Travaux neuchâtelois de linguistique 68, 59-68.