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URPP Language and Space

Prof. Dr. Heiko Hausendorf




Prof. Dr. Heiko Hausendorf

University of Zurich

Co-presence revisited: Interaction, space, and multimodality

Since E. Goffman introduced the idea of co-presence as a basic characteristic of face-to-face interaction at the very beginning of his studies of the sociology of interaction, co-presence has long been taken for granted. It is only recently in the course of a renewed scientific interest in the multimodal achievement of interactional space(s) that co-presence has attracted interest as an essential communicative condition. Today, co-presence is no longer treated as an entity that is given as soon as two or more people are in the same space at the same time. Instead, it has been shown that co-presence must be done by the participants, e.g. by means of embodied practices of visual perception and body movement. For instance, the notion of ‘interactional space’ has been coined to emphasize that participants permanently create their own surrounding of mutual orientation and reference. Accordingly, I will suggest in my talk that we assume a basic interactional task of situational anchoring that consists of ensuring co-orientation, co-ordination, and co-operation between participants. In dealing with this task(s), the participants can use different resources, including the human body as a mobile and intelligent sensor, the spatial syntax and semantics of natural language, and architecture in the sense of built, designed, and furnished space. Particularly the latter has largely been neglected in interactional linguistics up until recently. In order to introduce and illustrate this theoretical framework, empirical evidence will be provided from our recent studies of conversations at counters in Swiss railway station offices.