Interactions and Screens in Research and Education



Christine Develotte

Version française > Christine Develotte, « Conclusion », Interactions and Screens in Research and Education (enhanced edition), Les Ateliers de [sens public], Montreal, 2023, isbn:978-2-924925-25-6,
version:0, 11/15/2023
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This volume is the first publication of the results of the collective research that we carried out between 2016 and 2020.

This concluding chapter aims to look at the conceptual aspects of our work and at its collective, reflexive and open experiential form.

The research we have carried out has without doubt a militant aspect. This research is, in itself, an epistemological manifesto establishing, in this particular techno-historical moment, the interdisciplinarity and hybridity of methodologies as unavoidable, the force of the group as key in the research process bringing together different disciplines and (technological) cultures, and open science via the intermediary of a digital form of publication as the preferred mode to publicise scientific results.

Starting from the two initial objectives of this volume, we describe how we proceeded and how other perspectives emerged along the way.

The study of interaction in a polyartefacted situation

From a scientific point of view, the first research objective, formulated once the data collection was finished, was the following:

To study empirically what telepresence does to a doctoral seminar, the impact it has on the participants and on the dynamics of the exchanges that take place (Develotte 2018, 171).

This very broad formulation sought to give free rein to the researchers to determine which aspects they regarded as relevant to study. Moreover, the data collection set-up was designed according to scientific perspectives rooted in different approaches; this multidisciplinarity lead us to give priority to a data collection protocol employing a qualitative procedure in keeping with current practice in humanities and social sciences.

Theoretical and methodological alliances came into being during the analyses in light of the complexity of the apparatus that had been established and the multimodality of the data collected. Thus, the study of corporeality combined phenomenology and psychology in an analysis at the crossroads of visual ethnography, the multimodal analysis of interaction and phenomenological analysis; the analyses of attention merged phenomenology and communication sciences in a multimodal analysis; the analysis of habituation (bugs and failures) undertook an ethnomethodological analysis and drew on phenomenology, psychology and anthropology (collective intelligence). In an ethnological, multimodal approach, the study of politeness combined Goffmanian microsociology, discourse analysis and evolutionary biology.

This disciplinary heterogeneity is apparent in the general bibliography: among the 112 authors cited in the different chapters, fewer than 20% are associated with linguistics, 21% work in the fields of sociology and anthropology, 20% in psychology and communication, 27% in philosophy and education, and around 12% belong to other disciplines (design, human-machine interaction, biology, marketing or even dance).

To grasp the interactional specificities generated in the context of the complex-situation studied here, we thus gave priority to conceptual and methodological hybrids from the humanities and social sciences.

The analyses that we carried out on the different aspects of the seminar on this basis have allowed us to theorise the different stages of mediation (immediation, demediation, remediation) and the roles played by the participants who were in turn sentinels, procurators and witnessesCheck “Artefacted intercorporeality, between reification and personification”.↩︎. With respect to interactional specificities, we explored the opposition between artefactual and personal terms of address and proposed conversational maximsCheck “New norms of politeness in digital contexts”.↩︎. Involuntary or appropriated artefactual presence was studied in terms of over-ratification, hyper-exposure or hypo-exposureCheck “Autonomy and artefactual presence in a polyartefacted seminar”.↩︎. Looking at attentional choreographies revealed the emergence of attentional co-affordances in this polyartefacted contextCheck “Attentional affordances in an instrumented seminar”.↩︎.

Towards open science

The second objective consisted of inscribing our research in open science: we chose digital publishing as a solution that would make our data openly available to the research community. This volume, which represents the first stage in our data analysis, concentrates on the most surprising or remarkable phenomena and thus only exploits a very small amount of the data we gathered. Opening the corpus up to the research community may give others an opportunity to study the data in dimensions different from ours and that will nourish our approach.

The need for digital publication became apparent during the project when it became clear that a print edition could only provide a highly reductive account of the analyses. As a consequence, the members of the research group were faced with the need to develop new competencies, going beyond the simple selection of relevant excerpts and the creation of a video capsule, in order to move towards an annotation of these capsules in a format compatible with digital publishing. The need for new professions became apparent in order to supplement the work of the research team with IT, documentary and technical expertise. Our team of researchers from the humanities and social sciences were themselves led to enrich their palette with new competencies, some of them derived from the group, which thus again shows its added value.

New perspectives for future research on the multimodality of the data have thus been opened up. Digital publication constitutes a new challenge for the definition of a format for analysing screen interactions that can take into account the complexity of these multimodal interactions entailing different spaces (in Lyon and elsewhere). This format involves both the researcher’s own perspective on the data and what they would like to show readers via the norms of digital publishing.

Beyond these two objectives, the experiential form of this research that is simultaneously collective, reflexive and open turned out to be key and deserves to be explicitly discussed.

A collective reflexive experience

The collective dimension of the project played a fundamental role in the scientific experiment that was conducted. The reflexive approach was adopted by the group, and because the participants trusted one another, they agreed to cooperate in an undertaking aiming at developing collective intelligence starting from individual competencies. Everyone was invited to contribute research to several chapters, thus forging a comprehensive view of the whole. Review and revision of the first drafts was undertaken as a group, so as to bring together all the complexity of the points of view around the aspect being studied. The project thus channelled the participants’ energies toward a common goal whose result is of greater value for the group than for the individual researcher.

In what follows, we will examine this reflexive dimension that constitutes the specificity of this work and its implications both for our research and the different participants.

Reflexive ethology led us to work on and with people all sharing the same situation and the same ambition of analysing behaviour. The research posture of each of the people participating in the interviews led them to formulate extensive and detailed responses to the interviewer’s questions and provided material for analysis; everyone kept in mind that their own responses would not only serve to supplement their own collection of data and hence their own analyses, but also those of the group as a whole. By sharing feelings and common experience, the group consolidated our socio-affective ties, as if we together went through the same ordeal: the research process more than the seminar as such!

Our chosen scientific approach led the members of the research team to work on videos in which they themselves appear, giving rise to an effect of a “first-person science success story”. Therefore, the strategy we adopted in the chapters of this volume was more one of avoidance, in the sense that the researchers did not analyse their own words or behaviour, but rather those of their colleagues (who were actually sometimes collaborating with them on the same chapter). The members of the research team were thus confronted with the peculiar situation of being written about by their colleagues, producing disturbing, intrusive effects. This oddity is based, in particular, on the temptation to give one’s own interpretation of the excerpt and on the expropriation, as researchers, of an analysis that they could imagine carrying out themselvesEven if one can agree that the analysis contributes an interpretation that is complementary to the first-person interpretation by taking into account realities that escaped the person observed.↩︎.

We can pause for a moment to reflect on the specific difficulties created by the analysis by the group of the very group to which each participant belongs.

As a consequence of the efforts made in the analyses to de-subjectivise observed forms of behaviour, the participants are dehumanised, or reified. This gives rise to a particular type of frustration for the researchers-participants being studied, who, when reading the chapters, are put in a position of having to accept seeing their behaviour “reduced” only to the analytical criteria adopted. As Pierre Bourdieu notes:

the concern to keep the analysis as close to “concrete reality” as possible ... can prompt us entirely to miss a “reality” that escapes immediate intuition because it resides in structures that are transcendent to the interaction they inform (1992, 119–20).

The researchers faced with a novel experience:to come to terms with everything that was left unsaid when one particular aspect was highlighted, which did not, for example, take into account the history of interpersonal relations and their intertext.

One of the surprises during the analyses – i.e., after the recording of the videos – was realising how difficult it was to “take the other’s place”, when coming to grasp the different constraints or when it became clear retrospectively how poorly one or the other participant was seeing or hearing and the extent to which we may ourselves have lacked empathy at the very beginning of the seminar. One of the participants had not understood that her image could be seen and consequently had not prepared herself physically (getting dressed, putting on make-up, doing her hair). As she was filmed where she lived, she felt “at home”, and she found it to be repeated torture to see her image projected on the screen in a light that was not compatible with the image she adopts publicly. We see from this example that during this first phase of data collection in the seminar, this participant viewed herself as, above all, a “researcher participating in a seminar” and not yet as a “researcher producing a reflexive ethological analysis”, having not yet taken up this second posture as an analyst.

Thus, if the members of the research team “gave their bodies to science” in a sense, they also let go by trusting their peers to analyse the interaction for them. This is all the more the case since the analyses often point out malfunctions and situations in which the participant-researcher is not necessarily seen in a flattering way. From this perspective, we decided to open up access to the corpus under certain conditions, such as not using family names (first names were not changed, however, since this seemed too artificial to us). The publication on the Ateliers de [sens public] platform, combined with the annotation tool, accentuates these aspects, since the volume will be open to commentary by the scientific community as a whole on this platform.

In effect, as a result of opening up access to the data and the published analyses, our self-images are exposed outside of the group: i.e., in contrast to the rather confidential form of communication specific to the seminar, which is traditionally a closed space that is inaccessible to a non-participant. The rules of conversation in the seminar followed a pre-established format, but they were also co-constructed and forged by habit. Not everything was necessarily of the order of the “showable”; but here we accepted to show what went on “backstage”: the members of the research team involved in the very construction of the research and the elaboration of protocols, technical and theoretical apparatuses, thus revealing all the modes of behaviour and forms of interaction that occur prior to producing the finished product, whether an article or book.

The endangering of the self in this undertaking comes from the fact that we chose to collect the data while the group was learning to use new communication tools. This phase of appropriation necessarily involved going astray: failures that disturbed the “normal” progress of the seminar, beyond the usual trial and error that is inherent to any research process. Moreover, all the participants did not have the same level of technical expertise related to the artefacts, and these differences between the members modified the usual hierarchy associated solely with scientific knowledge.

If digital publishing thus opens up new horizons that allow us to conceive of the possibility of sharing complex data with the research community in the form of open science, the question of the degree of openness that we are able to tolerate at the end of the experience remains unanswered. In an era of self-exposure, how far is it possible for a researcher to go? This exploration of limits becomes an integral part of the research process in the context of a movement towards open science formats, involving boundaries to be stipulated within protocols for sharing and anonymisation of data that have still to be invented, while taking into account possible forms of abuse.

The entirety of the process allowed us to experience both positions: on the one hand, the difficulty involved in making someone visible who has not asked for it (for example, the speakers) and, on the other, one’s own experience of being placed under observation for scholarly purposes.

The seminar as a heuristic situation

If we look at the educational dimension of this collective research project, the form of the seminar may itself have been heuristic. In fact, the “nurturing matrix(Kern and Develotte 2018) put into place, including technological and human dimensions, contained a zone of proximal development in itself, both on the scholarly and on the technical levelCheck “Research training in a polyartefacted doctoral seminar”.↩︎. This matrix was nourished, moreover, by the regularity of the sessions and the attention that each of the participants gave to the work of the others, thus putting the socio-affective dimensions of interpersonal relationships at the very heart of the research set-up.

In this context, a sense of efficacy (Bandura 2003) thus came into being that was no longer personal, but rather distributed, collective, systemic and processualCheck “Digital bugs and interactional fails in the service of collective intelligence”.↩︎, and that would be interesting to study in greater detail.

From the point of view of doctoral training, the project contributed to a new way of understanding the doctoral supervisor as a witness, as coined by Bacon and Midgelow (2019) in the context of the “Artistic Doctorates in Europe” project (ADIE 2016-2019). The doctoral training programme recounted by the authors is based, like our experience, on collective work and the Peer-to-Peer Feedback Chain, as well as on the creative process whose point of departure is the self and its auto-ethnography: “Finding ways in which practitioner/scholars (including mySelf) can ‘articulate something’ and from the creative process using the Self as source for creativity or auto/Self-ethnography” (Bacon and Midgelow 2019). Research is seen as a creative, co-relational, collective and networked process:

 We illuminate, and hopefully inspire, ways of going about and supporting research as a creative, co-relational, collective and networked process » (Bacon and Midgelow 2019, 3, preface).

In this collective creative context, the experience of “practice as research” in all the stages of the research project is offered to the different participants, and in the understanding that the humanities and social sciences will also be able to benefit from these new postures in doctoral training programmes.

Finally, now that the team adventure has been completed, what are the “shared memoriesFor Louise Merzeau, “the notion of sharing allows us to grasp crucial aspects of the very dynamic of the commons by emphasising processes rather than things” (2017, 171).↩︎” of the participants?

Although no data was collected among the different members in the aftermath of the project, we can imagine that shared memory will be experienced differently depending on the degree of engagement, the attendance of each participant and the interest taken during these four years of joint work. Nonetheless, it seems that at least one aspect is common to all: namely, the element of unpredictability involved in every stage, which gave the research, which was conducted over a short period, the aspect of an “adventure”. Testing out the equipment as an integral part of the data collected or choosing to publish in a digital format, without having grasped everything that this entailed at the time of the decision, aroused curiosity that was often mixed with uncertainty, but that always stimulated the participants to confront the next stages.

In the footsteps of prior research

Finally, if we take another look at the studies that provided inspiration for this research, we find many aspects that resonate with our experience.

The project in which Gregory Bateson participated starting in 1955 (McQuown 1971) experimented with new recording equipment (the video camera) that inspired a new perspective on interaction. In 2016, we also called upon technical innovations; a 360° camera and a remote-controlled webcam. Just like us, Bateson was quite uncomfortable seeing his postural-facial-gestural behaviour dissected on screen by his colleagues: “there were for me moments of considerable pain when the others were interpreting my actions, and I was forced to see those actions on the screen” (Bateson 1958, 99). As we saw previously, even if seeing oneself is still a sensitive matter, we can argue that times have changed, given the contemporary social environment of selfies and reality television, the relationship to self-image is nowadays experienced differently.

In their conclusion to Décrire la conversation, Cosnier et al. noted that in their volume they had overcome “linguists’ aversion to using tape recorders or video recorders” (1987, 358). The situation has changed significantly in 30 years, even if the researchers at that time seem to have shared the same emotions related to long-term innovative work in their group: “During the long hours of work on this corpus, we went a thousand times from irritation to amusement, from discouragement to excited attention” (1987, 358). Nonetheless, they ended on a very positive note:

By virtue of its paltry banality, the corpus appeared to us to be representative precisely of ordinary conversation: it reveals basic and very general rules of the social game of encounter .…By way of the convergence of heterogeneous clues, it allowed us to discover the importance of interactional regulation, to define the proper object of joint research (total interaction) and a point of view well adapted to this object (multidisciplinarity).

Their last sentence appears as if addressed to us:

These convictions are recent… in large part, they thus have still to be put into practice (1987, 359).

This same interdisciplinary desire inspired the 2011 project Décrire la conversation en ligne (“Describing online conversation”). In the conclusion and, more precisely, in the section “Perspectives on the future of research in this field”, the authors observed:

We can thus consider the research field to be ready to tackle these new types of data. These emerging forms of complementarity that appear between the methodological contributions on conversation, on environment and spaces. Our volume has outlined these forms; they remain to be confirmed and materialised within international and interdisciplinary collaborations (Develotte, Kern, and Lamy 2011, 200).

The volume also discussed opening up access to the corpus on an international level and to the research community:

The globalised corpora of communication that researchers will be sure to gather in a future characterised by the lightning-quick dissemination of the tools will need these cross-cultural perspectives (Develotte, Kern, and Lamy 2011, 200).

As for the publishing format outlined:

These changes will have an effect on the form in which research will be presented – the presentation will be more and more multimodal and hence difficult to publish on paper. Markee and Stansell (2007), for example, maintain that the integration of information in the form of video, audio, text and image is no longer a luxury and that, on the contrary, it has become a necessity for establishing more rigorous standards of research: above all, for elements that are difficult to transcribe, such as gestures, facial expressions, gazes, and postures (Develotte, Kern, and Lamy 2011, 201).

This is precisely the direction in which the continuation of our research in the humanities and the social sciences is heading, since we have chosen a digital format that we are working on in different respects (annotated video resources, hypertext links, metadata). In keeping with the experience of this research that led us to “open a path by walkingse hace camino al anda(Machado 1917).↩︎(Machado 1917), we thus conclude this version of our work barely knowing in what form it will be published.

Bacon, Jane, and Vida Midgelow. 2019. “Reconsidering Research and Supervision as Creative Embodied Practice.” ADiE.
Bandura, Albert. 2003. Auto-efficacité : le sentiment d’efficacité personnelle. Translated by Jacques Lecomte. Première édition. Ouvertures psychologiques. Paris: De Boeck Université.
Bateson, Gregory. 1958. Language and Psychotherapy, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann’s Last Project.” Psychiatry 21 (1): 96–100.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1992. Réponses : pour une anthropologie réflexive. Edited by Loïc Wacquant. Libre examen. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
Cosnier, Jacques, Catherine Kerbrat-Orecchioni, and Robert Bouchard. 1987. Décrire la conversation. Lyon: Presses universitaires de Lyon.
Develotte, Christine. 2018. “Un dispositif d’études de la téléprésence dans un séminaire doctoral : l’atelier exploratoire Présences numériques.” In La téléprésence en formation, edited by Jean-Luc Rinaudo, 171–93. ISTE Éditions.
Develotte, Christine, Richard Kern, and Marie-Noëlle Lamy, eds. 2011. Décrire la conversation en ligne : la face à face distanciel. Lyon: ENS Éditions.
Kern, Richard, and Christine Develotte. 2018. Screens and Scenes: Multimodal Communication in Online Intercultural Encounters. New-York; London: Routledge.
Machado, Antonio. 1917. “Campos de Castilla : Chant XXIX Proverbios y Cantarès.”
Markee, Numa, and Jon Stansell. 2007. “Using Electronic Publishing as a Resource for Increasing Empirical and Interpretive Accountability in Conversation Analysis.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 27: 24–44.
McQuown, Norman A, ed. 1971. The Natural History of an Interview. Vol. 95–98. Microfilm Collection of Manuscripts on Cultural Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Library.
Merzeau, Louise. 2017. “Mémoire partagée.” In Dictionnaire des biens communs. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.