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Mobile presence and intimacy: Reshaping social actions in mobile contextual configuration

Journal article
Authors Alexandra Weilenmann
Ilkka Arminen
Published in Journal of Pragmatics
Volume 41
Issue 10
Pages 1905-1923
ISSN 0378-2166
Publication year 2008
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 1905-1923
Language en
Keywords Context; Conversation analysis; Ethnomethodology; Intimacy; Mobile communication; Presence
Subject categories Communication Studies


Mobile communication has putatively affected our time–space relationship and the co-ordination of social action by weaving co-present interactions and mediated distant exchanges into a single, seamless web. In this article, we use Goodwin's notion of contextual configuration to review, elaborate and specify these processes. Goodwin defines contextual configuration as a local, interwoven set of language and material structures that frame social production of action and meaning. We explore how the mobile context is configured in mobile phone conversations. Based on the analysis of recordings of mobile conversation in Finland and Sweden, we analyze the ways in which ordinary social actions such as invitations and offers are carried out while people are mobile. We suggest that the mobile connection introduces a special kind of relationship to semiotic resources, creating its own conditions for emerging social actions. The reformation of social actions in mobility involves the possibility of intimate connection to the ongoing activities of the distant party. The particularities of mobile social actions are discerned here through sequential analysis that opens up contextually reconfigured actions as they are revealed in the details of mobile communication. In this way, we shed light on the reformation of social actions in mobile space–time.

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