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Communication across platforms: Switching between talk and text in mobile phone communication

Conference contribution
Authors Ylva Hård af Segerstad
Alexandra Weilenmann
Katerina Cerna
Published in 12th ICA Mobile Pre-Conference, May 20-21, 2015, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA.
Publication year 2015
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Language en
Keywords mobile communication, sequences of communication, text, talk
Subject categories Human Aspects of ICT, Other Humanities


During the last decade our communicative landscape has changed profoundly and mobile technologies offer a plethora of communication contexts and platforms in which people are engaging today. In this emerging polymedia environment of communicative opportunities different platforms and applications continuously intersect with other media, constantly creating new hybrid technologies that functions as an ‘integrated structure’ (Madianou & Miller, 2013). Users conceive of each medium in relation to this integrated structure of different media at their disposal, seamlessly switching between them to achieve their purposes: what cannot be achieved by voice calls, can be accomplished by text messaging. Few studies have been made of the integrated aspects of mobile communication. There are only a handful of studies of mobile phone communication, based on naturally occurring conversations (Laurier, 2001; Weilenmann, 2003; Arminen, 2005; Arminen & Weilenmann, 2008; Hutchby & Barnett, 2005), and a few studies of the sequential organization of text messaging (Laursen, 2006; 2012; Spagnolli & Gamberini, 2007; Hutchby & Tanna, 2008). One of the reasons is that it is still technically and ethically difficult to collect the data. This has forced many researchers to make a choice between studying either text or conversation, or to analyze communication logs. Laursen (2006) highlights a key aspect of mobile communication: text messages and mobile phone calls interrelate as parts of a continuous communication sequence. In this paper, we further develop this perspective drawing upon a corpus of empirical data of mobile communication. We have collected data from the personal communication of eleven individuals. Data is collected using software allowing for audio-recordings of naturally occurring mobile voice calls and logging of text messages, followed by interviews with informants. This material is then analyzed both by following whole chains of communication, when people switch between different communication channels. We also examine in detail the specifics of the communication, focusing on for instance how people formulate location in mobile communication (cf. Arminen, 2005). We present a brief example illustrating the type of material and analysis we are dealing with. In the talk this example will be accompanied by several other examples, alongside a more detailed analysis. This excerpt from our corpus is a mobile communication sequence of a couple meeting up to do grocery shopping. Anna, the female party of the couple, has arrived at Coop (a food store) where they have arranged to meet. In the transcription of their communication sequence we see first how she tries to reach her boyfriend (Carl), initially by calling, and when this fails, tries to reach him by sending him a text. Finally, he responds by calling her. All within the short timespan of three minutes. Communication sequence Time Contact Type Content 1 19:25 Anna to Carl phone call (missed) - 2 19:26 Anna to Carl SMS Inside Coop 3 19:28 Carl to Anna phone call (See transcript below) Phone call 4 ((Ringing)) 5 A: hej hej 6 C: halo (.) I was e: fumbling with my keys (.) before 7 A: you were what 8 C: I was fumbling with my keys 9 A: (.) ookay 10 C: at my door (.) so uhm: 11 A: aha: 12 C: the tram comes in like one minute so I’ll be there 13 in I don’t know four minutes or something five minutes 14 A: okay okay 15 A: well I’m I’m I’m inside Coop so it’s fine 16 C: okay okay I will find 17 A: I can (.) maybe just yeah already start 18 C: yeah yeah 19 A: grabbing things so yeah yeah 20 C: I’ll be looking for it 21 A: okay (.) hahaha bye 22 C: bye bye Carl provides an account for not answering the previous call (he was fumbling with his keys at his door, lines 8 and 10). On line 15, Anna provides her location, that she is already in the store where they agreed to meet. This is overlapping information with the content of the text message (line 2). We see that text message as a report on her location (cf. Arminen), letting him know that she has arrived to their meeting point. The example above illustrates how the users switch seamlessly from one medium to the other in the polymedia environment in order to achieve their purpose. The intertwined contributions through text and talk together make up the communication sequence. In this talk, we will discuss the benefits of analyzing mobile phone communication based on naturally occurring data of both talk and text. This will be developed based on some examples from our corpus of such communication.

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