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Coordinating ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ in online video tutorials

Conference contribution
Authors Bryn Evans
Oskar Lindwall
Barry Brown
Thomas Hillman
Published in International Conference on Conversation Analysis, 11-15 July, Loughborough University, UK
Publication year 2018
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Language en
Subject categories Communication Studies, Human Aspects of ICT, Pedagogy, Learning


Online instructional videos quickly have become a widespread pedagogic phenomenon. There are now literally millions of videos available online providing step-by-step instructions on various practical skills such as how to change a bike tire, set up a router, repair a hole in drywall and so on. This presentation reports on part of a larger research project investigating how people learn practical skills in non-institutional, everyday environments through the use of video. While the full study involves addressing how people use these videos in situated contexts, we present here on the first phase of the study, in which we analyse instructional videos themselves as organisational phenomena. Instructional videos are specifically designed for the learning of skills and the accomplishment of practical tasks. These videos offer a large, analytically accessible, corpus of orderly showing and tellings. In an important sense, the people featured in these videos are not just doing things, they are showing what to do and how to do it. Further, in the majority of cases, the showing is supplemented with verbal descriptions – that is, the instructors are not just showing how things are done but also describing what they are doing or what should be done. However, the showing of an activity and the description of that showing possess inherently different temporalities (Keevallik, 2015). Therefore, in order to make their actions intelligible and followable as a form of instruction, instructors must finely coordinate their showing and their telling. With a few exceptions, the coordination of telling and showing is a constitutive feature of all the online tutorials we have looked at closely. In his book Sequence Organization in Interaction, Schegloff (2007) writes about turn-taking, action-formation, sequence organization and repair, inter alia, as generic organizations of practice that deal with various problems arising in talk-in-interaction. Although our concerns apply to instructional demonstrations and not to talk-in-interaction more generally, we believe that it is worthwhile to think about the coordination of “telling” and “showing” as a generic problem that instructors orient to in producing intelligible and followable demonstrations. Drawing on a corpus of 114 YouTube instructional videos, we explicate a set of practices instructors use to coordinate telling and showing. We show that members establish coherence of instruction by 1) ordering telling and showing components into synchronous organizations using various methods of delaying, suspending, extending or repeating a telling or showing component; and 2) ordering telling and showing components into sequential organizations using talk to project, retrospect, or bracket conduct. Further, we highlight how these coordinated arrangements of talk and conduct are not only achieved at the original moment of production, but can also be accomplished through post-production editing techniques. We conclude with some remarks on the challenge and opportunities of analysing produced participant recorded video data.

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