Achieving joint attention in a fractured perceptual field: technology-mediated interactions between sighted and visually impaired people

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This paper shows how visually impaired people (VIP) exploits the affordances of present technological objects in the pursuit of achieving a joint multisensorial attention with a sighted colleague in a workplace setting. While studies concerned with technology-mediated interaction in workplaces have shown a variety of different resources for achieving joint attention, they have overwhelmingly focused on vision and gaze as a presupposed shared resource (e.g. Luff et al., 2000). Using video-recorded data from VIP’s everyday lives in Denmark enables us to respecify “joint attention” (Kidwell & Zimmerman, 2007) as a multisensorial achievement. Although a VIP and a sighted cannot have a joint visual attention towards objects in the world - what we suggest calling a fractured perceptual field - our research nevertheless shows, that VIP utilize the visual affordances of technological objects as scaffolds in the interaction to support the sighted persons perception, thus enabling distributed perception (Due, 2021). We depart from the research question: how do VIP exploit sighted people’s visual resources in technology-mediated workplace settings for achieving joint multisensorial attention? As a perspicuous case we explore an open office environment where employees are working at their desks using stationary computers. In this context, co-workers may approach a VIP at his desk in the pursuit of solving a work-related issue, that is displayable on the computer screen. The specific practice, that we are reporting on in this presentation, is the combination of the VIP’s multimodal actions of describing an issue in combination with using his keyboard to open and close windows and type in text which observably steers the sighted persons gaze and enables the construction of an accountable common ground. Thus, this paper provides new knowledge on how multimodal and multisensorial resources are employed to achieve joint attention towards issue represented on a computer screen. The paper focus on how the VIP’s audible sensation and verbal descriptions and the sighted persons visual sensation and verbal descriptions are resources used for co-operation. This research is based on ethnomethodological conversation analysis and it contributes specifically to research on how to achieve common ground in object-centered sequences focusing on technology mediated interaction. As a perspective, we use these insights to discuss the dominance of an ocular-centric sociality (Jay, 1994).

Due, B. L. (2021). Distributed Perception: Co-Operation between Sense-Able, Actionable, and Accountable Semiotic Agents. Symbolic Interaction, 44(1), 134–162.
Jay, M. (1994). Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought. University of California Press.
Kidwell, M., & Zimmerman, D. H. (2007). Joint Attention as Action. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(3), 592–611.
Luff, P., Hindmarsh, J., & Heath, C. (2000). Workplace studies. Cambridge University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021
Event17th International Pragmatics Conference - Online
Duration: 27 Jun 20212 Jul 2021
Conference number: 17


Conference17th International Pragmatics Conference

ID: 274872132