Coherent Conversation Initiation in Multiplex Communicative Ecologies

Therese Örnberg Berglund


This article reports on results from an ethnographic study of student interaction at a design school. The aim of the article is to explore the relation between communicative affordances, mode choices and coherence strategies in multiplex communicative ecologies. This is accomplished by focusing on the choices made when initiating conversations in this setting. First the complete communicative ecologies of three international students in the design school are mapped, in order to demonstrate the options available, and focus is then turned to in-group interaction in particular. It is shown that the choices made can be related to the communicative affordances of the tools and the environments in relation to different considerations regarding attention. Whose attention do you want? When do you want attention and what kind of attention do you need? Can you get the attention of the other through the mode of your choice, and is now a good time to do so? In this discussion, the physical location of the participants is also taken into account. In conclusion, balanced awareness is introduced as a relevant feature in coherent conversation initiation, and suggestions for design are presented.


affordances; coherence; communicative ecologies; conversation initiation; instant messaging; interaction

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