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Dates - 2019/10/17
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Tweet Postdoc in Milan on "Multisensoriality and multimodality in collaborative workplace activities". DL 17 Oct
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[[AnnText::Multisensoriality and Multimodality in collaborative workplace activities

Interaction, language and technology

(1 Postdoctoral Researcher position)

Department of Philosophy, University of Milan, via Festa del Perdono 7, 20123 Milan (Italy)

Title – Multisensoriality and Multimodality in collaborative workplace activities. Interaction, language and technology.

Supervisors – proff. Giampietro Gobo and Alessandro Zucchi

Purpose – To study the collaborative activity in teamwork

Approach – ethnomethodology, cognitive sociology, ethnopragmatics

Methodology – observational, participative, interpretative and contemplative

Methods – ethnography, videography, discourse and conversational analysis

Findings – To highlight the links among body, senses and social activity at work, in order to understand the main features, requirements and strategies for coordination and cooperation in teamwork.

Practical implications – To outline bodily, cognitive, pragmatic, organizational and social strategies, methodologies and techniques in order to convert simple groups in successful cooperative teamworks.

Social implications – Educating people to cooperation instead of competition.

ERC sectors • SH1_10 Organization studies • SH2_11 Social studies of science and technology • SH4_9 Use of language: pragmatics, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis • PE6_9 Human-computer interaction and interface, visualization and natural language processing

Italian sectors • SPS/07 – Sociologia Generale • M-FIL/05 – Filosofia e Teoria dei Linguaggi

Keywords – Language, interaction, work, technology, organization, cooperation, coordination, articulation work, collaboration, sensory ethnography, ethnomethodology, cognitive sociology, distributed cognition, communities of practices, practice-based studies, workplace studies, discourse and conversation analysis.

Salary – For Italians the net amount of the fellowship is 1500 euros (1 year = 12 monthly); for foreigners is monthly 2,000 euros (1 year = 12 monthly); This amount includes expenses for occupational accident insurance and public liability insurance.

The project, which is jointly led by Professors Giampietro Gobo (sociologist and methodologist) and Alessandro Zucchi (semantics and pragmatics), uses video-ethnographic methods and will put particular emphasis on organizational, sociological and sociolinguistic approaches to coordination and cooperation.

Applicants are expected to have a strong inclination for interdisciplinary work and the potential for excellence in research and publications. There are no restrictions on the applicants’ Ph. D. background, provided it is relevant to the topic of the project. The position is initially intended for two years. A two-year renewal is possible, depending on funding and scientific outcomes.

The postdoctoral fellow will be a member of the Department of Philosophy and will participate in the wider interdisciplinary research community of the department, whose members are philosophers, sociologists, linguists, anthropologists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists;

Deadline – The deadline for application is 17 October 2019. Applications submitted after this deadline will not be considered.

Who can apply? Applicants are required to include: 1. a research proposal (about 2-pages, bibliography excluded) according to the topic of the research line, 2. a CV 3. an abstract of the Ph.D. thesis 4. a list of publications 5. any other qualification which can be useful to prove their scientific production as well as their attitude to research activity.

The PhD (or equivalent degree received abroad) must be earned within the date of stipulation of the individual contract and anyway not later than January 2020.

We refer potential applicants to the official call for application available at Italian version: English version:

Informal enquiries on the nature of project and the application procedure are welcome.

Contacts: • Giampietro Gobo ( - • Alessandro Zucchi ( -

Academic degree requirements: Ph.D. (sociology, anthropology, linguistics, psychology and related disciplines) Scientific fields of candidates’ research activity: organization studies, workplace studies, social studies of science, anthropology of language, social and cultural psychology, sociolinguistics. Preferred additional competences: good computer skills; expertise with ethnography, video analysis, discourse and conversational analysis; knowledge of CAQDAS would be valued. Appreciated additional know-how – fund raising (Horizon 2020, Research Fellowship Programs, Marie Curie, ERC grants).

Description In the understanding and analysis of the collaborative activities in workplace situations, there is a growing interest in multi-sensoriality (Meyer, Streeck and Jordan 2017) and multimodality (Goodwin 2017) in work interaction, in order to study how participants sense the world and the other social actors. Particularly, social interaction is not only designed by mental reasoning and visual movements of the human body, but also by sensory experience [Nishizaka 2007, Streeck 2009 and 2013, Liberman 2013, Cekaite 2015, Fele 2016, M. Goodwin 2017, Mondada 2018, Iwasaki et al. 2019, Salvadori and Gobo (in publication)].

Multi-and-cross-sensoriality In the Aristotle’s view, we perceive the world through five senses: eyesight (vision), hearing, taste (flavor), touch (pressure), and smell (olfaction). They were also considered reciprocally independent. This received view is heavily “head-centrism” and it has affected most of the contemporary neurosciences, attributing the major role to the head/brain. As a matter of fact, except touch, the remaining four senses are bodily located in the head. Neglecting that we perceive with the whole body and related parts; not only with the head. Ancient Oriental philosophies and (more recently) some neurosciences state that we are capable of sensing much more than with the five senses. Hence, our perception is based on a bundle of senses. How many (between 12 and 33 different senses) is subject to ongoing investigation (Smith 2017).

In social sciences senses are still understudied even after the sensory turn, traced to developments within anthropology in the 1980s and 1990s, which gives rise to what is termed the ‘anthropology of the senses’ (see Howes, 2003: 40). The sensory turn leaded not to consider smelling, touching, and tasting as individual sensations, neuro- physiologically or socioculturally determined; but as interactionally and intersubjectively organized in methodic ways (Mondada 2019). In other terms the outcome (smell, taste, vision and so on) are interactionally and socially constructed.

Our senses interact with each other (cross-sensoriality) in such a way that our learning is driven by multisensory processes (Pascual-Leone, Amedi, Fregni and Merabet 2005). The examples abound and they pertain to our everyday experience. Members ‘look’ with ears, because noises are a valuable source of information. Our ears ‘look’ when, watching a film, we are convinced that the voice of the actor is emanating from the screen, when in fact the loudspeakers are positioned along the sides of the cinema hall. We ‘understand’ with our hands (like a doctor when he palpates a patient’s body). We ‘listen’ with our hands: to decide whether the wood has been made sufficiently smooth, a carpenter wipes the surface with a thin sheet of paper, so that he can better perceive any roughness through the scraping noise. We also ‘see’ with our hands, as in the case of a blind painter able to draw by touch: recent studies have shown, indeed, that the painter’s visual cortex is activated on touching an object. The eyes are able to ‘smell’, as exemplified by the enologist who judges the density of a wine not only from its aroma but also from its color. Indeed, some researchers have been able to deceive sommeliers’ taste buds by dyeing white wine red.

Multi-and-crossmodality and materiality To produce and understand social interaction as publicly intelligible action, participants mobilize a wide range of resources, including language, gesture, gaze, body postures, movements, and embodied manipulations of objects (Goodwin 2017, Mondada 2014b). Hence, knowledge involved in performing actions, in the relevant sense, is not located in people's heads only, but anchored in the surrounding material world (Norman 1988). Cognitive activities cannot be only mental, but they rely on the material elements of the context, that anchor the necessary information supports. Indeed, the latter are playing a major role. For example, adults’ math calculation in work situations follows an ongoing situational logic, which makes use of visual and other aids, devised in relation to the context. Objects of the context help us remember, measure, benchmark (Lave, Murtaugh and de la Rocha 1984). For this reason, the teamwork can usefully be considered as a socio-technical system in which technology and humans mingle within an ongoing local logic. The neglect of this feature of teamwork explains many of the failures when new technologies are introduced in an organization, because of a simplistic representation of the work activities that had to be supported by technology.

Knowledge is both an ongoing cooperative activity and a distributed practical achievement (Hutchin 1990), circulating within a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991), which coordinates itself internally and externally, through constant and recursive feedbacks, alignments (Latour 1990, Suchman 2000, 2003 and 2007) and translations (Callon 1986). Teamwork is a perpetual performance based on a (sometimes) improvised choreography (like a theatrical play or a jazz session), based on acts to be performed and material elements available at the moment. Teamwork is rarely a routine, an activity based on pre-established tasks which design a plan of action.

Articulation work and discursive practices

Teamwork moves within an ongoing articulation and orchestration of different mobilized types of knowledge. It usually takes place through discursive practices. For example, in the coordination of a surgery teamw ork (Mondada 2014a: 138), discursive practices are embedded in the instructions delivered through short turns, imperative verbs, modal constructions (in negative and affirmative forms), with deictic elements, localizations, pronouns referring to objects, uttered in isolation from other talk, not followed by any verbal response. Also prosody (i.e. timing, tone or pitch) plays a decisive role. The study of talk-in-interactions therefore allows to inquire into what people actually do when they work in groups, the so-called 'missing what' (Garfinkel and Wieder 1992, 203), which defies the traditional studies of work in groups.

Collaboration activities can be defined as a work report, whose purpose is the maintenance and reproduction of everyday sociality (Gherardi 1991), both in the organization and outside of it (with other social relations). To this purpose, a large part of the work is done in order to ensure that the activities can be carried out smoothly. This is what Corbin and Strauss (1993) call "articulation work". The latter highlights how the accomplishment of a work is an ongoing, collective and coordinated activity. Ordinary breachings of everyday routines, such breakdowns, require a repair work and re-negotiation of previous agreements.

The existing and shared division of labor in specialized and coordinated tasks is not enough; it must be continuously re-activated, that is reproduced daily and locally. Engeström (1999, 31) called this activity knotworking, a concept that recalls (and opposes) the idea networking. The expression suggests that it is not enough to texture relations, because the latter should be fixed down, knotted and made relatively enduring, also by means of material objects or ad hoc practices.

Coordinating bodies and social senses

Heath and Luff (1992) and Heath et. al. (2002) show how individual tasks, based on a clear division of labor and responsibility, rely on collective work, i.e. on maintaining a common orientation in the activity, producing and sustaining awareness and distributed attention. This implies tha t, in a teamwork, the intelligibility of a scene, the possibility of coordinating tasks and activities, relies on specific socially organized communicative practices. Hence, the common orientation is achieved through members' bodily work. Polanyi (1958) uses the concept of tacit knowledge in order to underline the way in which the body 'embodies' cognitive processes.

Following Merleau-Ponty (1945), Sudnow (1978) documents the "knowledge of the hands", i.e. as experienced pianists can play without looking at the piano. This is possible not so much, because they have a perfect mental representation of the keyboard, but for having educated their own body to the size of the piano, its keyboard and the intervals elapsing between the keys. Hence, the body and the senses play a key role in coordinating activities. This is true not only from the physiological point of view. For example, sight, according to Goodwin (1994, 1995, 1996a, 1996b, 1997), is an exquisitely social and cultural activity, oriented by the cognitive tasks that have to be undertaken within pre-existing professional frames. Indeed, "professional vision" means to communally construct the way to see the world and find in it the relevant properties of objects. In this sense, vision is a discursive and gestural practice, historically structured, relationally organized and mediated by different artifacts. The training to see is not a private and occasional experience, but a relationship that lasts over time within specific activities. What a member of a group sees, then, is constituted and made meaningful and accountable by the way in which the member positions him/herself within a broader set of practices [Goodwin 2000, 163]. This way becomes an epistemic frame [Knorr-Cetina 1981] useful to understanding the portion of the reality which (institutionally) competes to certain activities. Consequently, Goodwin’s findings seem to corroborate the assumption that (at least in professional contexts) sight always works within conceptual schemes and theoretical frameworks, and is therefore an eminently social and situated activity.


In order to study the collaboration in actions and activities, the research findings described in the previous paragraphs have several interesting consequences: 1) participants experience the world through a bundle of (between 12 and 33) senses 2) cooperation among senses is a ‘natural’ feature; 3) collaboration among senses is a bodily requirement of any individual action; 4) participants experience the world with the whole body (not just the senses located in the head) 5) the cultural bases of senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) envisions the possibility of a (new) social physiology, and opens to an explorations of other (so far) neglected senses; 6) collaboration of any individual and collective action is primarily based on a pre-cognitive and pre-linguistic requisites (Garzone et. al. 2010) 7) collaboration is an ongoing, recursive, situated, locally organized and collective achievement.

Preferred case studies The collaboration and workplace studies are today an area with a highly diversity of case studies. Hence, the candidates are free to design any research topic they wish, fitting in this wide area. However, will be particularly welcome projects dealing with teamwork in settings related to: • music (choirs, chamber orchestra, symphony orchestra, jazz ensemble, jazz combo), • sports (training, pit stop in motorsports, martial arts) and • operating rooms (surgery).

The winner will be helped and assisted to find the appropriate setting for her/his research.

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