Monday, 9 May 2011

Augmenting online proprioception

Back in April, I wrote about how we need to develop a substitute for the paralinguistic cues we get face-to-face for when we are teaching online.

I referred to this as a kind of online proprioception.

Bob Dignen, who has been leading the way in this area for some time, outlined a handy list of skills required for teleconferencing last week, mentioning the difficulties of speaking as a group without seeing each other.

He notes that in teleconferences 'silence is not an option' as participants have to show that they are engaged, assenting or otherwise, and wanting to take some kind of action, such as speak themselves.

In the traditional teleconferencing scenario, those cues which are usually intuitive, both in their display and interpretation, have to become explicit.

The rules have to be clear to everyone and everyone has to show overtly that they are following them, much as some autists have to negotiate interaction with others explicitly.

But what of online conferencing?

Here, there is already a corpus of non-linguistic cues which may be drawn from: smileys.

While many of these are currently more appropriate for teenagers flirting on ICQ, they do fulfil the same function, that of augmenting online proprioception.

As such, they could easily be adapted for business, creating icons to indicate mood and action.

Most conferencing software, for example, already has the 'raise a hand' icon which covers many types of interjection, but that could be made more sophisticated to indicate the kind and order of interjection.

Equally, the range of mood smileys could be rendered more extensive to cover ground well-beyond the standard remit of 'agree/disagree'.

As with teleconferencing, I think silence should not be an option here - smiley silence, that is - and to show our engagement or otherwise with the speaker it might be useful to have to commit to some kind of icon at all times, just as we do with non-linguistic cues face-to-face.

This may even be part of the speaker's role - encouraging people to use their icons on a much more frequent basis than they normally would.

After a while, deploying phatic icons would become as intuitive as the offline signals we employ.

No comments:

Post a Comment