Exploring time as a feature of how people communicate: working with video data

In a recent video viewing session with Professor Fred Erickson, from UCLA his comments on time as an organisational feature of interaction really struck me. I have thought about ‘pace’ and ‘rhythm’ in interaction over the years, especially when looking at how digital technologies tend to speed up, or change the relationship with time for example, but Fred demonstrated the value of systematically looking at time. We looked at the video and he literally counted off the beats and rhythm – with a kind of conducting gesture, introducing each of the actors movement like a new instrument. (He was a music major at the start of his career.) He drew our attention to what he called the ‘Underlying pulse organisation’ of social interaction and how this ‘pulse’ of regular time syncs with:

  • Pitch, volume, stress
  • Key strokes
  • Speech
  • Head turns
  • Gestures
  • Changing gaze/engagement

This helped us to monitor the mutual timing, and collaborative work of people n our videos and how these unfold over time

There is a great book that he suggested on Interactional rhythms: “Communicative musicality” Edited by Stephen Malloch and Colwyn Trevarthen (2008) Oxford University Press.

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