Spoken and Embodied Interaction in Facilitated Computer-Supported Workplace Meetings

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Almost 25 years ago, Clawson, Bostrom, and Anson (1993) drew attention to the fact that “the ability to facilitate diverse human and technological interactions will be one of the most essential skills for leading and contributing to all levels of the organization in the future” (p. 547). Today, there is an increased interest in studying facilitated meetings, wherein facilitation is most commonly understood as the process of helping groups work effectively to accomplish shared outcomes. Nevertheless, little of the existing research has provided empirically-grounded insights into the practice of facilitation. This thesis aims to close this gap by means of providing a detailed analysis of how facilitators go about doing facilitation work in facilitated computer-supported workplace meetings. The data comprise 53 hours of audio- and video-recorded multi-party interactions among facilitator(s) and participants, occurring during facilitated meetings in a business setting. The data were analysed using conversation analysis to examine the talk and embodied conduct of facilitators and meeting participants, as these unfold sequentially.
The first analytic chapter reveals the macro-organization of the facilitated meetings, and it contrasts the practice view with the theoretical approach towards the organization of the facilitated meetings. The second analytic chapter investigates the interactional practices used by the facilitators to unpack participation that has already been elicited, captured, and displayed graphically on the public screen via the use of technology. In the third analytic chapter, I explore how the facilitators use computer software to build visual representations of the participants’ contributions. In the final analytic chapter, I investigate the practices of decision-making in meeting settings with multiple participants.
Overall, this thesis makes innovative contributions to our understanding of the practice of facilitated computer-supported workplace meetings. It challenges existing literature on facilitation by finding that facilitators can “orchestrate” participant input, questioning the facilitator’s role as “content-neutral”, as proposed by leading practitioners in the field of facilitation (e.g., Kaner et al., 2014). At the same time, it shows how the manipulation of computer software is an accountable action and how the decision-making process occasions or constrains the production of alignment between participant(s) and facilitator(s). The thesis also contributes to conversation analytic research on questioning, as well as the action of unpacking participation. I show that the notion that open-ended questions better elicit participation than interrogatives is generally not supported empirically, at least in this context. The thesis contributes to existing literature on multi-party meeting interaction, showing how the departure from the canonical next-speaker selection technique which involves the use of address terms and address positions in an utterance takes place. Further, it enhances our understanding of how computer software constrains and/or affords progressivity in interaction. In this sense, I enhance our understanding of the concept of agency of artefacts. Finally, I contribute to knowledge on group decision-making, an underresearched yet core activity in facilitated and other types of meetings. Here, I contribute to the body of work on the interplay between deontics and epistemics in interaction.
This thesis shows the applicability of conversation analysis to the study of facilitation. By analysing talk and embodied conduct, communicative practices for accomplishing successful facilitated meetings are revealed and these should be of core interest to both professional and novice facilitators.

Date of Award17 Dec 2018
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Loughborough University

Cite this

Spoken and Embodied Interaction in Facilitated Computer-Supported Workplace Meetings
Gherman, T. (Author). 17 Dec 2018

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis