Skype appearances, multiple greetings and ‘coucou’: The sequential organization of video-mediated conversation openings

Christian Licoppe
Telecom ParisTech, Paris

Abstract

This paper analyses the organization of ‘openings’ in Skype video-mediated conversation. It uncovers order in their apparent complexity by showing the relevance of a particular sequential adjacent pair organization, the appearing/noticing sequence, and its particular instantiation as an appearance-for-the-first-time greeting. The paper shows how this is a crucial resource in establishing a joint video interactional frame for the parties involved. This accounts for the occurrence of some specific phenomena in Skype openings, such as multiple greetings, and for the use of greetings which reflexively index their being occasioned by an appearance and related greeting, such as the French ‘coucou’, even when these do not occur at the start of Skype calls. When analysed this way, Skype openings, though complex, can be seen as an accomplished ‘dance of appearances and multiple greetings’.

Keywords
Table of contents

Pragmatics  27:3 (2017), pp. 351–386. ISSN 1018-2101 | E-ISSN 2406-4238

© John Benjamins Publishing Company

This paper deals with the way people manage Skype video calls. Video-mediated interactions have been studied before, either briefly in the context of early experimental systems (De Fornel 1994) or more recently (and systematically) in the case of professional systems in organisational settings (Relieu 2007; Mondada 2010). However, video-mediated communication (VMC), exemplified by the Skype product, is a technology primarily intended for interpersonal communication, for contact between family, friends, lovers, and is much less well studied. It is already known that VMC offers a resource for ‘performing intimacy and closeness at a distance’ (Kirk et al. 2010; Neustaedter and Greenberg 2011; Brubaker et al. 2012) and for helping constitute ‘distant love’ in a globalized world (Madianou and Miller 2012; Beck and Beck 2014), but the actual organization of Skype-like calls, of VMC conversations themselves, for the doing of private lives, is much less well understood.

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