Video Conferencing and Multimodal Expression of Voice: Children's Communication in a Second Language Using Skype

Austin, Nicholas James (2015). Video Conferencing and Multimodal Expression of Voice: Children's Communication in a Second Language Using Skype. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis focuses on how voice is experienced and expressed in a telecollaborative project using Skype to connect two groups of English language learners of primary age across two different countries. Voice is understood as a social semiotic phenomenon which takes as its base the ideas of Bakhtin (1986) and Goffman (1981) and is expanded to include multimodal forms of expression through the work of Kress (2003). This social semiotic notion of voice is synthesised with a framework of mediated action from Vygotsky (1978) and Wertsch (1991). The theoretical view of voice frames a small-scale qualitative study on how voice is expressed materially involving tools such as verbal language, body language, technology, and the spatial and temporal characteristics within which the communication takes place.

As this is an area that has not been widely researched, a methodology had to be designed to analyse the video recorded data and a framework based on Scollon and Scollon’s (2003) concept of geosemiotics was developed. This method of analysis investigates how language is materially assembled through interaction with others in the physical world around us. It has been rooted in a social constructivist paradigm to shed light on how multimodal expressions of voice through Skype can support children’s second language use.

The study shows that webcam-mediated online communication creates particular sets of conditions which affect the ways children are able to express their voice. Some points of divergence from familiar patterns of communication include how children use different spaces to negotiate different ways of being together, the multimodal ways in which children are able to express their voices and the diverse ways in which interpersonal distances can be represented and manipulated to manage conversations. The implications drawn out in the conclusion should initiate wider discussion in early childhood education and second language learning practice and research concerning the importance of adopting a multimodal perspective on how children express voice to support their communication in video conferencing environments.

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