Author:Giulia Cavicchioli De Togni (University College London)
Paper short abstract:
How do children mediate aspects of social life in a multicultural context where verbal language cannot become ultimate source of explanation? How are communicative resources at their disposal (such as gestures, eye gaze) to create, sustain, and shape the settings in which the children move and play?
Paper long abstract:
When speech becomes a negligible element, humans rely largely on body language to construct their models of communication: embodied action is central to the multidimensional lives of global encounters. In this paper, I investigate how a "range of semiotic modalities" (Goodwin 2006: 25) is made relevant in the midst of the ordinary events that constitute the lifeworlds of children in a multicultural setting. My argument is based on distinct speech events collected in a summer camp held in Italy where a group of forty boys and girls from Fukushima (aged seven to twelve) were hosted in 2017 and 2018. In particular, I focus on how the Japanese children coordinate interactive communication with local children to organise play activities, while making sense of the impossibility of talking to each other and while facing cultural differences. For instance, Italian children are said that direct eye contact is considered an important indicator of confidence, effectiveness and openness; whereas, Japanese children are taught to avoid direct gaze because considered disrespectful. When language fails to mediate communication and conflicts take place (e.g. bullying, or litigation), how do children sense a drive towards harmonious collaboration? How are different semiotic modalities coordinated, and conflicts in face-to-face or dispersed interactions resolved? Focusing on semiosis as multimodal communication allows to shed light on the ways children, in particular, facilitate a "smooth interaction" (Duranti 2015: 210) by anticipating the actions of others and coordinating with them on a regular basis to avoid conflicts or resolve disputes.
Semiosis as orchestration