Accepted paper:

Creating family bonds across geographic boundaries: webcam interactions between Japanese families

Authors:

Chiho Sunakawa

Paper short abstract:

The goal of this paper is to investigate Skype interactions between Japanese families in the US and in Japan. I show how this emerging communication technology creates a context for Japanese families to create, express, and manage family “bonds” and maintain their relationships.

Paper long abstract:

As communication technologies become more common, interactions are no longer situated in a single location, but mediated across multiple spaces. The goal of this paper is to focus on one of such mediated interaction spaces at home and discuss how family "bonds" are created and maintained across geographic boundaries. Specifically I analyze webcam interactions (such as Skype video conversations) between Japanese families in the United States and their extended family members in Japan in order to show how this emerging communication technology, which permits the temporary juxtaposition of physically distant spaces, creates a context for Japanese families to create, express, and manage family "bonds" and maintain their relationships. The analysis of video-recorded webcam interactions merges interaction- and discourse analysis-based methods in order to illustrate how different types of interactional resources enable families to manage cultural and family practices. For example, filial responsibilities are traditionally realized by children co-residing with, or physically being close to, elder parents in order to be able to provide daily care. Far-flung children in the United States apparently cannot fulfill their filial obligations because of the distance; instead, they attempt to 'take care' of their parents' media environments. By giving webcam instructions for fixing computer problems and by remotely maneuvering elder parents' computers, far-away children are assuming responsibility for creating and maintaining a communicative environment among family members located in distant places. Such interactional practices suggest how from afar, adult children manage intra- and inter-generational relationships and how the bonding of Japanese family is illustrated.

panel P106
Kizuna: discourse analyses of 'bonding'