Engagement has been a central and classic concern in interactional analysis both in face-to face (FTF) interaction and computer-mediated communication (CMC). Within CMC, recreational multiparty video chats constitute a burgeoning environment for the study of participation in synchronous naturally occurring interactions. Drawing on data from Google+ Hangouts, this study analyzes how users organize their participatory status through multimodal actions and resources. From a conversation analytic perspective to multimodal interaction, this research identifies practices to organize visibility, participatory mobility, and peripherality in video-mediated communication (VMC). The analysis shows that degrees of visual peripherality are accomplished through different resources, and that visual peripherality not always correlates with overall user engagement. Furthermore, silent participants appear to be tolerated as long as their cameras are on, and users whose video streams are blocked are tolerated as long as they are verbally active. Even when cameras are on, users engage in cross-modal interactions and in both downward and upward peripheral mobility. Finally, full unfocused interactions are eventually tolerated and may also be indicative of engagement.
Laura Rosenbaun holds an MA in Linguistics and currently is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature and the Sagy Center for Internet Research, University of Haifa. Her areas of study include linguistics, multimodal interaction, computer-mediated communication, and human-computer interaction. Laura has participated in various projects on discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and speech recognition technologies.