Orchestrating directive trajectories in communicative projects in family interaction*

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Exploring the entanglement of resources (facial expressions, gesture, gaze, and intonation) that mutually elaborate each other in the production of social action, across the life of a particular communicative project in family interactions (getting children to bed), we investigate the ways in which participants calibrate actions with reference to each other’s actions. Our specific concern is the choreographing of directive response sequences. While directives are commonly thought of as “doing things with words”, in face -to-face interaction they frequently entail doing things with bodies as well. Thus, along with a consideration of action formation, syntactic formats, and prosody used to construct directives and build responses, we examine the haptic forms that overlay verbal directive forms, as well as configurations of bodies in lived social space. Compliance may take the shape of nonverbal responses such as willing movement towards the target space indexed by the directive, minimal verbal agreement – plaintive, reluctant, or joyful – with a parent’s directive, or response cries, e.g. exasperation or disgruntled disbelief. As agents with projects of their own, children can respond to directives with considerable resistance. Very different types of affective landscapes are created in the midst of interaction. People in interaction form environments for each other, either ones displaying deference and accountability for one’s actions or alternatively displaying outright antagonism and disdain. Examples in this study are drawn from video recordings of naturally occurring interaction in middle class families who were part of the project of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families and Sweden’s sister project.


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