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Technically Speaking: On the Structure and Experience of Interaction Involving Augmentative Alternative Communications

  • Author(s): Engelke, Christopher Robert
  • Advisor(s): Duranti, Alessandro
  • Kroskrity, Paul V
  • et al.

Technically Speaking: On the Structure and Experience of Interaction Involving Augmentative Alternative Communications examines the ways that communication is structured and experienced by looking at interactions involving augmented communicators - people with severe speech disabilities who use forms of assistive technology in order to communicate with others. Completed in 2013, and drawing on over two years of fieldwork with people who use, design, manufacture, and prescribe augmentative alternative communications (AAC) devices, this dissertation examines the impacts of AAC on interaction and intersubjectivity. Combining ethnographic methods with forms of close discourse analysis, the chapters explore how the architecture of interaction responds to the nuances of mediated forms of communication, and how individuals experience interactional phenomena of intersubjectivity and `voice'. The dissertation begins by looking at the ways that augmented and mouth-speaking interlocutors comport themselves at various points in the unfolding of interaction. Combining insights from the fields of conversation analysis, discourse analysis, linguistic anthropology, and phenomenology, the early chapters explore the role of temporality in the creation and maintenance of intersubjectivity. By showing how and when interlocutors experience breakdowns in the tight temporal attunement and sense of collective engagement that characterize face-to-face conversation, the first part of this dissertation explores the impact of AAC technology design on the structures of interaction and the experience of personhood. The second section of this dissertation interrogates the notion of `voice'. The chapters in this section examine the how augmented communicators are able to embody a voice that is being produced by a mechanical device, located outside of their physical body, and how individuals with different forms of speech disability relate to the synthetic voice differently, thereby revealing a great deal about their tacit understandings of their bodies and the world around them. By examining communication through and despite mediating forms, this dissertation expands understandings of the nature of intersubjectivity. Moreover, by bringing divergent fields' perspectives to bear on the topic of interaction within the context of disability, the dissertation provides new ways of approaching communication, suggesting a new model for understanding the experience of sociality.

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