Rolling The Ball Back: Topıc Maıntenance In Computer Medıated Englısh As A Lıngua Franca Interactıons
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Interactional competence (henceforth IC) in an L2 has been a research interest for conversation analysts. A number of researchers have documented the emergence and the development of the construct in contexts such as classroom interaction and technology-mediated environments (Hellermann, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011; Markee, 2008; Seedhouse & Walsh, 2010; Pekarek Doehler, 2010, 2013; Pekarek Doehler & Pochon Berger, 2011, 2015; Balaman, 2016; Balaman & Sert, 2017a, b, Sert & Balaman, in press). They have focused on socio-interactional constructs such as repair sequences (Kitade, 2000; Hellermann, 2011), expanded responses (Lee, Park & Sohn, 2011), engagement and disengagement (Hellermann, 2008; Pekarek Doehler & Pochon Berger, 2011), intersubjectivity (Gonzales Lloret, 2011), and topical organization (Hall, 1995; Ducasse & Brown, 2009; Melander & Sahlström, 2009). However, topic development has been explored to lesser extent by conversation analysts compared to other constructs of interaction such as turn-taking and repair organization. With this in mind, this study aims to document topic development and its relation to IC in geographically dispersed participants’ spoken interaction in an English as a Lingua Franca (henceforth ELF) environment. As the first study to investigate topic maintenance in computer-mediated interactions in an ELF context and using conversation analysis as the research methodology, this study sets out to unpack the emergent orientations to topic maintenance by the tertiary level L2 learners from two different countries (Turkey and Kazakhstan). The situated accomplishments of the geographically dispersed participants are examined to document IC in computer mediated interactions (Jenks, 2014; Balaman, 2016; Balaman & Sert 2017a, b; Sert & Balaman, in press). The data-driven participant-oriented analyses of a hundred and one episodes in the data set provide a micro-analytic account of topical progressivity with reference to the multitude of semiotic resources such as body posture, gestures and facial expressions that the participants utilise during the interaction. The close look into the data explicated that the participants deploy a topic maintenance resource, Rolling the Ball Back (RBB). The analyses show that an RBB sequence is one of ix the interactional resources that a participant can employ to ensure topical maintenance at an action boundary by inviting contributions relevant to an ongoing topic from a co-participant. The study describes the sequential unfolding of RBB sequences, different RBB resources used during interactions, and how RBB sequences shape the rest of the interaction. The computer mediated dyadic interactional data was collected over a three-month period between the fall term of 2015/2016 and spring term of 2016/2017. 20 participants (10 from each country) interacted through Skype. The dataset for the study comprises of 9 hours of video recorded spoken interactions and their transcriptions. The findings also suggest that RBB sequences unfold in three temporally sequenced steps: closers, RBB, and elaboration. Moreover, the findings reveal that RBB performs various actions including managing turn allocation, initiating reciprocation of speakership and perspectives on an ongoing topic, thus, promotes intersubjectivity at topical level. The analyses also document how topic extension was achieved following RBB sequences when one of the participants had troubles in contributing to an ongoing topic. The study provides evidence to the participants’ co-constructed ICs based on the deployment of RBBs as explicated in and through turn taking strategies (Markee, 2008; Hall & Pekarek Doehler, 2011; Wong & Waring, 2010; Jenks, 2014), sequence organization, and topic management practices (Hall, 1992; Galaczi, 2008, 2014; Young, 2000; Hall & Pekarek Doehler, 2011; Nguyen, 2011; Walsh, 2012; Seedhouse & Supakorn, 2015). The findings of this study also have some implications for dyadic computer mediated L2 interaction as the medium creates pedagogical opportunities through meaningful interactions that eventually develop ICs. Finally, the study contributes to research on topic development and interactional competence of L2 speakers as the first study to investigate topic maintenance as an indicator of IC in online ELF interactions.