Linguistikzirkel - wird verschoben

13. Mai 2020

(Zwei Vorträge!) Florence Oloff (University of Oulu, Finland): “I can’t find the ‘okay’”: Learning how to use smartphones in adult education courses (17:00 – 18:15) und Iuliia Avgustis (University of Oulu, Finland): How to formulate an information enquiry for a telephone (robot) operator: an analysis of call centre conversations (18:30 – 19:45) Für Erfrischungen zwischen den Vorträgen wird gesorgt! Campus WU, Gebäude D2, Eingang D, 2. OG, Raum D2 2.228 Zeit: 17:00 – 18:15 und 18:30 – 19:45 DATE - TO BE ANNOUNCED

Abstract - I can’t find the ‘okay’”: Learning how to use smartphones in adult education courses

Smartphones, tablets and other mobile communication devices are now part and parcel of our everyday life. Human sciences - and especially linguistics - have investigated mainly texts, reading, and writing in the new and social media; however, there is a considerable lack of studies interested in the actual use of mobile devices in face-to-face encounters and in the way human beings adapt to new technologies across the lifespan. Research interested in digital skills and in their situated acquisition primarily focuses on young children and students, and there has been less interest in how elderly adults learn about and use mobile technologies. In this presentation I will first summarize how technologies-in-use have been investigated in past and current research. I will then illustrate how a qualitative and micro-analytic framework such as multimodal conversation analysis can give new insights into the ways in which less experienced or first-time users approach their smartphones. Based on video recordings in adult education centres (“Volkshochschule”) in Germany, I will show how the course participants are instructed to use their mobile devices and how they respond to these instructions. Looking at the details of talk and of the device manipulation in these introductory smartphone courses allows us to better understand both the actual challenges related to the learning of technology use and the concrete digital skills these users already have. I aim to show how this type of analysis can lead to findings regarding teaching practices in adult education, regarding possible age-related differences in the use of communication technologies, and, more generally, regarding the potential impact of mobile technologies on our social and linguistic routines.


Florence Oloff is Assistant Professor in "Multimodal Interaction and Discourse" at the Research Unit of Languages and Literature (Faculty of Humanities) of the University of Oulu, Finland. As a trained linguist and expert in conversation analysis, she is interested in language use and social interaction in mundane as well as in professional settings. Using video recordings of social encounters in various languages, she has for example worked on simultaneous talk, on response tokens, on multilingual practices in professional settings, or on object use and interactional space. She is currently leading a research project focusing on the use of smartphones by younger and older adults.

Abstract - How to formulate an information enquiry for a telephone (robot) operator: an analysis of call centre conversations

Telephone robots are now widely used in call centres, as they dramatically reduce human operators' workload. However, callers still often prefer to talk to a human operator, as robots cannot always comprehend the enquiry. Understanding features of enquiries formulated for artificial agents can clarify what callers expect a robot to understand and, therefore, what robots should be able to process. This paper explores how people formulate an information enquiry to a telephone robot used in a major Russian city’s call centre. This call centre answers citizens’ questions considering different administrative issues such as official documents and working hours of public institutions. These enquiry formulations for the robot are then compared with formulations that callers provide for human operators. The study is based on 60 call recordings with human operators and 103 call recordings with the artificial agent. All calls were transcribed and analysed using the method of conversation analysis. The analysis shows that interaction with the robot operator has a particular conversational character, as callers are aware of different competences robots and human operators have. When talking with the robot, callers produce “robot-like” questions and responses themselves to simplify a task for the robot. However, in the talk with human operators, callers tend to provide longer and more complicated enquiries and operators often help them to formulate a concrete question. These findings have important implications for developing telephone robots and other artificial agents.


Iuliia Avgustis has received her M.A. in Sociology at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (Russia) at a program in collaboration with the University of Manchester (UK) in 2017. She is currently a doctoral researcher in the Smart Communication project at the University of Oulu, Finland, in which she investigates smartphone use among young adults in Russia using ethnomethodology and multimodal conversational analysis. Iuliia is also interested in interaction with artificial agents and in video games.

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