“Happy Birthday Grandpa”: Using Video-Supported Technologies In Family Communication

Year: 2015

Author: Busch, Gillian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian families with young children are embracing the use of video supported technologies such as SKYPE and Face Time to communicate with grandparents who live some distance away. Video supported technology capabilities provide members (children, parents and grandparents) with greater affordances than earlier communication technologies, such as the telephone. As well as being able to talk, being able to see each other, share objects of interest, watch performances and play together contributes to the maintenance of familial relationships between children and their grandparents. A limited number of studies have examined the use of SKYPE with grandparents and children, although there is little known about how grandparents and grandchildren communicate with each other, moment-by-moment, throughout the call.
Part of a larger SKYPE study, the interactions of families with young children interacting with grandparents via video-supported technologies were video-recorded by the families and the recordings were transcribed. This study comprises 10 hours of video-recordings from 3 families. Using an ethnomethodological lens, the focus of this paper is on how the social activity of an intergenerational SKYPE session is produced and organized. Conversation analysis provides the tools for fine-grained analysis as it examines the sequential organization of talk in interaction to reveal how actions are accomplished and understood.
This paper investigates the interactions of one family during a SKYPE session. The SKYPE call has special significance as the family members are calling to celebrate grandpa’s birthday. Analysis of the sequences focus, first, on the multi-modal interactional resources that the grandchild uses to interact with grandpa. These resources include gestures and touching the screen. Second, analysis shows how the mother and grandfather support the accomplishment of the young child’s engagement in the SKYPE, and how they progress the purpose of the call. Third, analysis shows how social objects such as a guitar and the SKYPE screen are integrated into the interaction. This paper contributes understandings of how social and moral orders are assembled during family SKYPE sessions and the interaction resources used. In addition, it contributes understandings about how intergenerational interactions occur. This research has application for those working with young children as it highlights the important work of the adult in progressing the interaction.