Herbstakademie19: Hofstetter – Thinking with the body

Hofstetter will present at the 2019 Herbstakademie, Freiburg, Feb.27-Mar 2.

‘Thinking’ with the body and voice during game turns

‘Thinking’ has traditionally been considered an internal, individual phenomenon, one that is separate from the body. In this paper, I demonstrate how board game players ‘do thinking’, and through embodied displays of thinking achieve game-relevant action. I present an understanding of thinking as organized through players’ practices for local sense-making. In particular, I focus on two questions: how do players synchronize ‘thinking’ displays with their turns, and how do players synchronize vocal and embodied practices.

The game turn-taking system is intertwined with the temporal relevance of displays of thinking, as players are accountable to play a move immediately upon it becoming their turn. The central way to account for non-play, and to further delay, is to display ‘thinking’. ‘Thinking’ is achieved through a myriad of practices, including manipulating tokens, hovering the body or hands over the board, self-talk, and non-lexical vocalizations. These practices forestall calls to account from other players. When players do not synchronize their displays to the start of their turn, other players question their engagement and/or express upset. The bodily and vocal displays are coordinated to build a crescendo of action, so that one or the other is continually indexing ongoing ‘thought’.

This paper analyzes a data corpus of 19 hours of video-recorded game play using multimodal conversation analysis (11 games, 734 turns at play). This method attempts to uncover an emic understanding of what behaviours achieve, by analyzing members’ own unfolding understandings of action (Auer, 2009). The method also emphasizes the importance of the temporal alignment of behaviours for achieving gestalts of action (Mondada, 2018).

Auer, P. (2009). On-line syntax: Thoughts on the temporality of spoken language. Language Sciences, 31, 1-13.

Mondada, L. (2018). Multiple temporalities of language and body in interaction: Challenges for transcribing multimodality. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 51(1), 85-106.