cSCAN Rounds

Making and breaking procedural conventions in dialogue

A key problem for models of dialogue is to explain how co-ordination is both achieved and sustained. Existing accounts emphasize the importance of interaction, demonstrating how collaborative feedback leads to the rapid development of referring conventions that are also more systematized, stable, abstract and partner-specific. However, in addition to co-ordinating on the content of referring expressions, interaction in dialogue also requires procedural co-ordination: interlocutors must co-ordinate on the sequential and temporal unfolding of their contributions. Recent work (Mills, 2011) has demonstrated that interlocutors also rapidly establish procedural conventions for identifying, signalling, and resolving procedural coordination problems that they encounter in the interaction. It is currently unclear, however, whether interlocutors associate these procedural conventions with specific conversational partners. To address this question, this talk will describe the results from a collaborative 3-participant computer-mediated task which presents participants with the recurrent co-ordination problem of ordering their actions and utterances into a single coherent sequence. The task is configured so that each participant has a different interaction history with both of the other two participants, resulting in each participant encountering different procedural co-ordination problems with both partners. To investigate partner-specific effects, all participants' turns are intercepted automatically in real-time, permitting experimental manipulation of their content and timing (cf. Healey and Mills, 2006). This technique is used to generate artificial clarification requests that query the procedural function of participants' turns. The apparent origin of these clarification requests is manipulated to appear as if they originate from either of the 2 other participants. This talk will demonstrate that participants' responses to these clarification requests provide evidence of interlocutors associating procedural conventions with specific partners, and, drawing on global interaction patterns in the task, will also argue that these partner-specific effects are sensitive to the specific sequential location in the dialogue where problematic understanding is signalled.