Talk & Drive investigated driving and talking in the car as an interactional achievement in a complex multimodal and mobile environment. The project examined how drivers manage the two parallel activities (i.e. driving and talking) together with possible co-interactants in naturally-occurring situations. While recognizing the pivotal role of the driver, the project highlighted the significance that co-interactants' talk and embodied conduct may have for driving and other activities in the car.

The project provide a comprehensive description of the ways in which participants coordinate their actions in cars by combining fine-grained social-interactional and linguistic analyses.

1. Research Questions

Talk & Drive provided new research in the following areas:


  • We contributed to the theoretical understanding of 'mobility' by studying how being on the move affects, constrains or is used as a resource for action production in situated social interaction (e.g. in negotiating routes). In order to consider various motion events and driving practices, we viewed them as socially accomplished and situated phenomena.
  • For example, how does movement or motion become relevant in and through participants' actions in situated interaction?


  • Our aim was to further the understanding of how interlocutors as participants in a motion event display their conceptualizations of motion, paths and routes as part of the social actions they produce while they are on the move (see, e.g. Haddington and Keisanen 2009).
  • For example, how are certain grammatical forms (e.g. motion verbs), gestures and external semiotic signs used together as resources in the conceptualization process?


  • Our aim was to increase knowledge on interaction in a familiar and everyday mobile site, namely in cars. We asked, among other things, what the practices of driving are and what they are like. We also investigate how interactants manage the simultaneous and overlapping complex actions and activities involved in driving, talking with a co-participant and interacting with devices while on the move. One important aim of the project is to compare interaction between the driver and passengers with conversations on the mobile phone. Moreover, we investigate how mobile technology and the car interior as a physical and multimodal environment shapes human action.

2. Theory and Methods

  • The project used conversation analysis, (multimodal) interaction analysis and interactional linguistics. This theoretical and methodological framework provided a comprehensive description of the moment-by-moment, sequential organization of multimodal human action. It was also used to study how participants interpret their co-participants' actions and how the use of linguistic structures and gestures are motivated by an ongoing interactional task.


  • One important aspect of the project was to consider how gestures and other multimodal resources are used as resources for social action in cars. Therefore, we also built upon an understanding of the integrated but complementary relationship of language and gesture in the meaning-making processes of social interaction. We thus contributed to interactional research on how mobility and driving pertain to our language use, social actions and cognition, either as a constraint or as a resource.

3. Data

  • Our data consisted of approximately 30-40 hours of audio-video recordings of real, everyday driving situations and social interaction. The data was recorded with two cameras. The data enabled us to study the driver's and passenger's talk, embodied actions, the direction of their gaze and their use of technology in the car. Our data included colleagues driving to/from work or home, parents taking their children to daycare or school and other trips of family and friends.

We currently have access to the following data:

  • Talk & Drive, Finland (collected by Pentti Haddington; conversations in English and in Finnish)
  • Habitable Cars, Great Britain (collected by Eric Laurier (University of Edinburgh)
  • In-car distractions and their impact on driving activities, Australia (collected by Maurice Nevile (Australian National University, Canberra)

Last updated: 28.11.2016