Complexity of (inter)action - International symposium

Thursday, October 9, 2014 to Saturday, October 11, 2014


Complexity of (inter)action


organized by the COACT community

University of Oulu, Finland, 9–11 October 2014


In the contemporary world social interactions take place in settings that involve multiple participants, multiple courses of action, multiple tasks, (mobile) technologies, objects, materials, multiple sites and multiple languages. Such settings are often highly multimodal and can involve complicated participation frameworks and networks, or the interaction in them is technologically mediated or spatially and temporally distributed. The term ‘complexity’ is frequently used to describe the context, organization and structure of action and interaction in such settings, and hence much of previous research has approached complexity merely as a characteristic of the interactional setting and the multiplicity of the features in it. However, there is a need to pay focused analytic attention to the dynamics of how participants organize and coordinate their actions in such environments. Furthermore, there is a perceived need to come to a better and more detailed understanding of what constitute practical and effective – i.e. skilled – social practices and social conduct in such settings.

Call for papers

In the Complexity of (inter)action symposium, we wish to explore complexity from diverse perspectives and focus on examining how social participants manage, coordinate and adapt to complexity, and display complexity socially to others, through skilled multimodal participation. We are also interested in studies that expand the notion of interactional complexity to include the participants’ histories and interactions across multiple timescales.

The symposium has four invited speakers:

  • Monika Büscher, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University
  • Trine Heinemann, Department of Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark
  • Eric Laurier, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh
  • Maurice Nevile, Department of Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark

We now invite proposals for symposium presentations that examine diverse communities and complex social (inter)actions in different settings, including technologically mediated and copresent activities. The theoretical starting points may include conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, multimodal interaction analysis, mediated discourse analysis, and related fields of study that use a range of audio, video, textual and other ethnographic materials as their data.

General themes for papers include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. What constitutes complexity in (inter)action?
  2. What constitutes skilled (inter)action and skilled participation?
  3. How do participants organize their skilled (inter)action in multimodal contexts?
  4. How does participation change and develop over time?
  5. How can skilled participation in complex settings be maintained and supported?

Presentation formats include

  • paper presentation (30 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion),
  • data session (40 minutes for introduction to and discussion of data) and
  • poster presentation (display of poster throughout the symposium and 5 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion during a Poster Walk).

These formats allow for in-depth exploration of data by the presenters, invited speakers and audience.


Proposals for papers, posters or data sessions should be submitted as abstracts of about 300 words (2,000 characters), including any bibliographic references. Please include in the abstract a description of your 1) aims, 2) theoretical and methodological background, 3) materials, and 4) (preliminary) findings. Please also provide up to five keywords. The proposals should be submitted by 1 June 2014 via an online form at

Authors will be notified of acceptance by the end of June 2014.

All participants (including participants without a presentation) should register by 31 August 2014 via an online form at

Important deadlines

1 June 2014 – Deadline for the submission of abstracts

30 June 2014 – Information about the decisions of the review process

31 August 2014 – Registration ends

9–11 October 2014 – International symposium


Lasaretti Hotel and Restaurant (

Registration fees

There will be no registration fee for the symposium.


The symposium is organized by the COACT research community which was formed in 2012. COACT – Complexity of (inter)action: Towards an understanding of skilled multimodal participation is one of the research communities in the likewise newly formed Eudaimonia Research Center ( at the University of Oulu, Finland. Our research in COACT focuses on how language and multimodal resources feature in the complexity of social action and interaction, and how social participants skillfully manage and organize their conduct at complex sites of learning, work and everyday life. The COACT research community was recently evaluated as part of an international assessment at the University of Oulu (RAE2013). It received the rating ‘excellent’ in the highest participation category (world-class research).

For more information contact the members of the COACT community; see the following website:


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Last updated: 26.2.2014