How actions and words come to make sense in a continuously changing world of work: A case study from software development

Semiotica 2021 (238):211-238 (2021)
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To be successful, collaboration at work requires its participants to have a common sense about what is happening and where things are heading. But how can collaborators have such a sense in common if what is going on continuously changes? This study investigates the joint communicative work participants in collaborative activity do to remain aligned on how things are going and where things are at for the purpose of maintaining a ground in common. Our test case for illustrating this joint work is the fluid and constantly changing world of software development. Our study uses a transactional approach to show how software developers working together continuously make available what they are attuned to, which constitutes their common ground that allows actions and talk to make sense. The common ground enables a common, inherently shared sense of what is happening and how things are going. Rather than having “meaning” in themselves, signifiers (words, gestures, body movements, cursor movements) create and are part of the common ground against which they make sense. Signifiers are motivated by and produce an accented visible that is available to all group members; and this accented visible (including the signs) makes for the common ground.



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Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.William James - 2014 - Gorham, ME: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Eric C. Sheffield.

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