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Lifting the pen and the gaze: embodied recruitment in collaborative writing

Jakub Mlynář
From the journal Text & Talk


This article investigates sequences of collaborative writing that are part of classroom interaction in student dyads and triads working with a digital device and a paper worksheet. In analyzing instances from a corpus of 18 h of video recordings made in five high-school classrooms through an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approach, I focus on two embodied practices which do the work of recruiting assistance during the course of inscribing: lifting the pen and lifting the gaze. These practices are viewed as ordinary digressions from the basic posture of the writing body. I demonstrate that lifting the pen as a recruitment practice can be done as a brief stopping of the pen in its movement, as wrist rotation, or as hand elevation. Lifting the gaze can have varying temporal properties and occur synchronously with hand-on-face gestures. I conclude that collaborative writing underlines the indeterminacy of bodily practices as either recruitments, requests or contributions to joint courses of action. I also suggest that the identified practices may be further investigated as components of the specific speech-exchange system inherent to the activity of writing together.

Corresponding author: Jakub Mlynář, Malach Centre for Visual History, Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Malostranské náměstí 25, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic, E-mail:

Funding source: Charles University Research Center

Award Identifier / Grant number: 9

Funding source: Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship

Award Identifier / Grant number: 2017.0307


The data analyzed in this article was collected while I was working on a project devised and conducted in the Department of Social Sciences, University of Fribourg, supported by the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for Foreign Scholars and Artists for the 2017–18 Academic Year (no. 2017.0307). For their help during the project, I thank Alfons Adam, Marek Brožek, Urs Fischer, Esther González-Martínez, Jiří Kocián, Katka Kristová, Marcel Mahdal, Magali Michelet, Gilles Saillen, Christina Späti, Stephan Stach, Monika Stehlíková and all participating students. I am also grateful to Esther González-Martínez, Bastien Taverney, Sylvia Trieu, and the two anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments and valuable suggestions on a previous version of this paper. Many thanks to Elisabeth Lyman for editing the final manuscript. The analysis presented in this article and the preparation of the text was supported by Charles University Research Centre No. 9 (UNCE VITRI).


Notation of speech (based on Jefferson 2004)

[ ] Overlapping talk.
(.) Micro-pause.
(2.1) Pause in seconds.
. Final intonation.
>yes< Notably faster talk.
<no> Notably slower talk.
(kuk) Estimated hearing.
( ) Inaudible segment.
a:: Vocal prolongation.
Ge- Cut-off.
Higher pitch.
= Rapid continuation (latching).
.hh/hh Inhalation and exhalation.
.nh Nasal inhalation.
n(h)o Laughter particle within word.
NO Louder volume.
not Emphasis.

Notation of embodied action (based on Mondada 2018)

* * Two symbols delimit descriptions (one symbol per
% % participant) synchronized with talk.
$––> Described action continues across subsequent lines
>––$ until the same symbol is reached.
fig Indication of video screenshot displayed as figure.
# Exact position of screenshot within the turn.


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Received: 2020-08-10
Accepted: 2022-03-25
Published Online: 2022-04-20

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