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Effective interaction online

Harnessing emerging technologies in the digital humanities to analyse online discourse in workplace contexts and address equality of access, the Interactional Variation Online project is funded jointly by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Irish Research Council.

Changing online workplace context: the digital pivot galvanised by COVID-19

We are more connected than ever before but are we communicating effectively?

Amid the so-called ‘digital pivot’ driven by COVID-19, online virtual communication has been placed at the heart of our daily lives, both professionally and privately. While our experience of this digital turn has shown that we can operate professionally online, this project addresses the need for a better understanding of our new workplace communication.

The pandemic that surfaced in 2020 certainly acted as a catalyst for change, impacting the behaviours of producers and consumers of digital interactional content. Businesses have changed the way they interact with customers. Cultural organisations have embraced diverse digital delivery, often co-produced with their audiences. Education has seen large-scale adoption of online modes of interaction. This project takes stock: Is virtual communication is equitable? Are existing paradigms for analysing discourse fit-for-purpose?

Leading researchers in the UK and Ireland are collaborating to propose the next generation of analytical frameworks for analysing this new type of discourse. Their new frameworks will support arts and humanities research and end user communities, leading to a step change in our ability to develop equality of access in online communication.

What ‘building back better’ means for online communication

This timely project is examining virtual workplace communication to gain depth of insight into the potential barriers to effective communication. We are exploring not only what makes for success or failure in virtual workplace discourse, but what also allows for the identification of the specific variables associated with those outcomes. Our study is multi-modal, focusing not just what is said but how it is said, taking into account pitch, intonation, facial expression, gestures and gaze.

Findings will lead to the creation of appropriate technical protocols for capturing and analysing interaction multi-modally in numerous contexts (how to transcribe a gesture and align it with an utterance for instance), an online archive asset and awareness-raising training materials co-designed for the needs of our project partners.

Our goal is to evolve standardised ways of approaching questions about language use which are accessible and (re)producible for Humanities researchers and non-technical experts alike.

Project duration

August 2021 – February 2024


Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Irish Research Council (UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Research Grants Call; grant numbers AH/W001608/1 and IRC/W001608/1).

Associated staff

Dr Dawn Knight

Dr Dawn Knight


+44 (0)29 2087 6325