ʿHello! I'm behind you’: Warnings at trouble moments in forklift driving

Maurice Richard Nevile, Johannes Wagner

    Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


    We are interested generally in the verbalized and embodied character of ’warnings’ at moments of potential ‘trouble’ in a flow of movement for collaborative work. Our participants are forklift truck drivers, whose primary occupation it is to handle and take objects from one place to another. Our physical setting is a site for training and certification, simulating a warehouse scene. Drivers range in experience from beginner to relatively experienced but needing formal qualification. Our data are approx. 85 hours of recordings, and feature multiple camera views (truck mounted, floor, bird’s eye). The paper focusses on warnings expressed to other drivers in situations when potential collisions between trucks might occur as they move around the shared shelf/floorspace. Through warnings, drivers identify, orient and respond to such moments. Put simply, a driver warns by announcing his/her presence, movement, or activity, to another driver who then responds to the warning in appropriate ways. We examine precisely when such warnings occur in the order and course of progressing routine task performance, and especially how forms of talk (e.g. ‘hello!’, ‘I’m passing behind you’) relate to details of embodied conduct for activity and relative to presence within the physical surround (e.g. a change in driving –direction, speed – or in task activity). As forklift truck collisions can range from very minor to potentially dangerous or even catastrophic – if involving loss of load or impact with shelved stock - warnings can constitute a form of crisis communication (Dr Rycker & Mohd Don 2013). Our analytic approach is informed most closely by the concerns of conversation analysis and ethnomethodology to reveal the practices and understandings by which people organize and accomplish together their activities, moment-to-moment in naturally occurring situations. Our topic and focus resonate with studies in which the participants are mobile and must coordinate their mobility with others, especially as operating forms of vehicular transport technology (Nevile 2004; Haddington et al. 2012; Haddington et al. 2013). This paper therefore contributes to interest in the embodied/material (multimodal) character of social interaction (see e.g recent collections Streeck et al. 2011, Nevile et al. 2014), within an embodied turn in research developing over the past 15 years (Nevile 2015). From our access to a different video recording corpus of highly experienced professional drivers, our impression is that warning moments are far less common in more skilled performance. Warning moments might therefore reveal something of the nature and emergence of the professional individual, collaborative, and interactive competences constitutive of routine forklift work. Keywords collaboration, competence, forklift driving, multimodality, objects, training, transport, trouble, warning References De Rycker, Antoon / Mohd Don, Zuraidah (eds) 2013. Discourse and Crisis: Critical Perspectives. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Haddington, Pentti / Keisanen, Tiina / Nevile, Maurice (eds) 2012. Meaning in Motion: Interaction in Cars. Special Issue for Semiotica, 191, 1/4. Haddington, Pentti / Mondada, Lorenza / Nevile, Maurice (eds) 2013. Interaction and Mobility: Language and the Body in Motion. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter Nevile, Maurice 2004. Beyond the Black Box: Talk-in-Interaction in the Airline Cockpit. Series: Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Nevile, Maurice 2015. The embodied turn in research on language and social interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction. 48(2): 121-151. Nevile, Maurice / Haddington, Pentti / Heinemann, Trine / Rauniomaa, Mirka (eds) 2014. Interacting with Objects: Language, Materiality, and Social Activity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Streeck, Juergen / Goodwin, Charles / LeBaron, Curt (eds) 2011. Embodied Interaction: Language and Body in the Material World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication dateNov 2015
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
    Event5th International Conference on Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice: Language, discourse and action in professional practice - Milan, Italy
    Duration: 5. Nov 20157. Nov 2015


    Conference5th International Conference on Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice


    • Conversation Analysis
    • collaboration
    • competence
    • forklift driving
    • multimodality
    • objects
    • Training
    • transport
    • warning
    • trouble


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