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International conference on "Orientation in Communication" at Bielefeld University

How do people manage to align themselves in conversations in such a way that communication is largely possible without misunderstandings and disruptions? According to the scientists of the Collaborative Research Center 673 “Alignment in Communication” at Bielefeld University, it is a special ability of people to adjust to one another in dialogue. The scientists will present their previous findings on this topic at the conference “Orientation in Communication: Approaches to a New Communication Theory” from Thursday to Saturday, July 19-21, at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) at Bielefeld University. You will then discuss with researchers from 13 countries.

Prof. Dr. Ipke Wachsmuth

"Orientation in Communication" is a new direction in communication research that has been investigated since 2006 in the Bielefeld Collaborative Research Center (SFB) of the same name. The SFB is set to run for twelve years and was last extended for four years in 2010. The scientists are researching how it is uncomplicated and effortless for people to align themselves with one another in dialogue and to communicate on the same wavelength. In many cases, this alignment takes place “automatically” and unconsciously. An example of the mutual alignment of interlocutors relates to gestures. If a person asks the person opposite at the coffee table to put the milk jug down on the left, then they have to expect a question: "Do you mean to the left of you or from me?" If the request is made with a wave of the hand, the question is unnecessary. The alignment in communication also becomes clear when two dialogue partners align themselves in the course of the conversation in the speech rhythm and thus understand each other more effortlessly.

"Halfway through our research agenda, the conference will present our previous findings to an international, interdisciplinary group of experts for discussion and criticism," says Professor Dr. Ipke Wachsmuth, spokesman for the Collaborative Research Center, who handed this office over to his colleague Professor Dr. Jan de Ruiter is handed over. The Bielefeld scientists assume that communication between people is too complex, flexible and unpredictable to be explained as an exchange of messages alone. "There is currently no communication theory that is comprehensive and concrete enough to explain the multitude of observed phenomena and also to provide templates for artificial systems capable of communication," says Ipke Wachsmuth. Jan De Ruiter sees the chance that the conference will provide impetus for a new theory: "We hope to initiate a discussion between the currently prevailing currents in communication research and dialogue theory in order to develop approaches to a new communication theory."

The Collaborative Research Center “Alignment in Communication” works in an interdisciplinary manner by bringing together computer scientists, linguists, psychologists and neuroscientists. Methods of communication analysis and neurolinguistics as well as experimental methods of psychology are used. The researchers analyze, for example, eye movements of speakers and listeners. These provide information about the current focus of attention and thus allow conclusions to be drawn about the perception and thought processes of the respective person. The researchers at the Collaborative Research Center are also exploring the non-linguistic means of facial expressions and gestures in order to track down the thought processes that ensure that a dialogue succeeds. At the same time, the researchers are turning to “misalignment”, that is, failures in alignment. Because these disturbances also allow conclusions to be drawn about the processes with which people mutually coordinate when they communicate. For the modeling and simulation of such processes, linguistic approaches are combined with methods from computer science, robotics and artificial intelligence.

The conference will be held in English. Professor Dr. Ipke Wachsmuth and Professor Dr. Jan de Ruiter will chair the conference together.

Conference times:
July 19, 9:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
July 20, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
July 21, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Media representatives are cordially invited to report on the event.

Prof. Dr. Jan De Ruiter

Further information on the Internet:


Contact for questions about the event:
Prof. Dr. Ipke Wachsmuth, Bielefeld University
Technical Faculty / AG Knowledge-Based Systems
Phone: 0521 106-2924
Email: [email protected]

Questions about the organization answered:
Katrin Johannsen, Bielefeld University
Collaborative Research Center 673 "Alignment in Communication"
Phone: 0521 106-5266
Email: katrin.joh[email protected]

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