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Deictic Communication - A Multidisciplinary Training

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DCOMM (Deictic Communication - A Multidisciplinary Training)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2020-01-31

Communication involves a combination of language and gestures that act in concert. Deictic communication is paradigmatic of communication, allowing speakers to use language and gesture to refer, and direct the attention of a person, to an object/place in the world (e.g. “this cup, that star”). The primary words used for deictic communication are spatial demonstratives – words including this/that/here/there. These words occur in all languages, are among the highest frequency terms within a language, and are among the first words all children acquire. Yet there are very few systematic empirical studies on demonstratives. In this ETN, we approached deictic communication from a broad and interdisciplinary perspective, seeking to integrate the various strands of research from multiple disciplines into a unified framework for the first time.

The central scientific goal of DCOMM was to study deictic communication from an interdisciplinary perspective, providing direct interfacing and collaboration across disciplines and with industry.

The original DCOMM objectives were as follows:
i. Establish the first systematic and comprehensive approach to deictic communication. Early Stage Researchers will address the open fundamental and technological challenges such as how deictic communication develops, how deictic communication varies across cultures, individual differences in deictic communication (e.g. gender differences), how it is organized in various clinical populations, how technologies can apply principles of deictic communication to improve human interaction with technologies, and in turn how technological innovation can impact upon basic research.
ii. Train ESRs in specific multimethodological and cross-sectorial skills usually situated within individual disciplines (with little communication between them). This multimethods approach is integral to skill up the next generation of researchers in language more generally. The training will provide a natural bridge between humanities, social science, and scientific approaches to language; we regard this as critical to making advances in the field.
iii. Provide direct linkage between basic research and application, which will mutually cross- pollinate each other in the development of the field. ESRs will be trained in the close synergy between basic research and application.
iv. Provide hands-on experience for all ESRs with application issues through training schools and placement activities, giving social sciences and humanities researchers a rare training opportunity with close integration between basic research and practice.
v. Support ESRs through a coaching programme and individual skills development plan based on the latest Vitae RDF Planner, to develop transferable skills and leadership skills and appropriate research career pathways, supporting the transition from taught students to independent researchers and future leaders.

The combination of DCOMM training events, local training, and Integrated Projects (where the ESRs have worked collaboratively) has contributed to achieving the end DCOMM objectives.
The 13 ESRs have all participated in the planned training events across the network at regular intervals throughout their 36 month contracts. The 10 training events progressed according to plan. Initially a kick-off event, held at the lead beneficiary institution (the University of East Anglia, UK) brought together the PIs from the 11 beneficiary organisations and representatives from the five partner organisations. This meeting afforded planning of future events, overviewed the recruitment strategy, and began dialogue regarding synergies and secondments across sites. Recruitment of the 13 Early Stage Researchers proceeded smoothly across sites, with all ESRs in post by the required cut-off date.

Training events progressed as anticipated, with participation from all ESRs at all events, with additional participation from other Early Stage Researchers outside the immediate DCOMM training network. We hosted events in Palma de Mallorca, Spain (Training School 1, Methods in Deictic Communication), Aarhus, Denmark (Training Course 1, Theoretical Foundations of Deictic Communication), Genoa, Italy (Workshop 1, Advanced Technologies for Deictic Communication 1), Rome, Italy (Conference 1, Language as a Form of Action), Zurich, Switzerland (Training School 2, Synergies Between Basic Research and Application), Munster, Germany (Workshop 2, Advanced Technloiges for Deictic Communication 2), Trondheim, Norway (Training School 3, Individual Differences in Deictic Communication), Jena, Germany (Training Course 2, Dissemination and Academic Skills), Manchester, UK (Training Course 3, Working with Non-academic Beneficiaries), and Norwich, UK (Conference 2, Advances in Deictic Communication).

In addition to the scheduled training events, ESRs all progressed according to plan with their local training programmes at individual sites, and with their research programmes.The ESRs were also fully engaged in the three Integrated Projects (IPs), designed to facilitate group working and pushing the ESRs to think across sectors and boundaries. These Integrated Projects examined deictic communication across gender (IP1), languages (IP2) and the ESRs also worked collaboratively on the development of a new application around deictic communication that challenged their emerging technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Overall, ESRs progressed well, and DCOMM as a whole has broken new ground in understanding deictic communication, and its applications, laying the foundation for future researchers to join this emerging interdisciplinary field.
The training events offered the ESRs a rare combination of exposure to cutting edge technological developments, including exposure to training in cognitive robotics, hands on sessions on motion capture and virtual and immersive environments, as well as training from leading experts on the theoretical foundations of deictic communication and on synergies between theory and practice. ESRs have been equipped to think about entrepreneurship and how to exploit synergies between basic science and application through interaction with the DCOMM non-academic beneficiaries.

The ESRs have showcased their research in front of large international audiences through participation in two major conferences hosted by DCOMM, as well as presented and publishing their work in other leading international outlets. For example, a dedicated DCOMM poster session at the Language as a Form of Action Conference hosted by CNR, Rome in 2017 attracted an international audience of 179 external attendees, and afforded exposure of DCOMM to a wide interdisciplinary audience.

The ESR individual projects have producing exciting results, with ESRs presenting their work at international conferences and also publishing the results emerging from their individual projects. The Integrated projects were are designed to allow the ESRs to work together on bigger projects that are rarely possible in smaller national projects, and the fruits of their endeavours are now reaching publication.

Overall, DCOMM has laid the foundation for breakthroughs in understanding deictic communication, both theoretically and in application, that we hope will leave a lasting legacy in the field beyond the end of the grant, with the ESRs putting their unique training and skills to good use across sectors as their careers progress.
DCOMM ESRs at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy
DCOMM poster session at the Final Conference
DCOMM logo
Experiencing VR
DCOMM poster session at Language as a Form of Action Conference in Rome, Italy
Presenting a Seminar
In the film studio