Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


DCOMM Report Summary

Project ID: 676063
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DCOMM (Deictic Communication - A Multidisciplinary Training)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2018-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

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 approach 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 is to study deictic communication from an interdisciplinary perspective, providing direct interfacing and collaboration across disciplines and with industry. This ETN is training the next generation of scientists in the full range of multidisciplinary and cross-sectorial methods necessary to make significant progress in understanding deictic communication, with direct synergies between basic research and application.

The original DCOMM objectives are 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.

All of these objectives are being addressed and met, commensurate with the stage of the grant and the length of time ESRs have been in post. The combination of DCOMM training events, local training, and Integrated Projects (where the ESRs work collaboratively) in tandem are progressing towards achieving the end DCOMM objectives.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Thus far DCOMM has 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 have 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. This far we have hosted events in Palma de Mallorca, Spain (Training School 1, Methods in Deictic Communication), Zurich, Switzerland (Training Course 1, Synergies Between Basic Research and Application), Genoa, Italy (Workshop 1, Advanced Technologies for Deictic Communication), Aarhus, Denmark (Training School 2, Theoretical Foundations of Deictic Communication), and Rome, Italy (Conference 1, Language as a Form of Action).

In addition to the scheduled training events, covering a wide range of specific technical, theoretical, entrepreneurial and transferable skills across disciplines ESRs are on track with their local training programmes at individual sites, and with their research programmes where results are beginning to emerge.The ESRs are 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 are examining deictic communication across gender (IP1), languages (IP2) and the ESRs are also working collaboratively on the development of a possible new application around deictic communication that will challenge their emerging technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Overall, ESRs are progressing well, and DCOMM as a whole is on track to break new ground in understanding deictic communication, and its applications, laying the foundation for future researchers to join this emerging interdisciplinary field.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The training events to date have 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 are already being equipped to think about entrepreneurship and how to exploit synergies between basic science and application through interaction with the DCOMM non-academic beneficiaries.

From a scientific point of view, the ESRs have already showcased their research in front of a large international audience through a dedicated DCOMM poster session at the Language as a Form of Action Conference hosted by CNR, Rome in 2017. This conference attracted an international audience of 179 external attendees, and afforded exposure of DCOMM to a wide interdisciplinary audience.

The ESR individual projects are already producing exciting results, with ESRs presenting their work at international conferences and also beginning to publish the results emerging from their individual projects. The Integrated projects also are designed to allow the ESRs to work together on bigger projects that are rarely possible in smaller national projects.

Overall, the first 18 months for DCOMM lays 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.

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