Gestural Listening and the Writing Center's Virtual Boundaries
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This essay examines embodied listening behaviors—gestural listening—in the context of online video tutoring in university writing centers. Drawing on interviews and observations with writing center practitioners, as well as theoretical frameworks in sound and gesture studies, this essay examines the central role of listening in writing tutoring, and furthermore, how listening behaviors adapt to the virtual boundaries of video conferencing. The author argues that video tutoring highlights the expressivity of listening in the way that aspects of common video tutoring apparatuses (including the hardware of personal computers and software such as Skype or WCOnline) fragment and compromise the sensorium. In the face of this fragmentation, listening’s expressive qualities serve to overcome and cohere the disjunctures brought about by video tutoring technologies. Furthermore, cultivating the expressive aspects of gestural listening helps video tutoring succeed. The essay touches on eye contact, posture, and nonverbal backchanneling, among other embodied listening behaviors.