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Karen Broadhurst and Claire Mason: Lancaster University.

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1 Karen Broadhurst and Claire Mason: Lancaster University

2 Virtual proximities and corporeal co-presence Social life is fundamentally transformed by mediated communication that enables a range of virtual proximities (mobile phone, internet, web cam etc) Individuals can sustain a range of connections/variety of networks – that are instant, economic and can compress time and distance Yet somehow – orientation to human co-location or corporeal co-presence (face-to-face/body-to-body interaction) survives

3 Goffman and co-presence Persons must sense that they are close enough to be perceived in whatever they are doing, including their experiencing of others, and close enough to be perceived in this sensing of being perceived. (Goffman, 1963, p. 17) In range of each others naked sense perceptions (Zhao, 2003)

4 Embodiment Involvement of human bodies in the process of communication. Both verbal and nonverbal human behaviours including body idioms (Goffman, 1963) To achieve full embodiment we require face to face - interface (Zhao, 2003)

5 Co-presence. the robust nature and enduring necessity of traditional human communication...modernity is achieved not just through computer circuit boards and devices such as voice mail, video conferencing and fax production but through the intensely social daily routines of humans thinking, cooperating and talking face-to-face Boden and Molotch (1994, p.258)

6 Recent research Significant evidence of extensive business travel to achieve corporeal co-presence – despite rapid developments in mediated communication Familial and friendship ties – orientation to visiting Individuals upgrade to the best approximation to face-to-face contact (see John Urry, 2003, for a fuller discussion )

7 So – why the compulsion of proximity co-presence is biographically and historically prior to other forms of communication: (Boden and Molotch, p.258) body talk adds a visual vocabulary and social grammar...the cues of physical movement, eye contact and facial expression relay substantive meaning It is through the reaction of others that we see what we are doing – in co-present interaction there is no time out from expressive being (Thrift, 2004)

8 Co-presence and contextual detail Co-present interaction is rich with information. Co- presence offers a far greater level of contextual detail than mediated communication. Co-presence puts us on the spot – when we are co- present with another – our feelings/responses are more difficult to hide The density of co-present encounters both engages and entraps us (Boden and Molotch, p.259)

9 Corporeal co-presence is key to: Conveying commitment Managing ambiguity/misunderstanding Development of trust

10 Social Work – a thoroughly social profession 1.The home visit – enduring aspect of social work practice (primary site for engagement and for seeing whats going on) – enshrined in statutory obligations 2. Key decisions are taken through meetings – again orientation to the face-to-face (strategy, case conference, pre-proceedings, childcare review) 3. Co-presence is both preferred and necessary across a wide range of social work tasks Yet, somehow in social work – both in research and practice, we have come to lose sight of the detail of embodied co-present human interaction

11 Why? Social workers have come to position themselves outside the helping relationship (as brokers/care managers) losing sight of their interactional expertise Moreover, the technologisation of experience in social work has led to the privileging of information over affect General distancing impact of anti-dependency discourses & a turn to the instrumental Co-presence prevails - but social workers are less attuned to their interactions with others....

12 Home Visit Field note 12.4. 2011 I was struck by the social worker seeming to deliver the family support worker, she introduced the worker and proceeded to tell the mother what kinds of things the family support worker will help her with – improving housing, helping her to access drug counselling. The worker reminder the mother that she needed to get to her appointments with the drugs counselling service. It was all quite matter of fact and the visit ended with the worker asking to inspect the childrens bedrooms. After the visit I asked the worker to reflect on the encounter – her response was overwhelmingly task focused, she was keen to hand over the case to the parenting support team and was hopeful that through the core assessment process that the problems were stabilised.

13 Somethings missing....? There is in many accounts of social work with children and families today a pervasive sense of loss, or at least of an absence, a sense that something is missing and doesnt feel right. There is little doubt from the social work literature that what is thought to be lacking or lost is relationships, and having the time, capacity and capability to relate to children and families. (Ferguson, 2011 p28,)

14 Burgeoning literature on relationship – based practice But what does this mean? Can we add to the extant vocabulary? How can we add to the extant vocabulary through research and practice?

15 Refocusing on the centrality of face-to-face/body-to-body practice Implications for research and practice: Shift away from that which is narrowly conceived through procedure – standardised and flattened out – towards a re- focusing on the ad hoc..... the reflexive, unfolding of practice Take hold of the renewed interest in the realm of social reproduction what Katz describes as the fleshy, messy, and indeterminate stuff of everyday life (2001, p. 711) Develop an understanding that the quality of peoples lives depends hugely on the quality of their social relationships - how people treat one another (Sayer, 2010)

16 Foregrounding corporeal co- presence in social work research Some starting points: The face and faciality as the index of emotion The skin as the interface between internal and external worlds The body as our first and foremost, most immediate and intimately felt geography... the site of emotional experience and expression par excellence. (Davidson and Milligan, 2004, p523).

17 CASE STUDY SITE Starting from an assumption of practice as situated in place – then individual and collective life stories matter. Practice, in our chosen case study site, is heavily influenced by the lengthy personal/institutional biographies of team manager and assistant manager who prize the relational aspects of their work, over and above the demands of performance management.

18 Methods Direct observation of practice – meetings, home visits, case conferences, informal discussion... Conversational style interviewing to probe impact of co-present activity Audio recordings and field notes Access possible, via larger commissioned project

19 Research Questions Research questions that influenced the cases study analysis? What is gained from corporeal co-presence? Foci: How does the body impact on trust and commitment? What can we learn from the face in interaction?

20 Example 1 (established worker) Field note I accompanied the family support worker on a home visit. The visit is part of an initial assessment and have decided to keep the case open to core assessment. There has been pressure from other agencies for the children to become subject to child protection plans due to concerns about neglect, particularly home conditions and an unwillingness to engage with services. The case concerns a young mother with 3 young children aged under 8 years. The family support workers is making an unplanned visit.

21 Example 1 (contd) FSW enters the house into a long, narrow, open plan kitchen lounge. The mother sits herself down on the settee in the living space and the FSW sits beside her. The mothers response to this physical proximity indicated a sense of being comfortable – The mothers partner in contrast walked to the far end of the living space into the kitchen area and turned his back. In response to this, the FSW turned herself to ensure her body position indicated openness to the partner, and she says to the mother is this your chap?

22 Words and body Ive heard a lot about you Craig, its really nice to meet you... Ill tell you what it is Craig, I was so impressed when I saw the work youd done here, its really good, its excellent Craig then turns and looks at the FSW and smiles and the FSW gives him the thumbs up. Craig blushes slightly and briefly looks away, initially embarrassed but smiling. Craig then begins to interact with the child which draws him back into the living room and all further conversations he engages with.

23 Touch and the body The family support worker enquires as to whether there are any plans for the new partner to move in. The mother responds by saying yeah... After Xmas when hes got a job and Ive got SSD off my back. The FSW sitting next to the mother on the settee, turns her body to make direct eye contact, prefacing an important utterance: then you do need to engage with us Lisa. As she says it, she opens her palms and slaps her hands on her lap. You know how serious it has been and we really dont want to be going to cp. The mother drops her head and looks noticeably concerned – slightly disengaging from the FSW with this movement.

24 Example 1 FSW, in response to the young mothers body talk, she softens and lowers her voice, and places a hand gently on Lisas knee, which causes Lisa to lift her head and resume eye contact. The FSWs body talk is complemented by reassuring words: But I am really pleased Lisa, you have looked at it [the issues], you have known that this place [house] wasnt right and you have done something about it and thats really good. I am pleased. The service user responds to the praise and smiles and then starts to talk about the steps shes taken to secure another property – there was excitement and achievement in her voice.

25 Touch and the body Touch increases the level of presence provides the means to experience it[touch] directly. The use of body in interaction feels good Our ability and insistence on co-ordinating our body actions with those of others lies at the heart of our sociability (Boden and Molotch, 1994 p. 263).

26 Example 2: NQSW Field notes 25. Feb. 2011 This is the second time that I have observed a meeting in connection with this mother and baby. The baby is now in foster care on a voluntary basis having been separated from the mother a few days after the birth – a plan for reunification is in place. This is the young mothers first child – the mother has enduring mental health problems. Outside the meeting, I speak with the mother and the mental health support worker – the mother is suspicious of the social worker – she doesnt quite believe that they are going to go ahead with the reunification.

27 The meeting The meeting commences – it is a contact planning meeting. How will contact which is essential to the reunification plan be managed over the Xmas period – a sensitive and difficult topic. Two NQSWs are convening the meeting, one will chair and the other take notes. Just prior to the start of the meeting as everyone is gathered in a circle of chairs, the female NQSW who is herself noticeably pregnant and the designated note taker, asks the mother if shed like to hold the baby during the meeting, she goes over to the foster carers and picks up the baby from his chair and hands the baby to the mother... the two young women momentarily exchange smiles and share in a moment of mutual delight in the new baby – there is a moment of felt intensity in the room given the significance of this gesture and movement,

28 Field note continued: I spoke with the young mother again after the meeting, after she had handed the baby back – she seemed hopeful – smiling, fingers crossed. Here we see compassion as a thoroughly embodied social action, realised in and through worker and service-user co-presence. Laughter, breath, smiles, gaze as well as words create moments of mutual intensity between workers, children and parents which elude easy description, but still reverberate beyond the moment. They leave, as Thrift describes (2000, p.214), a trace of invisible dust, still singing, still dancing.

29 Co-presence when bodies come into contact in this way – the communicative potential is huge... We cannot approximate this exchange through mediated communication. Actions of trust building, the communication of affective warmth, are difficult to simulate at a distance. Cues of physical movement, eye contact, facial expression and body orientation relay substantive meaning themselves (Boden and Molotch, p.260)

30 References Boden, D. and Molotch, H. L. (1994) The compulsion of Proximity, in R. Friedland and D. Boden (eds) NowHere: Space, Time and Modernity, University of California Press, California. Davidson, J. and Milligan, C. (2004) ' Embodying Emotion, Sensing Space: introducing emotional geographies', Social and Cultural Geography, 5:4, 523- 532 Ferguson, H.(2011) Ferguson, H. (2011) Child Protection Practice,Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan Goffman, E. (1963) Behavior in public places. New York: The Free Press. Haimes, E. (2002).What can the social sciences contribute to the study of ethics? Theoretical, empirical and substantive considerations. Bioethics, 6(2), 89-113. Jupp, E. (2008) The feeling of participation: Everyday spaces and urban change, Geoforum, 39(1), pp. 331– 343

31 Katz, C. 2001: Vagabond capitalism and the necessity of social reproduction. Antipode 33 (4), 709–28 Sayer, A. (2011) Why Things Matter to People ; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Serres, M. (2008) The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies. London: Continuum. Thrift N, (2000) ``Afterwords'' Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18, pp 213- 255 Thrift, N (2004) Intensities of Feeling: towards a spatial politics of affect, Geografiska Annaler · 86 B (1) 57-78 Urry, J. (2003) Social Networks, Travel and Talk, British Journal of Sociology Vol. No. 54 (2) pp. 155–175 Zhao, S. (2003) Taxonomy of Co-Presence, Presence Vol. 12, No. 5, Pages 445-455

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