Forthcoming: Holisms of communication: The early history of audio-visual sequence analysis

James McElvenny   Andrea Ploder  


A central pillar of contemporary communication research is the analysis of filmed interactions between people. The techniques employed in such analysis first took on a recognizably modern form in the 1970s, but their roots go back to the earliest days of motion picture technology in the late nineteenth century. This book presents original essays accompanied by written responses which together create a dialogue exploring early efforts at audio-visual sequence analysis and their common goal to capture the "whole" of the communicative situation.

The first three chapters of this volume look at the film-based research of Gestalt psychologists in Berlin as well as psychologists in the orbit of Karl and Charlotte Bühler in Vienna in the first decades of the twentieth century. Most of these figures – along with many other Central European scholars of this era – were driven into exile in the United States after the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s. This scientific migration led to the cross-pollination of communication studies in America, an outcome visible in the leading project in interaction research of the mid-twentieth century, the Natural History of an Interview. The following two chapters examine this project in its historical context. The volume closes with a critical edition of a treasure from the archives: the transcript of a speech delivered by Ray Birdwhistell, a key participant in the Natural History of an Interview project and founder of kinesics.


  • Capturing the whole
    James McElvenny, Andrea Ploder
  • Kurt Lewin und Fritz Heider: Ihre Freundschaft, ihre Filme und ihre Theorien
    Helmut E. Lück
  • Feedback, Sozialkybernetik, Democratic Social Engineering. Kommentar zu Helmut Lück
    Clemens Knobloch
  • Kurt Lewin und Fritz Heider in der Vorgeschichte der US-Kommunikationswissenschaft
    Clemens Knobloch
  • Kurt Lewin’s wide-ranging influence on the history of qualitative research. Response to Helmut Lück and Clemens Knobloch
    Andrea Ploder
  • Hans Hermas Überlegungen zur Bildhaftigkeit des Films im Vergleich mit anderen Darstellungsformen – Vorstellung einer Arbeit aus den Forschungen zum Film am Wiener Institut für Psychologie in den 1930er Jahren
    Maria Czwik
  • Das nichtsprachliche Darstellungsmittel Film – Diskussionen am Wiener Psychologischen Institut. Kommentar zu Maria Czwik
    Janette Friedrich
  • Perception, awareness, and film practice: A natural history of the “Doris Film”
    Henning Engelke
  • A question of perspective. Response to Henning Engelke
    Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz
  • The NHI and visual anthropology. Response to Henning Engelke
    Adam Kendon
  • Film as Observation and Experiment. Response to Henning Engelke
    Seth Barry Watter
  • The Natural History of an Interview and the Microanalysis of Behavior in Social Interaction: A Critical Moment in Research Practice
    Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Adam Kendon
  • Histories of Progress and Media Histories. Response to Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz and Adam Kendon
    Seth Barry Watter
  • The Natural History of an Interview and the emergence of video-based multimodal studies of social interaction. Response to Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz and Adam Kendon
    Lorenza Mondada
  • Retracing “The Natural History of an Interview”. Response to Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz and Adam Kendon
    Henning Engelke
  • On some lessons of the NHI project and its forgotten holism of communication. Response to Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Adam Kendon and Henning Engelke
    H. Walter Schmitz
  • The heritage of the NHI. Response to H. Walter Schmitz
    Adam Kendon, Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz
  • Ray L. Birdwhistell, “Lecture at American Museum of Natural History, October 4, 1980”
    Seth Barry Watter


James McElvenny

James McElvenny is a researcher in the Collaborative Research Center 1187 "Media of Cooperation" at the University of Siegen. His research focuses on the history of the human sciences, in particular linguistics.

Andrea Ploder

Andrea Ploder is a researcher in the Collaborative Research Center 1187 "Media of Cooperation" at the University of Siegen and in the Department of History and Sociology at the University of Konstanz. Her research focuses on qualitative methodologies and history of the social sciences.


April 8, 2021
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