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Meet James

--> Read about James's proposed research here <--

Hi fellow webheads

I'm James Simpson, and I've recently joined Webheads (JamesSi on the TappedIn sessions, together with a nice banana icon). As well as being a PhD student I am also an English language teacher with 12 years' varied experience in Greece, Saudi Arabia (Aramco) and the UK.

I'm first and foremost an English Language teacher, with an interest in - but little expertise in - learning and teaching with the help of technology. I'm currently taking time out from teaching to carry out research (at the University of reading, UK) into the discourse of computer-mediated communication. I'm interested in the way we all use language when communicating in real-time chat. That's one reason why I'm so pleased to be a Webhead.

The other reason is that it allows me to get to know some very interesting people in this global village of ours. At the moment I'm trying to take part in as many Sunday lunchtime (lunchtime where I am, anyway) chats as time allows. Sometimes it's not easy to make it, but we can try!

Part of my research involves looking at the logs of our chats. I'm very keen to share all my work with fellow webheads, and will try to put any papers, articles, etc. on the website (Vance: I might need some help with that!) Send me an email if you want to know more about the research.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible on the Sunday sessions, and to talking again soon.

Before I forget: Happy birthday to Sharell and all others who've recently celebrated their birthdays.

All the best


On October 20, 2001, James wrote again:

It's a great shame I won't be able to join all the Sunday chats. In my case it is because of family commitments (I have a seven-year-old son, Joe, and a beautiful fiancee, Mary. We're getting married next Summer.) Sunday lunchtimes are fairly sacrosanct in the UK. I'm always intrigued to think what other webheads would be doing at exactly that time (12.00GMT on a Sunday) if they weren't logged on to TappedIn (sleeping? working?). Anyway, I'll get to as many chats as I can, and I always enjoy reading the logs. Last Sunday's session sounded a lot of fun.

It's been good to hear from webheads I haven't met. Breaking the silence occasionally is a very good idea. This is my first experience as part of a global web-based community, and it really is one of the most interesting things I've done. To be honest, I find it somewhat daunting (especially getting to grips with the technology). But although it's quite difficult to get used to, the rewards are enormous. For someone like me (an English teacher who finds the ways we use language endlessly fascinating), to be part of a multi-modal virtual online community is (IMHO) to be viewing the future. Since I've been finding out about Webheads (joining in with the TappedIn summer fair, having a look at the stuff on the website, actually becoming a webhead, joining the chats and receiving all these messages) I've begun to realise the potential we have to use the technology for aims that go far beyond a narrow view of studying English.

Vance: I'd very much like to be there for the ELTOC on 11 November. You also mentioned that you'd like a co-presenter for the Abu Dhabi conference on 7/8 November. I'd be very happy to help out. You'll have to tell me what's involved, though. And thanks for the website. One of my resolutions is now to work out how to get a photo of myself and the family onto it.

In the next day or two, I'll post a message explaining the research I'm doing in some more detail, for those of you who are interested. Until then, all my best wishes to you all

James travels, too. This is from his message Jan 23, 2002:

I'm sorry to have missed you in the past couple of weeks at Tapped In. I have very much enjoyed reading about the adventures and celebrations of webheads; a lot of people are on the move these days. ... India ... Texas-Aggie-land ... Susanne's Bernt in Lanzarote... I have been telling friends about the scheme in Susanne's municipality where they send all the 67+ year-olds on holiday for a fortnight. It's a wonderful idea. Something similar happens in the town and municipality of Mijas on the Costa del Sol, southern Spain. In the past thirty years or so, the people of Mijas have become quite wealthy one way or another, mostly through tourism, and their pensioners get a free annual holiday as well.

I will miss next Sunday's chat, and Arthur's TESOL workshop as well, I'm afraid, as I'm travelling also. I'm going to Austria for the first time in my life, to the city of Salzburg (for a conference on multi-modal discourse, for those who are interested). It's where Mozart was born, and even though he hated the place and couldn't wait to get away, there is quite a Mozart industry there, I believe. I'll let you know when I return. I'll bring back some apfelstrudel or some Salzburg speciality to pass around when we next meet.

I'm going to Austria for the first time in my life, to the city of Salzburg (for a conference on multi-modal discourse, for those who are interested). It's where Mozart was born, and even though he hated the place and couldn't wait to get away, there is quite a Mozart industry there, I believe. I'll let you know when I return. I'll bring back some apfelstrudel or some Salzburg speciality to pass around when we next meet.

Prior to a presentation, May 28, 2002:

I'm giving a talk to a research group at my university later this week on the subject of electronic literacy. One of the things I'm going to mention is how new forms of written discourse are emerging which go beyond a hybrid of speaking and writing. I'm illustrating the point with this short stretch from the Webheads chat logs, which you might be interested in:

MargaretD says, "not much..ask Vance Phil"
PhilB [WebTeach] looks pointedly at big V.
JamesSi asks, "big V??"
DianneA . o O ( still reading??!! that's what happens with research results .. )
VanceS [Webhead] while typing becomes aware of a glare coming from somewhere

I draw attention to the commands by Phil and Vance which are sent in the third person, representing features of non-spoken face-to-face communication. Also, Dianne has used the command 'think', so her turn appears inside a cartoon 'think' bubble.

To Phil, Maggi and Vance, I hope you don't mind if I use your 'turns'. And to everyone, I think it's good to be living through a time when not only is the gap between speaking and writing getting smaller and smaller, but also new ways of using the language are emerging. And even better is being able to try it all out with the Webheads :-)


From Sophie Cholewka, 21 May 2003

Hi Vance & All,

Re: WorldCall 2003 Conference in Banff in May

James Simpson ( the University of Reading presented a study of some discourse characteristics of an online language learning community. His research findings were supported by a corpus of naturally-occurring data from the synchronous text-based chat forum of "Webheads". The study demonstrated the extent to which human interaction is affected by technological means in a new environment. It was proposed that elements of the discourse structure of synchronous computer-mediated communication promote online language learning and electronic literacy development.

Regards, Sophie Cholewka, Melbourne Australia

26 May 2003 James writes on return home from WorldCALL 2003

Hi to all

I recently returned from the World CALL 2003 conference in Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, where I gave a paper on discourse and the Webheads group. It was great to see that our fellow Webhead Sophie was in the audience. I also got to have a good long chat to Claire Bradin Siskin, wo often joins us for the Sunday chats.

Banff is a truly stunning place, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I managed to get away from the conference on a couple of occasions and went birdwatching with Paul Bangs. He took some fantastic photos, which you can find on his website at

Shun was asking whether it is possible to read the presentation. No – but if I have time I’ll write it up and submit it for the special issue of ReCALL journal dedicated to papers from the conference. I’ll let you know.

As soon as I got back from Canada, my family and I went to Spain, to visit my wife’s parents. I’ve just got back, and am catching up on emails. It’s nice to have a rest from emails and the internet for a while, but hard work when you return to them.

Best wishes to all Webheads, old and new.


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Last updated: May 29, 2003, in Hot Metal Pro 6.0