The concept of omnirelevance in Membership Categorisation Analysis refers to participants invoking categories that reflexively treat the understanding of particular interactional moments as controlled by the context of the current activity. This concept is of fundamental value to the analysis of computer-mediated communication (CMC), as it relates directly to the field’s fundamental interest in exploring how technology effects interaction. When interacting via technology, the affordances of that technology are materially inescapable and thus potentially contextually controlling. However, the control of technology over interaction is not absolute. The affordances of technology are materially inescapable but their relevance as a semiotic resource is a matter for participants. Ian Hutchby (2001a, 2001b, 2003) calls this ‘technologised interaction’.
In this chapter I explore examples of how couples cope with audio and video distortions in video calling. The data show that in the face of distortion the couples treat the relationship and technology as omnirelevant (i.e., controlling) devices deployable in a fluid interdependence that differs with respect to how audio distortions and video distortions potentially affect conversational continuity. When coping with audio distortions, relational and technological omnirelevance are used as an organisational feature to disambiguate the potential source of trouble in repairs. Coping with video distortions is shown to involve an orientation to expressive possibilities of relational and technological omnirelevance.
Omnirelevance, I argue, is a central feature of technologised interaction. While video calling couples are engaged first and foremost to the social activity of doing being couples, their efforts to maintain conversational continuity in the face of distortions orient to doing being a couple in a video call.