By Mona Sakr

In imagined bodies, I talked about the way we make sense of digital communication and suggested that engaging with a blog depends on imagining the embodied actions of the blogger.

One way to think about this is through Sigrid Norris’s concept of frozen action, which she uses in order to frame the communicative work of disembodied modes. Disembodied modes are those that don’t belong to a human body e.g. writing or the organisation of furniture in this room. Norris argues that disembodied modes are understood through frozen action rather than real-time action. Frozen action is action that has been performed previously. For example, a magazine on a table is understood in relation to the actions of (1) purchasing the magazine and (2) placing the magazine on the table, although neither of those actions are currently taking place.

“These actions are frozen in the material objects themselves and are therefore evident.” (Norris, 2004, p. 14).

In this framework, disembodied systems of representation rely on deductions about embodied action. In digital environments, the perception of what others do will be based on assumptions about the embodied work underlying these events. Empirical research is needed to answer questions that arise as a result of this framework:

  • What kinds of deductions do we make about embodied work on the basis of digital communication?
  • To what extent are these deductions correct i.e. do they match the embodied work that did actually enable the digital communication?
  • What results from the way we imagine embodied work underlying digital communication e.g. does it influence the way we think about the person we are in communication with?


Norris, S. (2004) Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A methodological framework. New York: Routledge.