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Social work beyond the VDU: foregrounding co-presence in situated practice - why face-to-face practice matters

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>04/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>British Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Volume44
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)578-595
Publication statusPublished
Early online date1/09/12
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper foregrounds corporeal co-presence in social work and provides a detailed discussion of the value of face-to-face practices. Informed by an inter-disciplinary body of literature, the paper argues that the concept of co-presence has much to offer the community of social work practitioners and academics in England and Wales as we strive to reconfigure professional practice beyond the VDU (virtual display unit). Moreover, discussion is of broader relevance given international debates about the need to ensure an effective balance between face-to-face and other forms of mediated communication, particularly where practice deals with highly sensitive matters. First, a body of literature from a range of academic disciplines is reviewed that illustrates how and why co-present activity continues to feature centrally in social life. Attention focuses on the rich contextual detail afforded by corporeal co-presence, which is difficult to restore through mediated proximities. Second, the relevance of this body of work for social work practice is detailed. Theoretical arguments are then illustrated through three case examples drawn from ethnographic work. In grounding theoretical propositions through illustrative examples, our intention is to render explicit knowledge that inheres in our being, but is often out of view. The paper recommends that social work needs to reclaim its interactional expertise and foreground embodied ways of knowing.