Object-related and multimodal forms of persuasion. The case of “Taferln” (small cardboard signs) in Austrian TV election debates
Austrian TV debates are held as roundtable talks with little formal rules, in particular the use of documents and objects brought along is not prohibited. This paper deals with the persuasive use and situated history of “Taferln” (small cardboard signs) during the 15 one-on-one encounters produced live by the Austrian public service broadcaster ORF before the general election in 2013. The video data were coded in terms of object use, relevant sections further transcribed and evaluated in conjunction with the journalistic picture direction and camera work. The findings show that politicians employed “Taferln” in 12 broadcasts, usually to be seen in close-up on the TV screen, suggesting that “Taferln” are an established means in Austrian political discourse to argue and persuade. The qualitative analysis describes in detail how “Taferln” provide communicative benefits in the conversational situation: how “Taferln” can be used to refute statements of the counter party, how conversational roles are performatively constituted based on object use, and how affordances of the material objects are strategically exploited for persuasive action.