Social presence in online multimodal communication: A framework to analyse online interactions between language learners

Satar, Hatice Müge (2011). Social presence in online multimodal communication: A framework to analyse online interactions between language learners. PhD thesis The Open University.



New technologies permeate every aspect of life, not least human communication. Collaboration and social interaction have become buzz words in online communication and education mediated by Web 2.0 technologies and inspired by socio-constructivist theories of learning. Social presence theory explores this mediation through which individuals project themselves socially and emotionally into the community (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 1999). Understanding the experience of social presence is crucial for its strategic use in online learning, while the pivotal role of communication makes social presence an indispensable component of language teaching. Although social presence theory has evolved from a media richness view as a quality of the media (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976) to a relational view as a quality of relational aspects of communication (Kehrwald, 2008), the multimodal nature of new technologies has not previously been explored. Social presence research has also largely ignored the role of language (verbal or nonverbal, native or foreign) on the mediation process.

This exploratory case study investigates social presence in dyadic online foreign language interaction via desktop videoconferencing (DVC) between trainee language teachers. Multiple data sources (DVC recordings, interviews, questionnaires) are qualitatively analysed, drawing on principles of thematic analysis, interactional linguistics and social semiotics. The findings highlight the need for workable methods, tools and theories to research and analyse multimodal online communication. Social presence theory is revised to accommodate multi modal foreign-language interactions, and to incorporate potential differences between the ways individuals intend to project themselves and the ways this projection might be perceived by others in the community. An original approach to analysing and classifying language-learner interactions is demonstrated. Pedagogical implications stress the skills required to support rewarding educational experiences for both learners and teachers. Despite the specific features of the case study; the findings--can be extrapolated to virtually all areas of online communication.

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