Week 6: Communicating in CMCs
This week we discussed new literacy and social practices that have evolved as a result of digital communication. The concept that I was most interested in exploring was the idea of digital storytelling and remaining human in a digital environment. This idea directly related to the first of my exploratory questions for this course: ” How does computer mediated communication differ from face-to-face communication in the development of a community (of practice or of inquiry)?”
One of the biggest things to consider when moving from in-person to digital communication is the transactional distance between interlocutors. Many paralingual communication tools (body language, facial expressions, and even intonation and stress if the digital communication is text-based) are not available. The lack of these characteristics can dull participants humanness, which can result in a lower social presence and less cohesion between learners and learners and the instructor.
The Internet also provides a level of anonymity not available to people interacting in person. This characteristic of digital communication can be beneficial and empower silent learners to increase their participation and engage more in learning activities (see earlier discussions on Hyperpersonality. However, as we often see in social media conversations, this can also embolden people to shed traditional communication norms and act in ways that would be unacceptable in face-to-face communication. See Reddit or Twitter threads for examples.
Lowenthal and Dunlap suggest that the use of digital stories can re-humanize discourse and “break down the barriers that can get in the way of illuminating our humanness” (2010, p. 70). They focus on the use of stories for instructors to build social presence and for students to do the same. However, they also mention the use of digital storytelling as a tool to demonstrate learning and for reflection (p. 72).
The power of storytelling in learning is mirrored by the idea of constructing relational identity through storytelling in medical education (Warmington, 2019). Understanding learning to be a form of enculturation makes storytelling an obvious and important part of the learning experience because it is what allows learners to craft their identity as members of the community. I think this has really interesting implications for the use of digital storytelling in learning.
Lowenthal, P. R., & Dunlap, J. (2010). From pixel on a screen to real person in your students’ lives: Establishing social presence using digital storytelling. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1-2), 70-72. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.004
Warmington, S. (2019). Storytelling encounters as medical education : crafting relational identity / Sally G. Warmington. Abingdon, Oxon ;: Routledge.