ERIC Number: ED454508
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1999-Jun-17
Reference Count: N/A
Affordances and Constraints of Electronic Discussions.
Hunt, Russell A.
The most common consequence of setting up an "electronic discussion group" for a university class or a group of faculty is a flurry of initial greetings followed by an enduring silence. Only a small proportion of computer users are active and sophisticated enough to read regularly and feel disposed to participate actively. Written discussion may itself be a contradiction in terms. Also, producing coherent discourse seems to require looking back at text that has already been produced. For a writer, part of the generative power of written text is to be always looking at the same ideas, in their particular situation, in a new way. Electronic discussion programs make it difficult for participants to build on the past, directing participants' attention relentlessly forward. There are at least three broad categories of discussion programs: "bulletin board" types, "newsreaders," and e-mail-based discussion lists. There are differences among these types, but in all three cases, when the messages are read is up to the reader. A program called HyperNews, under development at the University of Illinois, offers users a different, more immediately visual way of presenting the list of read and unread postings, based on the cross-platform flexibility and graphic capabilities of the World Wide Web and Web-browsing programs. Such programs make possible a number of activities that older programs for conducting, constructing, and recording text-based discussions do not. It seems a testable hypothesis that people participating in the rhetorical situation afforded by a program like HyperNews will invent a genre of discourse that will be perceptibly different from those invented in other situations. (NKA)
Descriptors: Communication Problems, Computer Mediated Communication, Discussion Groups, Electronic Mail, Higher Education, World Wide Web
For full text: http://www.stthomasu.ca/~hunt/hndraft.htm.
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A