Networked Learning Conference 2010 
Home > Kehrwald


Logos for Lancaster University, Glasgow Caledonian, The Open University, Aalborg University

Democratic Rationalisation on the Network: Social Presence and Human Agency in Networked Learning

Benjamin Kehrwald
Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand


This paper presents the findings of an exploratory study into learners' experiences with social presence and technology-mediated social processes. The presentation addresses three key questions: (a) Do learners in technology-mediated learning situations experience social presence as a property of media or as a feature of human activity and agency? (b) How does social presence operate within the tension between technological determinisms and human agency to promote productive learning activity? (c)What are the implications for the design, development and use of technology-mediated learning situations in networked learning?

The findings from this study highlight the subjective nature of social presence and, in particular, the role of human agency (as a form of subjectivity) in the establishment, development and operation of social presence. Three key features of social presence emerged from the findings: First, it is demonstrative insofar as it premised upon an individual's ability to make observable demonstrations of presence and project her/himself into a technology-mediated social situation. Second, it is dynamic in the sense that a participant's social presence fluctuates based on the number, frequency and quality of interactions. Third, it is cumulative insofar as it is based upon ongoing demonstrations of presence which produce a sense of continuity in others' experience of an individual's social presence. In this view, social presence represents an example of democratic rationalization by users of networked environments to overcome the technological determinism of the environments. This view contrasts historical perspectives which emphasise the role of media and technologies in determining social presence and sociability of technology-mediated spaces. These findings contribute not only to understanding of the operation of social processes in technology-mediated networked learning situations, but also to the broader understandings of the operation of networked learning systems. In particular, they reinforce the notion that social presence can be cultivated and the ability to do so must be learned. This point has important implications for the development and support of networked learning systems and consideration for the cultivation of skills required for successful networked learning. Similarly there are implications for the development of skills related to the wider uses of technology and the role of human agency in the ongoing evolution and use of technologies.


Full Paper - .pdf




| About NLC | Welcome Messages| Acknowledgwments | Conference Proceedings| Keynote Speakers| Index of Presenting Authors| Contact |