Synchronous e-discussions have become common social practices in and out of educational institutions. In comparison with face-to-face dialogs, synchronous discussions seem less propitious for learning. Yet, this social practice is extremely popular. Socio-cultural psychologists have suggested that intersubjectivity is central for maintenance of communication and for productive interaction in face-to-face social practices. In this paper we study how communication is maintained in synchronous discussions and whether intersubjectivity is reached in those discussions. Four university students used a CMC tool to discuss an educational issue on learning, teaching and moderation. One week after the discussion, each student was interviewed on his/her views on learning, teaching and moderation. Then, the technique of cued retrospective reporting was used to uncover how each student interpreted each move of the synchronous discussion. The cross analysis of the interviews and the cued retrospective reporting showed that actions were not co-ordinated. Agreements and disagreements were not shared, and the order of actions was quite whimsical. We conclude that intersubjectivity was not established. However, communication was maintained through a process of co-alienation - the juxtaposition of incompatible alignments of representations through a common external representation. Although co-alienation is problematic, we show that discussants could learn from the e-discussion.
- Peer argumentation