Istituto per le Tecnologie Didattiche     
Delfino M., Manca S. The expression of social presence through the use of figurative language in a web-based learning environment. In: Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 23 pp. 2190 - 2211. Elsevier Ltd, 2007.
The present paper's aim is to investigate how the participants of an online learning environment employed written language in a creative way through the spontaneous use of figurative language. The content analysis showed that figurative language was a means to express the social dimension either to refer to the self, feelings and emotions, or to conceptualize the components of the virtual learning setting. The research context was a 10-week course, delivered at a distance via a computer conferencing system, addressed to 57 student teachers. The analysis was carried out in the social and meta-cognitive reflection areas, those areas which are mainly related to the expression of the social dimension The study had three different purposes: to investigate the distribution of figurative language during the course length; to explore the relation between the participants' educational background and their use of figurative language, and to examine the relation between figurative language and the structure of the communication threads. The results indicate that participants tended to use figurative language more when meaningful or critical events happened. The higher the emotional involvement was, the more metaphorical language was adopted. Further results suggest that the adoption of figurative language seems to be related more to individual attitude, than to other factors such as educational background. Finally, figurative language occurrences were not concentrated in specific kinds of postings or threads and did not encourage further use of figurative language.
DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2006.03.001
Subject web-based learning
Social presence
Figurative language
Computer-mediated discourse

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