The strength of cohesive ties

Understnading Learning in Virtual Worlds book coverI have a new, co-authored, book chapter out, which draws on data from the Schome Park Programme. This is the published version of a paper that Julia Gillen and I presented at the Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds (ReLIVE) conference in 2011.

It was an interesting chapter to write, because it draws on the same dataset as another chapter by the four of us  – Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island – but takes a different approach, focusing on community as much as on language.

Ferguson, R., Gillen, J., Peachey, A., & Twining, P. (2013). The strength of cohesive ties: discursive construction of an online learning community. In M. Childs, & A. Peachey (Eds.), Understanding Learning in Virtual Worlds (pp. 83-100). London, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht: Springer.


Learning takes place in a social context, shaping and shaped by discourses. In online projects such as the Schome Park Programme, these discourses are material semiotic practices that make use of writing and other manifestations of digital literacies. Discourses include traceable patterns with linguistic features of distinctive forms and functions. Employing a sociocultural perspective of discourse as mediated interaction, we identify use of register and cohesive ties as salient to the practices of learning communities. The study reported here focuses on two groups of teenagers, one a formal learning community based in the USA, the other a larger, online, informal learning community based in the UK. The groups were originally only weakly tied within a network, but aimed to work together within the virtual world environment, despite some different aims. Working with McMillan’s concept of community as characterised by spirit, authority, trade and art, we illustrate how misalignments in register and problems with cohesive ties can be associated with difficulties in the cooperative learning enterprise and we also make recommendations for future practice.


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