Participation and Alienation in Online Networked Learning: Social Affordances to find People and to build Social Capital

K. Kreijns, F. Van Acker, M. Vermeulen, H. van Buuren

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


    The success of informal learning in large online learning networks largely depends on the existence
    of a sound social space that encompasses the networks of interpersonal relationships each individual
    has formed within this space. These personal social networks form the social capital of the individual
    and it is through this social capital that social interaction becomes possible and, thus, learning and
    knowledge co-creation can occur. It would appear that the existence of social capital is self-evident in
    large online learning networks as these networks are meant to connect people. However, online
    learning networks depend on technological systems that are incapable of transferring all the
    awareness cues necessary for finding people and feeling a sense of social presence. In this sense
    technological systems may hinder the development of a social space and the growth of social capital.
    Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the technological systems incorporate social affordances –
    subsystems or widgets that compensate for the missing awareness information. At the same time they
    should provide mechanisms to get into contact with others and to share information. In this position
    paper we propose that these social affordances should orient towards promoting impromptu
    encounters, social navigation, and social browsing. Social affordances that enable people to
    experience a psychological proximity (in contrast with physical proximity) with each other will
    facilitate impromptu or chance encounters which will in turn lead to in increased probability of
    meeting people. Social affordances not only are important to get in contact with people but also
    because of the informal conversations that arise from these meetings. Through these conversations, a
    person meets new people and maintains old contacts as well as gets information that may contribute
    to learning. Social navigation is the process in which people use other people (direct social
    navigation) or other people's traces (indirect social navigation) to find other people, perhaps the ones
    who possess expert knowledge and from who they may learn a lot. Social browsing is using
    directories of people (the social 'yellow pages') for browsing through the user profiles stored in these
    directories to find other people that have similar interests or other commonalities that are important.
    Ultimately, social affordances enable individuals to participate in online networked learning and
    experience the social presence of all other members of the network who may become part of the
    individuals’ personal social capital. Without these affordances, individuals may feel isolated and
    alone and, thus, alienated in these large online learning networks.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    Event8th International Conference on Networked Learning - Maastricht School of Management, Maastricht, Netherlands
    Duration: 2 Apr 20124 Apr 2012


    Conference8th International Conference on Networked Learning
    Internet address


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