, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 265-278
Date: 19 Sep 2009

From the dialogic to the contemplative: a conceptual and empirical rethinking of online communication outcomes as verbing micro-practices

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Abstract

Traditional approaches to studying communication in public spheres draw upon a product or outcome orientation that has prevented researchers from theorizing more specifically about how communication behaviors either inhibit or facilitate dialogic processes. Additionally, researchers typically emphasize consensus as a preferred outcome. Drawing upon a methodology explicitly developed to study communicating using a verb-oriented framework, we analyzed 1,360 postings from online pedagogical discussions. Our analysis focused on verbing micro-practices, the dynamic communicative actions through which participants make and unmake public spheres. Two questions guided our analysis: (1) How do grounded communicative micro-moment practices relate to consensusing and dissensusing within public spheres? and (2) What are the theoretical implications of these relationships for the quality of dialogue among participants who are discussing controversial topics? Our findings indicate that, contrary to recent theorizing, consensus-building and maintaining behaviors may actually inhibit the communicative processes necessary for the creation of effective public sphere dialogue.

The study reported here is drawn from and involves reanalysis of the senior author’s doctoral dissertation; the junior author served as dissertation advisor. A previous, refereed version of this paper was presented at the International Communication Association annual meeting, San Diego, CA, May 23–27, 2003