Volume 6, No. 2, Art. 2 – May 2005

Conference Report:

Daniel Domínguez Figaredo & Laura Alonso Díaz

II Online Congress for the Observatory of the Cybersociety: Towards what Knowledge Society? 2-14 November, 2004, Official Website: http://www.cibersociedad.net/congreso2004/

Abstract: This report summarizes the efforts of the working group coordinated by the authors titled "Learning Communities around Virtual Forums," linked to the II Online Congress for the Observatory of the Cybersociety: Towards what Knowledge Society? First we analyze the gestation process of the congress and of the previously mentioned working group. Next, we focus on the specific goals of the working group and on the conclusions of the discussion that focused on qualitative methods applied to virtual communities. Basically, the working group attempted to address the following issues: (1) instructional design influencing learning groups in cyberspace; (2) dynamization strategies in communities of practice with a training character; (3) influence of moderators-tutors in the negotiation of meanings; (4) the process of decision making and problem solution in forums; (5) promotion of collaborative learning in forums; (6) communities of learning with an open character (informal) versus closed ones (formal): educational derivations. We also present discussions about qualitative research applied to virtual communities. The special types of interaction in the working group, according to the cyberspace, defined the debates about communication dynamics in the context of virtual communities. Finally, we summarize the conclusions regarding the suitability of the qualitative approach in virtual forum analysis, the required definition of learning communities as a framework to analyze it, and the qualitative strategies centered on the participation and the textual data to be used in interaction process in cyberspace (specially the ethnography, netnography and content analysis).

Key words: cyberspace, virtual communities, virtual forums, learning, qualitative methods

Table of Contents

1. Context

2. Communities of Learning Around Virtual Forums

3. Virtual Communities and Qualitative Analysis

4. Discussion

Appendix 1: Supra-groups and Work Groups

Appendix 2: Plenary Conferences

Appendix 3: Accepted Papers for the Working Group "Learning Communities around Virtual Forums"





1. Context

During the second quarter of 2004, the Observatory of the Cybersociety called for the "II Online Congress for the Observatory of the Cybersociety: Towards what society of the knowledge?" This call included papers from different knowledge domains to create working groups (WG) that tried to answer to the central question of the congress: towards what society of the knowledge? There was an incredibly high response from the international scientific community; thus allowing for the establishment of 92 WG with a heterogeneous thematic content. [1]

Once WGs were accepted, the congress organization incorporated the coordinators of every WG to manage the operative subjects of the congress in a dynamic working way. One of the first initiatives taken as a result of this collaboration was to restructure the WGs into supra-groups that represented the major thematic areas of the congress. The supra-groups aimed to answer towards "what society of the knowledge" from areas such as psychology, sociology, education, town planning, economy, and cyber-culture. Altogether 10 supra-groups were organized:

The community of coordinators-organizers oversaw the event that ultimately had 4,181 participants. Another task was structuring and giving contents to the working areas during the congress. For that, it was decided to support the participation of two types of contributions and the debates that arose from them. Congress members could send communications to the WGs closer to their area of research. Or distinguished researchers were called to defend plenary communications in the fields represented by the supra-groups (see the Appendix 2 for the list of the plenary communications). Every WG had a website where congress members could discuss the contents of the communications through virtual forums. The forums maintained discussions associated with every communication accepted by the WG, and it was also possible to open new discussions not included in the communications. The same system of virtual forums was applied for the discussion of the plenary conferences. Authors could defend their points of view and submit them to the judgment of the congress members through deferred (asynchronous) textual exchanges. [3]

In addition, during the last days of the event new thematic forums were set in order to carry out an evaluation of the congress by the congress members themselves. The information of those forums is currently being analyzed and it will be the basis in configuring future congress organized by the Observatory of the Cybersociety. [4]

2. Communities of Learning Around Virtual Forums

The WG on "Learning Communities around Virtual Forums" we—the authors of this report—coordinated was placed in the supra-group "Towards new ways of learning?" and it had as a main goal to analyze and discuss the training possibilities of learning communities created in cyberspace. For this task it utilized numerous theoretical approaches:

As an initial reflection, we can consider that the WG itself had been configured as a virtual community of training informally defined; which grouped together 533 interested subjects in the same thematic proposal. [6]

The main idea of the WG was to analyze learning communities configured around asynchronous tools of communication, and more specifically, around virtual forums in cyberspace. However, communications and debates centered on the possibilities of other tools of synchronous communication, as chats or video-conferences via Internet Protocol, were also accepted (see the Appendix 3). Altogether, there were 8 communications accepted that dealt with aspects of using online working communities for career development, collaborative learning communities, or theorizing about approaches that sustained proposals of online training. Each communication had its own thematic forum where the congress members could discuss ideas presented in the articles. [7]

Besides the thematic forums of the communications, we as the coordinators of the WG, set new conversations with different thematic proposals. The goal of those forums was to deepen the analysis of the tool "virtual forum" with those groups of individuals who interact using virtual forums with an educational purpose. At the end of the congress the WG gathered 21 forums on many other different subjects. [8]

3. Virtual Communities and Qualitative Analysis

"Virtual Communities and Qualitative Analysis" was the title of the forum of the WG that dealt with qualitative analysis of virtual communities, construed very broadly. The initial questions suggested by the coordinators of the WG where set off from the discussion of MAYANS' book (2002) and GARRIDO's work (2003), intending to obtain answers to the following questions:

From those premises, it was articulated a discussion that had as central spots the following ones:

4. Discussion

The organizers of this congress value the event as a great success, not only because of the high number of participants, but also for the quality of contributions. Although the congress has yet to become an established annual event, future scientific meetings developed in cyberspace and organized by the Observatory of the Cybersociety are foreseen. [11]

Given the possibilities of qualitative approaches applied to the analysis of virtual forums, there are some points to discuss:

Appendix 1: Supra-groups and Work Groups

Toward New Ways of Learning

Toward New Ways of Communication

Towards New Ways of Production

Toward New Knowledge Paradigms

Toward New Social Paradigms

Toward New Territories

Toward a Critical Use of Technology

Toward a New Culture

Toward a New Democracy

Toward a More Participative Society

Appendix 2: Plenary Conferences

Knowledge: Basic Axle for a Proposal of Indicators of Local Development in the Society of the Information
Susana Finquelievich

Spain in the Society of Information: The International Context
Jose Manuel Cerezo (Foundation Auna)

Is the Internet Entering in the Spanish Enterprise with a Shoehorn?
Sea Monsoriu (Latency, SL)

The Web as Virtuous/Vicious Ecosystem
Alejandro Piscitelli (Educ.ar)

The Technological Transfusion: Old Institutions, New Blood, Renewed Hearts. Distance Education in Change
Tiberio Feliz Murias (UNED)

The Century of Abundance: Economy, Sociology, and Policy of the Intoxication Era Jose Cervera (El Mundo—Navegante)

The Government in Practice: The Open Administration of Catalunya
Ignasi Albors—(AOC)

Treatment of Cyber-crimes in the Spanish Organic Law 15/2.003, the Reform of the Criminal Code
Carlos Sánchez Almeida

The Internets in the Face of the Society of the Information
Víctor Domingo (Association of Internautas)

Toward a Society of Innovation
Artur Serra (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)

Appendix 3: Accepted Papers for the Working Group "Learning Communities around Virtual Forums"

Design of Collaborative Working Spaces into the Colombia National University of Manizales
Alonso Tamayo Alzate & Johnny Tamayo (Colombia)

Learning into Virtual Environments
Natalia Garzón Rodríguez (Spain)

Virtual Forums to Improve the Teaching Function of Teaching Communities
Angel Emilio Castañeda Hevia & Lidia Ruiz Ortiz (Cuba)

Dynamic Interaction in a Virtual Forum of a Teachers Practice Community Given Online Courses
Juan Pablo Torres Herrera (Mexico)

Competences and Collaborative Learning Development: Rur@lnet, the Offer of the Oviedo University to G9's CVC
Esther Del Moral & Lourdes Villalustre Martinez (Spain)

Teachers' Virtual Community to Training in Learning Informatics Environments
Bettina Steren Dos Santos (Brazil) & María del Pilar Vidal Puga (Spain)

Collaborative Development Processes in Research Projects as a Student Behavior
Alexandre Sousa & Alexandre Miguel Dos Rios Paulo (Portugal)

Learning Communities for Monitors Training
Julieta Mónica Hernández Hernández (Mexico)


Bandura, Albert (1987). Teoría del aprendizaje social. Espasa: Madrid.

Garrido, Antoni (2003). El aprendizaje como identidad de participación en la práctica de una comunidad virtual [On-line]. Available: http://www.uoc.edu/in3/dt/20088/index.html [Access: 15/7/2004].

Mayans, Joan (2002). Género chat. O cómo la etnografía puso un pie en el ciberespacio. Barcelona: Gedisa.

Parsons, Talcott (1968). La estructura de la acción social. Barcelona: Guadarrama.

Rheingold, Howard (1994). The virtual community. Homesteading in the electronic frontier. New York: Harper Perennial.

Senge, Peter M. (1993). La quinta disciplina. Barcelona: Granica.

Smith, Marc A. & Kollock, Peter (Eds.) (2003). Comunidades en el ciberespacio. Barcelona: UOC.

Vygotsky, Lev (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wenger, Etienne (2001). Comunidades de práctica. Aprendizaje, significado e identidad. Barcelona: Paidós.


Daniel DOMÍNGUEZ FIGAREDO has a degree in Teaching and Education. At present, he develops his educational and investigative work in the UNED. His lines of research are concerned with the social-educative implications of the TIC and cyberspace. His latest work has involved analyzing the virtual forums of training character from heterogeneous perspectives, such as qualitative approaches and the analysis of social networks. He is FQS Associate Editor Latin America.


Daniel Domínguez Figaredo

UNED – Facultad Educación
Dpto. Didáctica, OE y DDEE
C/ Senda del Rey, 7
28040 – Madrid, Spain

E-mail: ddominguez@madrid.uned.es


Laura ALONSO DÍAZ has a degree in Psycho-pedagogy and Social Education. Among her academic activities are the tutorship of virtual courses at the University of Extremadura. Her research activities are focused on aspects of the training of tutors of virtual teaching.


Laura Alonso Díaz

Universidad de Extremadura
Dpto. Ciencias de la Educación
Avda Elvas s/n 06071 – Badajoz, Spain

E-mail: laulonso@unex.es


Domínguez Figaredo, Daniel & Alonso Díaz, Laura (2005). Conference Report: II Online Congress for the Observatory of the Cybersociety: Towards what Knowledge Society? [12 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2), Art. 2, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs050221.

Revised 3/2007

Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (FQS)

ISSN 1438-5627

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