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Finn Bostad (Norway)

 

Finn Bostad[i] teaches scientific writing at the department of Applied Linguistics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. In his teaching he seeks always to integrate the use of networked information and communication technologies. Since 1996 he has been developing Internet and web-based curricula for courses in Hypermedia in the Humanities, in Information Technology, Communication and Learning, and in Information Technology in Language Teaching. He is currently involved in several national and transnational projects evaluating the application and functionality of new information and communication technologies (ICT) in the humanities, amongst others the Lingo Project[ii], Meaning-Making in Hypermedia, Distance Education in Applied Linguistics and Network-based Language Learning. Some of his more recent publications are available via the Internet: What happens to writing when texts in ‘a world on paper’ are replaced by messages in ‘virtual space’? (1994); Hypertekst og meningsskapende systemer [Hypertext and Meaning-Making Systems] (1997); IKT som samhandlingsteknologi - en rapport [ICT as co-operational technology - a report] (1998); IKT og ny lĺringskultur [ICT and new learning culture] (1997).

 

His contribution Dialogue In Asynchronous Online Writing builds on empirical research carried out over several years into information and communication technologies as technologies of collaboration, and their role in the creation of networked communities for the sharing and development of knowledge. A central hypothesis of this study is that new information and communication technologies may make it possible to transfer the ownership of knowledge from the individual to the collective via the creation of extended networks of interdependent human relations. Rather than writing with the computer, Finn is studying interpersonal collaboration mediated by the computer: writing through the computer. The networked world of the Internet has two faces: on the one hand it is a cultural arena coloured by a philosophy of openness and free communication which encourages and promotes collaboration and sharing, and on the other, by competition and economic struggle for global and local dominance, especially in terms of rights to various kinds of web content and other informational resources. The increasing use of computers and networked digital technologies in human communication is changing the time and space of dialogue. This is moving us into an environment where many kinds of information are becoming more easily changeable and reusable, and this creates a new cultural potential, where messages, texts and net identities are increasingly unstable.

 

This networked world creates new rooms for collaboration between people, who sometimes never actually meet one another in real life, but who nonetheless over time develop close working and personal relationships. But in this kind of context, what becomes of the relationship between language, text and subject? What of the relationship between the self and other? What of the relationship between artefact and object? Finn’s study, which involved students enrolled in university courses, parts of which were conducted online, looked at how the students used language and writing online to create a professional (student) identity; how it was used heuristically in their problem-solving work; to what extent it was used to discuss professional or personal matters; and to what extent it was used phatically to maintain contact with one other. Interestingly, it emerges from this research that it can take considerable time and effort to create a real sense of community online. A key factor in this process is the construction of a common understanding of dialogue as active participation and knowledge-sharing. In distance education settings of this kind, it appears that participants, especially those who are older, need to learn over time to evaluate other participants as equally relevant dialogue partners and informational resource providers as the teacher. When they begin to do so, then the speed of response to each others’ messages, coupled with a generous sharing of information with other participants are key factors in the further construction of a successful dialogue culture over time.

 



[i] Finn Bostad’s faculty homepage is at: http://www.hf.ntnu.no/anv/Finnbo/index.html, and he may be contacted by e-mail at: <finn.bostad@hf.ntnu.no>

[ii] The national Lingo Project website is at: http://cmc.uib.no/~lingo/

 


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