Of course, one may argue that the question is not a real one, since during the first and the third episodes there is no real communication among all discussants. However, ‘not-reacting-to-a-request’ or ‘not-participating-actively-for-a-while’ are two behaviors that are inherent to synchronous discussions. Moreover, these behaviors are communicative in the sense that they are posted on a shared object, the argumentative map, and each of the participants intends to convey a message. Even in the third episode duringwhich Fatima and Rim remained silent, they are not really out: in her auto-confrontation, Fatimamakes clear that she wanted her silence to be posted on Ahmad’s face! Fatima is ‘in’, attentive to Ahmad’s moves and eager to convey her anger. So, what kept the group together in this weird communication?
We saw that the nature of tools for synchronous discussion enables to communicate differently from in face-to-face communication. The discussionmap shows all previousmoves, their authors, aswell as the interlocutors to which theywere directed. Discussants use themap to reason, as well as to communicate. For example, Ahmad selected two contributions by Rim, one recent and one remote, to point at some inconsistency. And this map is always present, even for participants who are silent.
The growingmapmediates the interpretations of the discussants in awaywhich is radically different from face-to-face settings. In face-to-face interaction, interpretations are updated at any moment and adjacent interventions influence more interlocutors than non-adjacent ones. In contrast, at the time an actor intervenes in synchronous discussions, he and his interlocutors can see the traces of a whole history. Their interpretations at any time of the discussion are sometimes mediated by previous misunderstandings inscribed in the map, and the discussants cannot instantaneously dissipate misunderstandings as easily as in face-to-face interactions through facial expressions or intonation. The big discrepancies in emotional states— satisfaction against anger, disappointment or boredom against interest, suggest that the map hosted unshared cohabitating misunderstandings. Each participant seemed isolated, the presence of the other being transient, as the traces inscribed represent actions that already happened, and those actions may not be backed by what the other does or does not do here and now.
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