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Synthesizing the face-to-face experience: e-learning practices and the constitution of place online

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Author(s): J. Maintz

Journal: Social Geography (SG)
ISSN 1729-4274

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2008;
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ABSTRACT
In this article, I observe the relational production of place online through the mobile practices of an e-learning course that combined interactions in physical and online environments. I use actor-network theory as analytical framework to explore element interrelations of this e-learning course, an International Cooperation project organized by Capacity Building International (InWEnt). The course involved participants from African, Asian, European, and Latin American countries. This transnational program included travel from different continents to Germany and South Africa for the participation in face-to-face workshops as well as online interactions. Face-to-face encounters strongly affected e-learning interactions. I show how course participants introduced face-to-face experiences online through associative impulses. I identify these associations that were contributed as texts to online forums as enactments of Law and Mol's concept of "fire space". Fire spatial impulses functioned as compensatory practices with respect to scarce sensory and symbolic information in online environments. Social cues associated with the sensory and symbolic information from physical spaces that learners introduced online highlighted the decisive role of face-to-face social stimuli in the constitution of online places. Results are based on ethnographic participation in the observed e-learning course.
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