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Semantic network representation of computer-mediated discussions: Conceptual facilitation form and knowledge acquisition

  • Linguistics


Prior research on computer-mediated discussions examined their effects on knowledge acquisition without considering the role of the discussion representation. In this study, we investigate and compare the effect of semantic network discussion representations on knowledge acquisition to that of the threaded representations featured in most traditional discussion forums. Furthermore, we identify, define and operationalize a new, i.e., conceptual facilitation (validation of the conceptual organization of the discussion), assessing its role in knowledge acquisition at different levels of restrictiveness. The empirical results of a field experiment indicate that semantic network discussion representations enable the acquisition of more complex and better-integrated knowledge structures than threaded discussion representations. Conceptual facilitation forms entailing different levels of restrictiveness are also found to play a significant role. As the level of conceptual facilitation restrictiveness decreases, knowledge acquisition improves. Our findings empirically demonstrate the importance of accounting for discussion representation as a contingency factor in explaining group discussion processes and outcomes. To practitioners, our study provides empirical evidence on the advantages of semantic networks over threaded representations as an alternative mode for computer-mediated discussion representations. We also suggest guidelines for the selection of appropriate conceptual facilitation for discussion forums intended for knowledge acquisition.

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