Exploring Synchronicity of Use in an L2 Telecollaborative Context

Eunjeong Choi, The University of Texas at Austin


Telecollaboration is a complex pedagogical context that innately involves intercultural communication between L2 learners coming from different cultures (e.g., Basharina, 2009; Belz, 2003; Blyth, 2012; Kramsch & Thorne, 2002; Ware, 2005). Among numerous research identifying factors responsible for intercultural tension and dynamics, one strand of research has focused on technological issues: for example, more active peer-age interactions in a synchronous mode than in an asynchronous mode (Chun, 2011; Thorne, 2003); differing levels of accessibility and experience with technologies between cultures (Basharina, 2007; Belz, 2001; Ware & Kramsch, 2005); and differing “cultures-of-use” of the same communication tools between cultures (Thorne, 2003).

The current study extended the literature by exploring a facet of digital communication that has not been explored in L2 telecollaborative contexts: synchronicity of use (Herring, 2001).The participants were 26 Korean undergraduates learning EFL and 25 U.S. undergraduates learning Korean, grouped into pairs. They participated in an 8-week class project of electronic tandem exchanges that allowed them to discuss their native languages and cultures and learn about each other’s language and culture. Data included chat transcripts, learner journals, a post-project questionnaire, interviews, and field notes. This study, designed as an embedded multiple-case study, adopted qualitative approaches to data analysis (Yin, 2003).

My presentation will focus on the way that culturally different expectations about digital communication were evidenced across various reflection and communication data.The findings revealed that the culturally defined nature of synchronicity partly explained a clash in expectations from the two cultures and ensuing differing levels of dyadic functioning across pairs. Also, the culturally different expectations about synchronicity were complicated by the use of various communication tools (i.e., e-mail exchanges, mobile text-messages, and the chatting conversations).

This study supports Herring’s (2011) argument that synchronicity is an aspect of language use driven by social practices (synchronicity of use) rather than it is determined by technologies (synchronicity of mode). I suggest an approach to synchronicity as a situational and cultural variable to consider in a telecollaborative context, and propose a revision of Thorne’s (2003) concept, cultures of use, to include the notion of synchronicity of use.

Choi Eunjeong

The University of Texas at Austin