Social presence in distributed group environments: the role of social identity
This paper argues that to achieve social presence in a distributed environment, it is not necessary to emulate face-to-face conditions of increased cues to the interpersonal. Rather, it is argued, that a sense of belongingness to the group, or perceptual immersion in the group, can be realised through the creation of a shared social identity between group members. From this perspective, social presence is a function of the cognitive representation of the group by group members and not the interpersonal bonds between group members. Furthermore, specific design features and characteristics of the distributed learning environment can be utilised to achieve and maintain this shared group identity. This approach, encapsulated by the SIDE model, is discussed and supported by two case studies of distributed students, each consisting of 10 groups, collaborating for a period of 5 weeks on group projects.