The Riddle of Online Resonance (third instalment)

Here is the third and final instalment of our paper on e-resonance. You can find the PDF of the full article here – The Riddle of Online Resonance.

Two prior instalments have been posted here and here. We decided to post in three instalments to make reading of the paper online easier and to allow time for reflection and comment, which we welcome, either here in this blog, on Matthias’ blog or elsewhere. Many thanks to those who have already commented.


The Riddle of Online Resonance

Matthias Melcher and Jenny Mackness

6. Factors that affect e-resonance

The authors suggest that there are various factors which affect e-resonance. Consideration of these is important if we are to support and enhance possibilities for e-resonance in online teaching and learning. These factors include the place and location on the communicator’s cognitive and network maps, the interplay between personal and conceptual resonance, the lack of visual and auditory cues and the increased possibility for creating weak ties within an online environment.

The number of connections that people have and how well connected they are will obviously influence the potential for e-resonance. Lilia Efimova (2009) has suggested that frequency of communication, the use of multi-channels of communication, affinity, commitment and attention are all required for establishing and maintaining online communication.  The authors’ experience suggests that multi-channels of communication may not be needed for e-resonance but that at least one second channel is necessary for affinity, commitment and attention. This can be as simple as appreciating the banner on a person’s blog to discovering an unexpected shared interest.

In If a person ‘A’ notices that ‘this thought B4’ of person ‘B’ resonates with me, then there is a selection being made from among say, nine thoughts B1-B9. And when ‘A’ elaborates the similarity of her thinking (or at least puts the resonance into some context), she thereby identifies an idea, say ‘A6’ from her ideas A1-A9 depending on her view of A5-A7 and suggests some connections from concept ‘A6’ to ‘B4’ (not simply from person A to person B). In turn B learns about the selection of A6 from among the A1-A9 that he might already know or discover on A’s site.

This process of selection of a resonating idea, whilst most likely to be unconscious and uncontrolled, is supported by the lack of auditory and visual cues within an online environment, which allows for conceptual connections to be more prominent and less influenced by personal and physical attractiveness, appearance, charisma and personality.

Finally, not only the number, but also the nature of connections within the online environment will affect e-resonance. Much has been written about weak, strong and latent ties and the strength of weak ties, which Haythornthwaite (2002, p. 387) describes as being in …’ their connection to others outside the strong tie network and to the information and to the information and resources circulating in other areas’. This view of the strength of weak ties is supported by Schulmeister (2009) who writes that a discourse analysis of small networks, consisting of strong ties, has shown that they are so emotionally charged that rational discourse rarely occurs. Other authors such as Downes (2006b) and McCrae (2006) have also written of the dangers of group think and echo chambers in constraining free flow of ideas and creativity.  From this it would appear that ties can be at their most valuable when they are at their weakest and just beginning to form, that is, when initial resonance occurs.

7. Conclusions

The authors present this paper for discussion. Whilst much has been written about fostering and developing online communication, little, if anything, has been written about how online connections are made in the very first instance. The authors have suggested that this be termed ‘e-resonance’ and have attempted to describe the mechanism of what happens when an idea or some micro-content strikes a chord or resonates with someone else, and when that other person’s reaction, in turn, influences the first person’s conceptual network.

In seeking the answer to this question we have come to some conclusions which we believe to be significant for teaching, learning and communicating within online environments.

First is that resonance happens indirectly rather than directly, just as children’s learning of words happens by indirect rather than direct effects (Landauer & Dumais, 2010). E-resonance is unconscious, uncontrolled and is most likely to occur in the ‘messy’, ‘vague’ communications between very weak ties.

Second, there are skills that online learners rely on to support the likelihood of e-resonance occurring. These involve being able to filter and select from a wide range of information, even within one post, if resonance is to occur. The parts of a text that do resonate with someone else are a very significant selection of the entire text because this selection does not necessarily indicate just some validity measure, but a conceptual connection within someone else’s cognitive network.

Third, online connectivity is as much about interconceptual connection as interpersonal connectivity. The potential for conceptual connectivity is increased in contexts where e-resonance can flourish, because e-resonance occurs at the level of ‘meeting of minds’ free from the distractions of physical and visual cues. It occurs at a ‘beyond verbal’ level.

Finally, e-resonance is not about ‘sameness’ but about similarity, which can also support dissimilarity.  It is likely to be constrained by strong ties, group think and echo chambers.

The authors therefore suggest that further consideration of e-resonance and how initial connections are made between online learners will be important in furthering our understanding of online connectivity. The riddle of online resonance remains unsolved.


Downes, S. (2006b) Sudden thoughts and second thoughts. Retrieved 29-08-2010 from:

Efimova, L. (2009) Blog networking study: establishing and maintaining relations via blogging. Retrieved 29-08-2010 from:

Haythornthwaite, C. (2002) Strong, weak and latent ties and the impact of new media, 18, 385-401. The information Society.

Landower, T.K. & Dumais, S.T. (2010) A solution to Plato’s problem: The latent semantic analysis theory of acquisition, induction and representation of knowledge. Retrieved 29-08 -2010 from:

McRae, P. (2006). Echoing Voices – Emerging Challenges for Educational Practice on the Internet. In: Reeves, T. & Yamashita, S. (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2006 (pp. 2622-2629). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Schulmeister, R (2009) Thesen zum einsatz von Web 2.0 in der Lehre. Retrieved 29-08-2010 from:

Creative Commons Licence
The Riddle of Online Resonance by Matthias Melcher and Jenny Mackness is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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