"The Rhetoric must lead us through the Scramble, the Wrangle of the Market Place, the flurries and flare-ups of the Human Barnyard, the Give and Take, the wavering line of pressure and counterpressure, the Logomachy, the onus of ownership, the Wars of Nerves, the War. It too has its peaceful moments: at times its endless competition can add up to the transcending of itself . . . Rhetoric is concerned with the state of Babel after the Fall" (23) K. Burke Rhetoric of Motives
Our class chat shows seems to touch on the this "Babel after the Fall," in which all of our collective voices touched off a set of actions and reactions that quite often take the form of "pressure and counterpressure,' even as some of us sought some transcending benefit, the momentum of personal fractious concerns and barnyard yelps remained a persistent feature.
Did our experiment prove anything about Synchronous Chats? I suppose there are some items worth considering, especially in light of some of the studies I've asked us to review for this next debriefing session. First, I don't thing we are a representative sample, and our experiment was clearly not graded for performance--this influenced the outcome no doubt. Our familiarity with each other no doubt changed the course of this discussion. I don't see a typical class beginning their chats like this, but they may end up there once people feel free to pull each other's chains.
One thing seems likely, at least with respect to our class: The even if the purpose of a chat is clearly outlined and prompted there is still no guarantee that all participants will adhere ground rules or to stick to topic issues only. It also seems likely that any chat is apt to succumb to the lowest common denominator (no offense to anybody, really). If enough participants do not want to stay "on topic" the rest of the class can only "yelp" in response or give in.
What it did seem to do was either loosen-up or wind-up participants, sometimes both in the same session.