Talk: The Role of Face in a Chinese Primary School Online Classroom
This study reports on a micro-ethnographic investigation into a chat group of an online classroom in China and aims to provide a rich account of the digital interaction. The data derive from 37 days of digital fieldwork in a chat group of a sixth-grade Chinese class and are the result of fieldwork that consisted of participant observation and field notes collected in an ethnographic log. Informant interviews were conducted to triangulate the data. Three dimensions were found to shape the interactions in the group: the concept of “face”, the use of emojis, and the participation framework. These were closely intertwined. The participation framework of the chat group was intricate as the real identity of the students was hidden behind usernames and could refer to the students themselves, but also to their parents or other caregivers, which resulted into extensive facework by the teacher. To save the students’/parents’ face, as well as her own face, the teacher used both involvement and independence strategies. Emojis emerged as an independence strategy, which served to not only save but also to boost students’/parents’ face, and to convey the teacher’s own emotions. It is proposed that the study may help improve online classroom communication by fostering awareness of the strategies that can be employed in this setting to boost and save participants’ face.