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Inter@ctiva - Communication and Natural Logic is a research collective that intends to intervene socio-politically and also to study networked interactions from a critical-constructivist approach, integrating communication, argumentation, and natural logic under the form of a semiotics. The lab was founded in June 2000 at the University of Montreal, and continues contributing, after 15 years, to knowledge about new forms of conviviality emerging from the Internet.

A critical-constructivist perspective on communication

We understand communication ecologically, from a genetic and critical epistemological viewpoint that integrates nature and culture. The natural need of humans to live together, to network and to build communities, among which the family is the most important, is unavoidable. Through the amazing capacity to communicate symbolically using different codes – many of them thanks to ingenious technical means – humans weave minds and hearts, with a sense of morality and ethics. At Inter@ctiva, we are concerned with all these levels of human ecology, with a focus on understanding communication processes.

Although our theoretical interests go beyond technology, we have, historically, focused on research aiming to understand how technologies are being used by people joining different kinds of communities. In the last decade, we have done research on the integration of synchronous and asynchronous information and communication technologies in real life settings such as schools and universities, hospitals, private and public companies, and social and cultural groups as well. Most of our studies are not merely descriptive but aim to achieve in-depth understanding of human networked processes with the goal of meaningful socio-political change and transformation.

Research done to date led to (1) the development of the ecology of meanings, an interdisciplinary critical constructivist communication theory; (2) the refinement of critical-constructivist semiotics to study all kinds of discourse from different perspectives, namely contributions from natural logic (static and dynamic text, audio, video and multimedia); (3) the development of communication strategies applicable to organizations and social groups engaged in networked communities using synchronous and asynchronous communication systems (for example: moderation techniques for the management of networked communities, participation strategies that people can apply when communicating online, etc.); and (4) contributions related to interface design of communication systems (such as recommendations concerning appropriate ways to scaffold meaningful electronic in-depth communication).

Theoretical sources of the ecology of meanings and critical constructivist semotics

We consider communication as a socio-biological mechanism that, in addition to be previous to all sciences, also crosses philosophy, the arts and the lived world. Depending on the communication domain, different methods could be applied. However, a transversal foundation is provided by the principle of action. In this sense, we apply a triple method. In terms of the form and content of discourse, we apply the natural logic developed by Jean-Blaise Grize associated with the model of values exchanges conceived by Jean Piaget. This integrative perspective allow us to understand co-construction processes in action, that is, the ethical dimension of argumentative discourse at the core of critical approaches developed by Jürgen Habermas and Zygmunt Bauman, as well as the philosophical foundations of Buddhist ethics.