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component speciﬁ c for each individual, and a common component shared with the members of a given community. The dynamic interplay between these components generates the meanings, and may affect the efﬁ ciency and the efﬁ cacy of the learning/teaching process.
The present paper describes an e-learning experiment based upon MEANINGS, an innovative online structural analysis of the meanings that people attach to terms and concepts. MEANINGS is a particular form of word association analysis where the meaning of a term depends on the whole set of other terms with which it is structurally connected.
A sample of 746 people was invited by the students of the course of Medical Statistics and Informatics (Faculty of Medicine and Nursing, University of Naples Federico II) to produce word associations in response to the stimulus-word «food».
The response-words were categorized into 27 broad categories by means of an online negotiation process using the distance learning system DVLN (Dynamic Virtual Learning Networks). The structural analysis of the associations between the categories produced 5-7 conceptual constellations dealing with different social meanings associated to the word «food». The results are discussed in relation to the different paradigms (e.g. ontologies, words associations, concept maps, text mining) used for grasping and representing the knowledge of different actors involved in a complex process of negotiation of meanings.
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