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Social Media Research

Communication technology and theory: Research into the interpersonal and social interface

Summary: Writing and distribution tools and technologies have materiality, even when they are "immaterial." The digital publishing world, devices for digital distribution and publishing, and for communication over the web, over mobile, and more & all translate the meanings of speech and talk to a digital medium for transmission. This mediation of interaction compresses meanings, and brackets out the interpersonal cues and gestures we use for understanding a speaker's intention, truth, and relation. What are the consequences for social talk if the medium (including all online and social media) are poor at handling emotional exchanges and meanings?

Secondary medium

Asynchronous media by definition transcribe communication to a recording (secondary) medium. It's because communication must pass through a secondary medium that we call it an indirect medium. The use of the term indirect may seem confusing. Email after all, is a very direct way of communicating. The distinction is important though, for think as we might that we're communicating directly when using email, we're writing our utterances to each, not speaking (uttering) them. And we're writing them without seeing the person(s) to whom we're writing-so there's no possibility of using visual cues and local context. Some kinds of expression simply don't survive the translation; others use it.

  • What is the impact of a secondary medium (e.g. text) on the maintenance of interpersonal relations?
  • Though we might think of it as speech, talk, or conversation, text messages are indeed written more than they are uttered. What does this mean for communication?
  • What new kind of expression is produced through asynchronous mediation? Is it a new kind of talk and conversation, or a faster kind of messaging, a form of talking out loud but in the distant presence of the recipient, or something else entirely?
  • What features of communication are unique to our age? What are some of the particular social and cultural consequences of the combination of connectivity, computing power, representational and recording media, and translation among them? What are consequences for interpersonal relations?
  • How and where does the proliferation of digital artifacts and copies impact society?
  • What impact does it have on communication, and further, on interpersonal relations?
  • How is the materiality-the physical form of a recording medium used in messaging-a relevant feature of communication? How does it inform what people say, to whom they say it, how they say it, what they expect of it, and so on and so forth?
  • How important is fidelity (resolution) to asynchronous media?
  • Do we naturally prefer higher-resolution media?
  • In what kinds of communicative or cultural practices do participants work with the medium's resolution and fidelity?
  • For all of its crudeness, basic ASCII is used to relate billions of messages over the internet each day. Do we develop an affinity for media that are familiar, even if they're inferior to newer ones? Do we prefer technologies with which we have developed a competency? Are we better at communicating through familiar media than we are with new ones, even if new ones are more "transparent," or higher-resolution?
  • If there translation from one format to another (e.g. text to speech), what might be lost or distorted in the process?
  • How will translation across recording and representational media produce new ambiguities, uncertainties, and sources of confusion?
  • In the case of asynchronous media, can a message be forwarded or passed along easily? Does the portability and even durability of a medium's messaging format help to explain its popularity or success?
  • What kinds of packaging and wrapping are required to enable a message to travel beyond its origin?
  • What kinds of social practices develop around these messaging formats, and how do they use the attributes particular to a medium and application?
  • How do practices developed for one medium spill into others?
  • To what extent does our ability to relocate, recall, reprint, and repeat archived interactions inform the interaction itself?
  • Are messages catalogued, and if so, by what criteria? How does this affect their utility?
  • Who has access to them? How does access inform the communication itself, if it does?
  • If catalogs and meta data on messages are involved in the process of communication, to what extent do techniques of data storage impact message meaning? Do storage techniques for messages create context? Can the context of an interaction or communication be stored?
  • Does the very possibility of archiving messages rationalize communication? Are there domains of interaction in which people communicate differently in order to make their transactions, conversations, and interactions easier to locate later? Or are there cases in which people regulate what they say, to whom, and how, in order to protect themselves?
  • How do messages guarantee their authenticity? Do they and can they?
  • What kinds of risk do recording media create for us (misinterpretation, forwarding to unintended recipients, etc.), and how do these risks affect how we communicate?
  • How well can a secondary medium pass information, detail, and other transaction information?
  • As a format, what is a medium able to capture and represent with the greatest amount of accuracy?
  • Do representational and recording media have a bias towards information, and against meta-communicative content?
  • How much context is lost in the representation or in the recording?
  • Do we have a tendency to speak or interact differently in order to be more clear, or effective, in mediated interaction?
  • Can it be argued that messaging formats proliferate third person speech and interaction, by detaching speech from the speaker and distributing it among non-present audiences?

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