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Social Media Research

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

Summary: Sociologist Erving Goffman was famous for his acute observations of social interactions. What would he have to say about online communication? About talk and communication through social media, mobile or cel phones? About the interpersonal dynamics of online dating, or online profile management on myspace.com, and so on? If reltionships are maintained not only through what we say but also through how we mean it, and if our online communication tools aren't good at mediation of these interpersonal and face to face (f2f) dynamics, what is their capacity for facilitating communication?

Interpersonal communication enjoys (a) real time

The degree to which a technology enables us to get in synch with one another informs its use. Though all communication can be said to involve a certain amount of synchronization, the amount of real-time presence captured by a technology will be seen in how it captures our attention as well as what kind of attention it captures.

  • What is the role of synchrony in social interaction and communication?
  • How well do we adjust to communicating in ways that prevent us from getting realtime feedback from others on how we're doing?
  • What are the effects of latency for human communication and interaction?
  • Does the medium operate in synchronization with devices it is connected to?
  • If not, what kind of delay does it force on communication?
  • Is the delay (latency) in delivery and rendering messages and interaction? Or is there also delay in obtaining user participation?
  • Both synchronous (phone) and asynchronous communication technologies are required to get user attention before communication can take place. We don't always sit in front of our chat, IM, and email clients. Nor do we always have our cel phones on and ringing. To some extent, we know this about a medium and don't expect an immediate response from people we may be trying to reach. To what extent does each medium's particular way of getting attention and of delivering a call or message become a part of our use of that medium?
  • What kinds of ambiguity are created by the delays involved with communicating through a particular medium or application?
  • What kinds of cultural phenomena demand that participants be engaged in realtime? How might latency, delays (programmed, intended, and not), and other temporal interruptions shape or influence these social experiences?
  • What implications do recording devices like TIVO have for TV and the role TV plays in social and cultural engagements?

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