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Social Media Research

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

Summary: According to linguistics and pragmatics (Jčrgen Habermas especially), linguistically-mediated interaction is a special form of human communication and interaction. According to the views of his pragmatics of speech, this kind of communication (call it talk if you will) embeds social and cultural normative claims in everyay and interpersonal exchanges. Society is reproduced in daily acts, through use of truth claims stated linguistically and subject to validation or clarification by any one of the interaction partners. What then might social media and other tools of mediated communication do to this exchange? Are the numerous examples of deception, manipulation, insincerity and dishonesty that run rampant online an indication that the medium itself serves our communication needs only poorly? As a means of communication, do our talk technologies rob personal relationships of (some of their) richness, power, and depth? There would be many issues to research here.

Effectiveness and the risk/success ratio of communicating through technology

The degree to which we are successful in communicating through a technology informs how we use it, with whom, and for what purpose. When we encounter risks in communication, we tend to limit our exposure, in terms of what we say, to whom, and how.

  • How important is it to us that we know if a message has been delivered, read, and even understood?
  • In what cases does the fact of not knowing become a part of communication and interaction itself-for example in cases where tasks, responsibilities, reputation, activity coordination, or even a first date may be at stake.
  • This kind of acknowledgement and recognition is an intrinsic part of face to face interaction. How then does this affect our communication?
  • In face to face interactions, we can express different degrees of recognition and acknowledgment. They include: "I heard you but ask me later," "I see what you're saying but I'm not going to agree with you," and "I'm totally with you on that." This range of acknowledgement is simply not possible with any form of mediation today. What impact does this have on how we communicate, and perhaps with whom and about what?
  • How sensitive are we to a medium's intrinsic "coldness"-its inability to provide visual and physical recognition, agreement, acceptance, and so on.
  • How hard do people try to reach others, and to obtain confirmation of their message success or delivery, before giving up? To what extent are users willing to try in spite of a technology or medium's tendency to confound their efforts?
  • Would it be possible to profile user types in order to group those for whom the bracketing effects of mediation are not worth their benefits, and those for whom even the sometimes thin rewards of mediated interaction are adequate?

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