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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.

When technology fails to deliver (communication)

In face to face interaction, we always have recourse to the full contours of our personality and character should things go wrong. We can backpedal, skirt, avoid, deny, persuade, and otherwise deploy our personality to disentangle ourselves from awkward social encounters and misunderstandings. The degree to which we can do that during a mediated interaction will of course shape what we offer, how, and to whom.

  • What are a our options when a medium or technology fails to deliver a message? When connection isn't available or is unreliable?
  • What can we do when a medium or application fails to deliver the message accurately, or when the medium is excessively noisy?
  • What kinds of failures does a medium tend to generate?
  • How long does it take to address and repair a failure?
  • What kinds of consequences does this have for adoption of a technology for particular uses?
  • In what ways do we accommodate this into the practices we develop around a technology or application?
  • Do we choose redundant communication methods in order to assure successful delivery of our messages?
  • What are the consequences of redundancy? Do the shortcomings of media sometimes cause us to overproduce communication? Does overproduction lead to its own type of confusion?
  • What medium can or do we use when a message has not been delivered or understood?
  • What are the risks of engaging in mediated interactions in situations where failure cannot be addressed face to face?
  • Do we tend to avoid interactions that might suffer should their delivery fail?
  • How many failures will we tolerate and forgive before we reduce our use of it?
  • Does message delivery failure impact relations among us?
  • Are there affective costs to failure, for example if participants feel insulted, interrupted, or cut off? And in a particular situation, what are worst case scenarios for these kinds of outcomes? Should they be taken into account?
  • Does use of a particular technology create situations in which communication among members of an audience might be overheard?
  • If so, how does this place constraints on communication? And in what cases do privacy concerns guide our choice of communication channel?

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