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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 silence communicates

Though technologies serve to connect us when we're not physically co-present, they spend a great deal of time, we hope, being silent. Now this silence can mean something, or not, depending on a number of factors. Thus even a silent phone can have us pacing with anticipation.

  • Does silence have meaning? What kind of meaning and in what context?
  • How do people interpret pauses and silences over a medium or application?
  • How much silence is required for the time between message sending and message response to actually considered silence?
  • How do we create or express silence in a given medium or application? How do we express silence, or "ignoring" others, in a discussion group?
  • To what extent does the ambiguity around what is and what is not actually intended silence "pad" an interaction environment?
  • In what cases do we use silence to our advantage?
  • Some silences are louder than others, just as some are more directed than others. Both media and applications create different kinds of silence. How does this influence how we use them?
  • How do silences accrue meanings through experience with specific individuals, conversation partners, and through particular media and applications?
  • How do silences become personal and what is their range of meaning?
  • How does the intervention of a medium create ambiguities around these experiences of silence?
  • How do we know the difference between impersonal quiet and silence directed against us? And how do we show that we are intentionally ignoring a person or interaction when our nonparticipation may easily go unnoticed?
  • What examples are there of different silences over different media with different people? To cite one: knowing how to take a no answer with a home phone, cell phone, or email, where connection failure of changes meaning depending on who is involved.
  • To what extent does nonparticipation in a collective online or messaging application motivate and drive interaction itself, as if as a means of clarifying the silence or ending the quiet?
  • What particular kind of nonparticipation is the lurker guilty of? How do members of an online community assess whether or not a member is eavesdropping (lurking) or simply too busy to get involved?
  • What kinds of practices emerge to create civil or polite ways of displaying our unavailability?
  • What kinds of stresses and symptoms do we suffer or experience from being highly available to others?
  • How much quiet can an online community take before it withers?
  • What sense for frequency and traffic do users develop about online communities? And how can online community hosts build participation?

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