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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.

Technology, Habermas, and truth claims

In the view of the theory of communicative action (Jčrgen Habermas), talk can have the result of binding us to one another in a mutually-shared pursuit of understanding. This narrow view of communication-because it excludes strategic communication geared towards selfish ends-insists that speakers and listeners make three particular truth claims when pursuing communication oriented towards reaching understanding. They must be sincere, factually correct, and have the normative authority to say what they are saying. At issue for mediation, then, would be how the bracketing of face to face exchange might undermine the possibilities of wagering and testing these truth claims. And furthermore, what impact this might have on our ability to bind to one another.

  • How does mediation distort the conditions required for the production and testing of the claims to truth required of communicative action?
  • How is validation of a speaker's sincerity compromised by mediation and its bracketing of physical presence?
  • How is the verification of truthfulness of a statement's facticity compromised by mediation?
  • How is verification of a speaker's normative position and authority compromised by mediation?
  • How do synchronous and asynchronous communication differ in the presentation of truth claims as well as in their resolution through interaction?
  • How does use of a secondary medium such as text interfere with the possibilities of communicative action?
  • If illocutionary force depends on certain conditions of presence being met, do these conditions represent absolute limits, or thresholds?
  • Is the binding that accompanies communicative action possible through mediated interactions? If so, is it a thinned or diluted form of binding?
  • Do mediated communication practices create the possibilities for new ways of binding interactants?
  • As media become acceptable production formats of communication, do the conditions for communicative action change?
  • Do conditions in which sincerity, facticity, and normativity can be staked and validated during interaction change as a result of mediation?
  • Is the production format of communication itself subject to the conditions that govern acceptability?

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