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Social Media Research

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

Summary: The symbolic interactionism of Erving Goffman provided a powerful and illuminating encyclopedia of what "happens" during face to face social encounters. He was particularly insightful in his analysis of the handling requirements of social occasions, most of which he described as various forms of talk. What then does online talk look like? How does it refer to face to face talk? How does it reshape it? What is left outside the frame of talk, and how well does talk function when embodied interaction is impossible?

Communication technology creates intermittence

Face to face interaction is continuous, that is, it has a continuity of flow. Interruptions are precisely that because they break up the flow of conversation. But technologies used for communication may have an intermittence that results from poor design, inadequate infrastructure, or some other technical constraint (intended or not). How do we deal with the intermittences our mediated communication gives rise to? How do wee identify them as machine-caused and not real communicative signs?

  • How much or how little continuity does the medium or application provide those communicating with it?
  • When is intermittence a feature of the technology itself, and when is it an aspect of user practices?
  • How well are users able to deal with it?
  • What's the impact of intermittence on communication itself? How does it impact relationship maintenance? Does technical intermittence create confusion that spills into relationships?
  • Do we sometimes mistake the intermittence of a medium for intent? How do we get around this, and when is it by increasing the frequency of contact?
  • When human interaction is subjected to intermittence does it want to transcend it? Does intermittence create issues? Or does it fit in with styles of relationship maintenance and communication?

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