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Social Media Research

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

Summary: Web and online communication and interaction is asynchronous. As such the delay, be it a matter of seconds or several days, disintegrates the sense of "being there" and "shared time" that characterizes co-presence, simultaneous, and spontaneous interaction. People have the time to consider themselves consciously, to tell rather than talk, and some of this comes out in online and social media as cold, distant, and self-oriented rather than other-oriented. And yet a great deal of talk now happens in a mediated fashion. The implications for the design of social software, online interaction, online community, and social media are significant. And they will become very interesting as these media become more synchronous.

Did you get my email: delivery acknowledgment

How many of us have received "did you get my email" phone calls? A medium in which users resort to a different mode of interaction in order to get that kind of guarantee is a new medium. We no longer bug each other for that kind of verification (though we might if spam keeps up its pace). Delivery acknowledgment is a fundamental aspect of messaging technologies, and yet one that we are learning to do without because we are adapting. Adapting either to accept more risk and uncertainty, or by placing more faith in the technology that absence of evidence is not at all evidence of absence... What's interesting here, besides the suggestion that over time we're accepting technology deeper and deeper into our worldview, is the kind of ambiguity and uncertainty that users deal with, and either resist or accept.

  • Does a medium or application provide information about the delivery of a message? How is it provided? How much user participation is required to obtain it?
  • If not, do users take steps to verify delivery?
  • In what kinds of situations does the lack of delivery verification cause us to use other media or applications for communicating?
  • How much trust do we invest in a technology's ability to successfully deliver messages and to deliver them without message degradation?
  • In what circumstances are the risks that a message is not delivered, or delivered successfully and on time, high enough that communication opportunities are lost or forced to other channels?
  • Which media and applications cannot guarantee message delivery for technical reasons? Which applications cannot provide delivery status information? How important is it that these improvements be made?
  • To what degree does delivery status information correspond to whether or not a message has been read?
  • Is the acknowledgement that a message has been received and read something that can only be provided personally?
  • To what extent do we develop a convention of understanding with some individuals or types of contacts that messages have been received and read in spite of the lack of acknowledgement?
  • To what degree do people in some occupations or circumstances struggle to keep up the demands on their time required to prevent communication from stalling?
  • How do we compensate for inadequate information about message delivery or reception?
  • How much do uncertainties around message delivery shape our communication choices?
  • Within a given application, how can message delivery be made more robust or reliable?

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