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Social Media Research

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

Summary: We tend to view communication using social media, online tools and web sites, IM, chat, SMS, and so literally. Messages have authors, what they seem to be saying is what they in fact mean to say, and so on. The reader is the interpreter of what's communicated. But the medium not only transmits and enables talk by capturing communication on web pages, in chat and IMs, in emails, blog posts, and comments. It also produces the author: as an appearance or effect of the medium. This is enough to go on in most cases, but it does have implications. We do not "exist" online any more than a Second Life avatar exists in the real world. These are media of production. Presence, talk, intent, motive, character, personality.... all these are manufactured by the social media that are their means of production. HCI and human factors research has a deep field of study in social media.

Interactionism and framing the encounter: asynchronous technology

It would seem that asynchronous technologies of communication, by bracketing physical place and context from the interaction, render it irrelevant. But context still plays a prominent role in many online and other kinds of interpersonal or community interaction. It does it perhaps more through language and conventions established by the participants involved. Any online community with enough history will have a character of interaction, and unspoken conventions that help its members second guess each other's communicative intentions. Asynchronous technologies require users to be explicit about context that everyday interaction simply provides implicitly. We cannot say yet whether this is a side effect of learning how to use a medium. That until we have developed familiar and recognizable cultural practices, we are required to state and make them by explicit means. Until we do know, we can only inquire into the observations we're able to make about the function of context in asynchronously-mediated interaction.

  • Do asynchronous technologies deal with framing issues, though framing is in effect irrelevant because there's no face to face and real-time interaction going on?
  • If the framing of social interaction involves drawing upon context and conventions often belonging to place and occasion, what do asynchronous interactions miss out on? in their dislocation from face to face and co-temporal interaction, does the absence of these framing cues dramatically constrain or empty out interaction?
  • To what extent is the content of interaction obtained from framing cues and context?
  • To what extent is the form of interaction obtained from framing cues and context?
  • Do asynchronous interactions develop their own kinds of framing techniques, conventions that point to media use and user practice as a substitute of sorts?
  • Do asynchronous media require interactants to place more into verbalization itself in order to compensate for the trappings and props normally present in face to face encounters?
  • How do asynchronous media in particular relate to the absence of framing's contribution to structuring interaction by temporal cues?
  • What aspects of interaction are tied to temporal structure? And when bracketed from asynchronous interaction, are they lost completely?

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