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Social Media Research

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

Summary: Internet research on the effect that our use of communication and web tools have on interpersonal communication and society. These sociological perspectives use concepts of face to face interaction taken from symbolic interactionism, especially the work of Erving Goffman. Marshall McLuhan's media theory finds a place here also. To comment on human factors studies and develop a richer understanding of social media, this section looks at the mediation of human communication. What are human factors when they are social factors, communication factors, and interaction factors? Are there implications here for computer mediated interaction research and HCI designers?

Mode of communication matters

Technologies of communication are either synchronous or asynchronous, meaning that they enable communication in real-time or not. The difference plays a critical role in the nature of the interactions people have through them. In asynchronous communication, a secondary medium is required with which to record the interaction. This obviously involves a high potential for message distortion (at sending and receiving end), as well as for the production of artifacts belonging to the medium. These artifacts can themselves obscure or confuse communication.

  • Is the technology synchronous or asynchronous?
  • What kinds of communication does it facilitate: conversation, messaging, information?
  • In what ways does it capture communication (microphone, camera, keyboard, etc.)?
  • How does it call on our attention?
  • How does it sustain our attention?
  • Does it pass attention in both directions (e.g. can a listener show that she's listening?), and if so, how?
  • How receptive is the medium to our participation, and how accurately does it pass communication?
  • In what ways does the technology's modality inform, constrain, and enable different kinds of communication?
  • Can it be said to co-produce interaction insofar as its modality is a format for communication?
  • How does its modality make it suitable or not for particular social practices?

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