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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?

Technology takes its features from the face

Technologies are able to represent or transmit limited expressive range, using the voice, vision, hearing, and or writing. Which of our perceptions they amplify conditions how we use them, and for what purposes. We might not notice the manner in which our perceptions are telescoped and focused when we use technology for communication. I would argue, in fact, that these technologies extend the face,

  • How does the technology capture and express the face?
  • What kinds of consequences are there for communication when face and its expressivity is passed or blocked by mediation?
  • What physical features of the face does the technology reproduce directly? (E.g. video conferencing presents direct images of its users.)
  • What physical features of the face does the technology represent indirectly (E.g. email permits only indirect images of the face, through written descriptions.)?
  • What physical features is it unable to reproduce or represent, and what intensities of facial expression is it unable to reproduce?
  • What kinds of distortion does the technology add to transmission?
  • What happens to the communicative potential of these features (e.g. cues, gestures) as a result of their mediation?
  • For example, does the ear lose its ability to locate spatially or to discriminate who's talking to whom (direction, spatialization); does the eye lose its ability to wander; does the voice lose its intonation?
  • What communicative purposes, from intimacy to anonymity, are served by the medium's particular relationship to face and its expressivity?

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