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Social Media Research

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

Summary: Writing and distribution tools and technologies have materiality, even when they are "immaterial." The digital publishing world, devices for digital distribution and publishing, and for communication over the web, over mobile, and more & all translate the meanings of speech and talk to a digital medium for transmission. This mediation of interaction compresses meanings, and brackets out the interpersonal cues and gestures we use for understanding a speaker's intention, truth, and relation. What are the consequences for social talk if the medium (including all online and social media) are poor at handling emotional exchanges and meanings?

Affective capacity of recordings

Our affects (emotion, mood) are expressed and perceived by our use of facial expression, physical gesture, vocal intonation, and writing style. Because technologies of communication extend our perceptual senses unequally, their affective capacities vary.

  • How do we express ourselves emotionally when using asynchronous media? If we try to show emotions through text, email, IM and so forth, how well is it communicated?
  • What's a medium's ability to elicit emotional responses?
  • How well does the emotional import of a message travel through a network of readers? Do these kinds of messages circulate well?
  • Do asynchronous technologies present adequate ways of preserving and circulating communication with a high degree of emotional content?
  • How do a technology's recording mechanisms actually shape its ability to capture affect?
  • Are there communicative benefits to the bracketing effects of asynchronous media?
  • What impact does the reduction or compression of affective and emotional content have on relations between people?
  • What kinds of affective ambiguities creep into communication that might then need to be resolved by further, and perhaps unmediated communication?
  • In what ways does a medium's bracketing of affect create communicative opportunities for the self, or subject?
  • Do applications in which individuals "play" with their identity depend on the screening of affect?
  • If this were the case, what threat might be posed by media that do a better job of transmitting affect?
  • How do we compensate for the bracketing of emotional content from communication?
  • Does the transformation of affect in and through mediated interaction give rise to ambiguities of authenticity, integrity, and sincerity? Of intent in what is said or communicated? Of what would constitute the desired or appropriate response?
  • If so, are these ambiguities a driving force in communication?

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