Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Computer-mediated communication

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Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) can be defined broadly as any form of data exchange across two or more networked computers. More frequently, the term is narrowed to include only those communications that occur via computer-mediated formats (i.e., instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms) between two or more individuals. Research on CMC focuses largely on the social effects of different computer-supported communication technologies. Many recent studies involve internet-based social networking supported by social software:)

[edit] Scope of the field

Scholars from a variety of fields study phenomena that can be described under the umbrella term of CMC (see also Internet studies). For example, many take a sociopsychological approach to CMC by examining how humans use "computers" (or digital media) to form, support and maintain relationships with others (social uses), regulate information flow (instructional uses), and make decisions (including major financial and political ones).

researchers in communication studies, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology and similar fields look at CMC to observe how language is used in computer-mediated contexts (online discourse environments). These studies have often focused on the distinct differences that exist between online and offline interactions, though contemporary research is moving towards the view that CMC should be studied as a unique interactive medium in its own right. The focus of this research includes the use of paralinguistic features such as emoticons; pragmatic rules such as turn-taking and the sequential organization of talk; and the various sociolects, styles, registers or sets of terminology specific to these environments (see Leet). The study of language in these contexts is typically based on text-based forms of CMC, and is often referred to as "computer-mediated discourse analysis" by many contemporary researchers.

The way humans communicate in professional, social, and educational settings varies widely, depending upon not only the environment but also the method of communication in which the communication occurs (which, in this case, is through computers or other ICTs). The study of communication to achieve collaboration - common work products - is termed computer-supported collaboration and includes only some of the concerns of other forms of CMC research.

Popular forms of CMC include e-mail, video, audio or text chat (text conferencing including "instant messaging"), bulletin boards, list-servs and MMOs. These settings are changing rapidly with the development of new technologies. Weblogs (blogs) have also become popular, and the exchange of RSS data has better enabled users to each "become their own publisher." Additionally, the wiki has come to provide interesting alternatives for communication.

[edit] Characteristics

Communication occurring within a computer-mediated format has an effect on many different aspects of an interaction. Some of these that have received attention in the scholarly literature include impression formation, deception and lying behavior, group dynamics, disinhibition and especially relationship formation.

CMC is examined and compared to other communication media through a number of aspects thought to be universal to all forms of communication, including (but not limited to) synchronicity, persistence or "recordability", and anonymity. The association of these aspects with different forms of communication varies widely. For example, instant messaging is prototypically synchronous, but rarely persistent since one loses all the content when one closes the dialog box unless one has a message log set up or has manually copy-pasted the conversation. E-mail and message boards are similar; both are prototypically low in synchronicity since response time varies, but high in persistence since messages sent and received are saved.

Anonymity and in part privacy and security depends more on the context and particular program being used or web page being visited. However, most researchers in the field acknowledge the importance of considering the psychological and social implications of these factors alongside the technical "limitations."

[edit] Relevant links

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