Tag Archives: computer mediated communication

Reflecting Online about Reflecting on Reflecting Online


My interests as a communication scholar lie at the intersection of interpersonal communication and social media.  (There’s a third road that leads to humor studies, but I hardly ever get to drive on that one.  Someday!)  Currently, I am exploring the question:

  • How do people evaluate advice through comments to Facebook wall posts?

This question is then broken down to:

  • How do people evaluate advice (in general)?
  • What are the unique features/characteristics of comments on Facebook wall posts as a communication medium?

For my question on advice evaluation, I am relying on Advice Response Theory (MacGeorge) for two reasons: one, because that is my advisor’s theory, and two, it’s really the only and best most comprehensive theory on advice evaluation out on the market today.  Advice response theory explains how message factors (things about the message itself) and source factors (perceptions about the advice giver) affect advice outcomes (how the advice recipient reacts the the advice).  This theory has been primarily tested in dyadic face-to-face situations, so it will be interesting to see how the theory works in both a computer-mediated environment, but also a social networking group setting.

My question on unique features of Facebook wall posts has sent me in several directions and led me to explore various theories on computer-mediated communication and social networking.  Some of the theories are The Hyperpersonal Model of Communication (Walther), the Masspersonal Communcation Model (O’Sullivan), online speech acts (Carr, Schrock, & Dauterman), and a few others.  The features about FB as a communication medium that seem to apply at this point to this discussion are that it fluctuates in its synchronicity, it is a shared space for multiple contributors, and it is a leaner communication medium (reduced non-verbal and social cues).

One of the more interesting concepts I’ve stumbled upon is “friendsourcing“.  Friendsourcing is like crowdsourcing, but with a more select group.  In this way, it is much more of a web 2.0 way of crowdsourcing ideas.  The reason I found this exciting is that while the idea has been around for a while (and people are talking about it in the business world), it is almost non-existent in academic literature.  It shows up in computer science literature about friendsourcing coding problems, and it shows up in an article about friendsourcing solutions through facebook for blind users looking for visual descriptions of objects from their friends.  I think there is a lot of mileage in this term, and it is time that this term made its way into the vocabulary of computer-mediated communication and digital sociology scholars.

One last thing I’ve discovered … the incredible work of the talented Jessica Vitak and Nicole Ellison (and friends) is going to become my new best friend. =)

Calling All Facebook Friends

Who Wants to Know? Question-asking and Answering Practices among Facebook Users

If you have any interest in this or ideas/suggestions for sources and directions, I’d love to hear them. =)

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Disruptions: More Connected, Yet More Alone By NICK BILTON


Response to Disruptions: More Connected, Yet More Alone By NICK BILTON

This past week a heartfelt-comedy video has been circling the interwebs.  The video chronicles the life of a comedienne living a hyperbolized life of friends with smart phone addiction.  Nick Bilton’s piece in the New York Times ponders the success and message of the video and makes a some conclusions (many of which are regarding the connection between media and food).

The question is “Why does it seem that people are obsessed with their phones and social media?”  I liked the piece, but I’d like to add a few more concepts to the discussion … namely Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE), and strong/weak ties.  These concepts have helped me recently parse the idea.

First, psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out that one of the five major motivations of humanity is to be social (physical, safety, social, esteem, self-actualization).  Once our basic physical and safety needs are met, we are designed in such a way as to crave connection.  We are social beings; we need others … something that says I’m not alone.

Second, social science and communication researchers have given us the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE). Basically this says that without other non-verbal cues present, we fill in the blanks about others with our own guesses about them.  In short, we tend to form idealized versions of “the other” through computer-mediated communication because we lack the immediate cues to tell us otherwise.  Our computer friends are the best friends because they are in part figments of our imagination.

Third, one sociological phenomenon is described as strong ties versus weak ties.  Basically, people have strong relationships and weak relationships … and we generally tend to maintain strong ties rather than develop weak ties.  This is the path of least resistance in relationship formation.

When I ask myself, “Why do people seem addicted to their smart phones and social media?”, these ideas give me at least a framework to approach the question:

  • People act this way with their phones because we have a deep urge to be socially connected.
  • People act this way because their online friends are the best friends that anyone could ever imagine … because they are somewhat imagined.
  • People act this way because it’s more comfortable to interact with the strong ties rather than interact with the weak-tied, scary world around them.

There is obviously more to this than these three … but these at least help me to think about the issue.

Okay … that’s enough rambling for the morning … I should probably put down my screen and enjoy some real-world Labor Day with my family. =)

http://nyti.ms/15lM0Rp

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