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Communication can be defined as the act of transmitting information (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). It is a process whereby people appoint and transmit meaning in order to establish a common understanding. In order to effectively communicate a message, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are needed. Skills like listening, speaking, questioning are needed in order to effectively communicate. Furthermore, skills such as processing, observing and analyzing are also needed in order to create a more effective communication.
The rapid change that is happening in the world today, affects how people communicate with each other, both in business and interpersonal level of relationships. The advancement of technology made communication and interaction with other people more accessible.
The use of computer-mediated communication both enhanced and inhibited interaction between people. Computer mediated communication has been applied in education. Researches suggest that this method of learning can enhance the learning of students. Researches also conclude that through computer mediated communication, satisfaction and motivation increases. Computer mediated communication can also reduce the feelings of isolation for students. On the other hand, some aspect of face to face communication can be diminished through computer mediate communication. Being comfortable and trust to the medium being used is also an issue in computer mediated communication.
This paper discusses up to what extend computer mediated communication enhances or inhibits interaction. The first section discusses the definition of computer mediated communication. The second section discusses the definition of interaction. The third section presents the factors that might enhance or inhibit interaction.
Definition of Computer Mediated Communication
Computer Mediate Communication or CMC refers to any communication transaction that happens by means of two or more computers that are linked with each other via a network (McQuail, 2005). Originally, the term only referred to communicative transactions between computers or formats that are attributed to computers. Such computer-mediated formats are electronic mails, instant messages and chat rooms.
Electronic mails or simply e-mails or email is referred to as any way of composing, sending-receiving, and saving generally text-based communication through the use of digital communication systems. At the beginning, different systems of electronic mails that are designed by different companies are most of the time not compatible or can not be operated with each other. When the Internet was established in the early 1980s, it paved the way for the effort to standardize the structure of the Internet in order to implement a singe standard in electronic mails which is called the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol or SMTP. The protocol is originally included in RFC 821 when it was first introduced in 1982 as Internet Standard 10.
The modern electronic mails system is now on a store-and-forward model. In this model, the computer server of the electronic mail system is the one that receives, sends and stores the messages instead of the users themselves. The user of the electronic mail only needs to connect to the electronic mail infrastructure through their personal computer or other devices that enables network connection for the period of the transmission of the message or retrieval of the message from its specific server. It is very infrequent that an electronic mail is directly transmitted from one person’s device to another person’s device.
When the electronic mail was first introduced, it can only support text messages under the ASCII character set, but now any type of media format is supported by the electronic mail system. These various types of media format can be sent and can also include attachments of images, audio and video files.
Instant messaging is considered as a form of real-time communication. It considered as such because the sending and receiving of information by the other party of the communication happens at almost the same time. Instant messaging involves the communication of two or more individual on a typed text format. The text-based message is transmitted through the use of devices that are linked on a network like the Internet or an intranet.
The difference between instant messaging and electronic mail is the synchronicity aspect. Instant messaging happens in real-time. In the contrary, some instant messaging systems permits the user to send messages to other users who are not logged on, in this context, it erases the primary dissimilarity among instant messaging and electronic mail.
Instant messaging systems can also allow the user to save a previous conversation for reference in the future. When a message log is installed, the instant messages will be logged in a message history file in the computer. In this way, it removes the advantage of persistency of electronic mails over instant messaging.
Chatrooms are generally described as a form of synchronous conferencing. In reality, chatroom nowadays can be both synchronous and asynchronous conferencing. Thus, chatroom can refer to both real-time online chat and instant messaging to online forums that acts like a digital and graphical social environment.
Through online chat, people can communicate via text-based messages to other users in the same chatroom in synchronously or in real-time. Historically, the first and oldest chat rooms can only support the transmission of text-based messages. Talkomatic, which was introduced by PLATO System in the year 1974 is being claimed as the first ever text-only chatroom. Another significant text-based chatroom was the Freelancing’ Round Table which gained popularity during the 1980s. Another popular text-based chat system is the Internet Relay Chat or IRC. Now, other chatrooms like the one provided by Yahoo! allows the use of text and voice chat at the same time. The gaining of recognition of the chatrooms paved the way for the development of instant messaging. Other noteworthy chat rooms are the one provided by AOL and other web chat sites.
Other impressive feature of chat rooms is that it uses graphical user interface or GUI. In this way, the user is permitted to choose from different icons that identify him or her and he or she can also change the appearance of the chat environment.
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At present, interactions that are based on text are also considered as computer-mediated communication. An example of which, is the use of text messaging (Thurlow, et al., 2004).
Studies regarding the use of computer mediated communication usually centers on the social effects of those communication channels that are supported by computer technology. A lot of new researches focus mainly on the so-called social networking in the internet which is supported by social softwares.
Social networking or social network service has gained popularity overtime. It centers on creating online communities for people who have common interest and activities. Almost all of the social network services are based on the web. Social networking services provide the users different methods of interacting and communication with each other such as electronic mail and instant messaging.
Fresh and new ways of communicating and sharing information has been introduced by social networking systems. Social networking websites are currently being used by millions of people around the globe. It is now almost evident that social networking will be occupying a great part of everybody’s everyday life.
Social networks became the most talked about channel for media for many years now. The major strength of these social networks is its capability to get together millions of different users. The major drawback of the social networks is its lack of ability to convert the quantity of the signed-up clients into monetary value.
It is true that electronic mails and websites also have the main features of social network services. The thing that separates social network services from the two is the idea of ownership of the service. Social network services allow the user to create their own “home page”.
The most popular social network service providers are MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tagged, Hi5, Nexopia, Bebo, dol2day, Skyrock, Orkut, Xiaonei and Cyworld.
Attempts to standardize the social network services in order to eliminate the redundancy or duplication of entries have been unsuccessful because it called for some issues regarding the privacy of the users.
Computer mediated communication covers a variation of fields. Scholars from different fields make studies about phenomena that happen in computer mediated communication. Internet studies.
An example of study regarding phenomena associated with computer mediated communication is the one done by J.B. Walther. In his study, he looked at how humans utilize computers or any other digital media in handling interpersonal interaction. Also covered in his study is the way human make us of computers or the digital media in dealing with forming and maintaining impressions and relationships (Walther, J. B. 1992 & 1996). These researches have most of the time covered then dissimilarities among offline and online interactions. At present, studies regarding computer mediated communication is on its way in creating a perception that computer mediated transactions must be considered as a very important part of a person’s everyday life (Haythorntwaite and Wellman, 2002). Other studies regarding computer mediate transactions focuses on the utilization of paralinguistic aspect. The paralinguistic aspect of computer mediated communication refers to the use of emoticons.
Emoticons started off from text representations. Emoticons are basically textual portrayal of the mood or facial expression of the writer of the message. They are mostly utilized in order to give an idea to the responder the temper or the tenor of the message. It has the ability to change or enhance the interpretation of the text message. The word emoticon is a combination of two English word, emotion or emote and icon. In using web forums and instant messages, the emoticons in text format can be automatically changed to a specific image that corresponds to the emotion being portrayed by the text emoticon. These images are also referred to as emoticons. The graphical emoticons can be simple or complex. The most popular of all emoticons are the smiley face ☺ and the frowny face ☹.
Way back in the 1800s, the use of emoticons can already be traced especially for casual and humorous literature. The emoticons in the internet can be attributed to the proposal of a guy named Scott Fahlman in a message he sent on the nineteenth of September, 1982.
The sequential analysis and the different sociolects or terminologies used in different computer mediated environment are also receiving much attention from researchers (Herring, 1996 and Markman, 2006).
Sociolects are defined as the different languages that are used or associated only to a specific group of people or society. Different people categorized on different characteristics like socio-economic status, age, gender and occupation might have their distinct type of a language.
Pragmatic rules in the computer mediated communication environment such as turn-talking (Garcia and Jacobs, 1999), and the different registers and styles are also being studied by scholars. Computer mediated discourse analysis refers to the study of the languages used in the computer mediated communication environment in text-based forms (Herring, 2004)
Styles are the various language associated with the different topics or aspect of society. There is the so called language of politics, religion, business, advertising, and many more. These languages belong to a particular situation or period of time.
Registers are the various languages that are categorized according to the specific purpose in which that language is used more particularly in its social setting.
Other researched on computer mediated communication is concerned with the way people interact in social, professional as well as educational set up. In these kinds of settings, the way of communicating between the people involved differs not only because of the environment itself but at the same time the method of communication the participants use. The use of information communication technology affects the communication and interaction among people. Computer supported collaboration is the term used to refer to researches regarding communication in order to gain collaboration or the so called common work products.
The most famous forms of computer mediated communication are the electronic mail, chat through video, audio and text conferencing and instant messaging. Online bulletin boards, MMOs and list-servs are also popular forms of computer mediated communication. These platforms for communication are quickly changing as new inventions and technologies are developed. Weblogs or simply blogs already gained popularity and the barter of RSS data made it even easier for blog users to publish their own blogs.
Computer mediated communication can be categorized into synchronous and asynchronous modes. In the synchronous mode of communication, the users or parties in the conversation are online at same moment. On the other hand, asynchronous mode of communication has no restriction in time. The parties in the conversation can respond to the messages at a time different from the time the message was sent.
Definition of Interaction
Interaction refers to the type of action that happens between two or more objects when they affect each other. The concept of having a two-way effect is very important in interaction as compared to the one-way causal effect. The term interconnectivity is strongly associated with interaction. Interconnectivity refers to the interactions between the interactions within systems.
The concept of interconnectivity is widely used in various fields like non-linear dynamics, biology, network theory, cybernetics and ecology. Interconnectivity simply says that all the participants of a system closely interact with each other. They rely with each other just because they are within the same system. It should be recognized that it would be very difficult or even impossible to examine or study a system through its specific parts considered as independent to each other..The combination or the merger of several simple interactions might lead to emergent phenomena.
Different kinds of sciences define interaction in different ways.
The media art uses the term interactivity as term to refer the feature of the media that is characterized as the level of accessibility of the media to the masses.
In physics, the primary interaction or fundamental force is a process where the elementary particles interact with other elementary particles. Basically, nature has four primary interactions. These interactions are electromagnetic, gravitational, strong and weak interactions.
In the field of sociology, social interaction is the continuous change in the social actions among individuals and groups. These individual and groups changes their actions and reactions because of the action and reactions of the other parties. The foundation of social relations is social interactions.
In the field of medicine, interactions between the effects of the combinations of different medicines are monitored. This is usually done by pharmacists. In molecular biology, the study of the gene’s interaction between each other and their metabolites is called molecular pathways.
In the field of communications, interactive communications happens as the sources or parties of the communication process alternately transmit messages between one another. It should be noted that interactive communication is different from transactive communication. In transactive communication, the sources or parties in the communication process sends messages simultaneously. Transactive communication includes newer modes of communication. These modes mentioned may include teletext, teleshopping, video, video on demand, internet, computers, tele-conferencing and many more. Tele-communication can also be considered as transactive communication. On the other hand, the use of cell phones, mobile phones, pagers, electronic mails, and instant messaging are considered as interactive communication. These can also be classified further into three: Interpersonal, group and mass. Interpersonal communication includes the use of telephone and other services provided by telephone companies. Group communication will have to include the use of tele-conferences and video-conferences. Lastly, mass communication involves the use of internet and the World Wide Web.
In the parlance of distance education, interaction refers to the exchange of information, ideas, opinions between and among the learners and teachers, frequently, through the use of technology that is aimed to help improve and facilitate the learning process (Global Distance Education Net’ glossary)
Factors that might enhance or inhibit Interaction
Interaction between individual can be affected by a lot of factors. Some factors would tend to enhance the interaction while some would inhibit effective interaction. In order to identify what factors affect interaction and the capability of the people to communicate, the process of communication and interaction must first be understood. The sender who already has an idea in mind, which is usually a creation of research or his thought. The sender must put his or her idea into words or actions, as the case may be, and then he or she must transmit or send the message to the recipient of the message. When the recipient receives the message sent by the sender, the recipient should understand the message and draw conclusion from the message. After, understanding and drawing meaning from the message, that is the time the recipient should give feedback to the original sender. This simple process of sending, receiving and providing feedback can create problems when factors that inhibit interaction are present. At the same time, improving these factors would lead to an enhancement of the interaction process.
A factor that affects interaction is the competence of the parties. Competence refers to the ability of the person to communicate. The person must communicate to others in a way that it is approved by others and it effectively achieves its goals. If the person doesn’t have much competence, the person would experience difficulty in putting his or her ideas into a form that other people would understand its meaning. People who can easily transform his or her ideas into a form that can be easily understood and accepted can enhance the interaction between the parties.
Another factor that affects interaction is the language barriers between the parties. An effective communication requires understanding between the parties involved. If the parties doesn’t share a common language, it would be very difficult to effectively communicate, thus interaction between them is affected. Problems regarding language barriers doesn’t only rise from difference in the language itself, sometimes eventhough the language is the same, problems still occur. This is true most especially when the words used have different meaning. A word or a statement may have a denotative definition, a dictionary meaning and a connotative meaning. Problem will occur when the recipient mistakenly perceived the message in a way different from what the sender think.
The wrong perception of a person to another may also inhibit interaction. Perception can be defined as the way you view other people and also the other way around, the way other people view you. This perception, which is basically mental in nature, significantly affects the way messages are interpreted by one person.
Differences in culture might also affect interaction. There are things that are appropriate to one culture but are deemed inappropriate to another. This encompasses both verbal and nonverbal features of a message. Furthermore the context of the message, the time, place and the relationship between the two parties interacting must also be considered.
Environmental factors such as visual, auditory and individual factors can affect interaction. Visual factors such as the lighting, distractions, distance, talker’s face, viewing angle and vision can inhibit or enhance interaction. Poor lighting and physical distractions can affect the person’s ability to interpret a message. The same with, the distance, vision, and viewing angle of the people that interact, this will ultimately have an impact in their way of receiving and understanding the message being conveyed.
Auditor factors such as noise, distance and echo can also be a cause for problem or enhancement of interaction. Individual factors such as fatigue, illness, stress, ventilation, attitude, preparation and the situation of the parties involve in the interaction are also important factors to consider.
A lot of the different features of an interaction have been greatly affected by computer mediated communication. Several of these issues are being studied. Such issues involved impression formation. The formation of relationship on computer mediated communication received much attention, as well as behaviors of deceit and lies and group dynamics.
Computer mediated communication is analyzed and compared to other methods of communication through characteristics that are believed to be present in all methods of communication. The characteristics mentioned earlier involve anonymity, synchronicity and persistence. The different method of communication shows different association in the characteristics mentioned. Like for example, the use of instant messaging basically have high synchronicity from its very nature. On the other hand, it lacks persistence or recordability because the users cannot save all the previous conversations they had when the dialog boxes are closed not unless the user installed a message log or the user copy-pasted the entire conversation manually.
Electronic mails and message boards on the other hand lacks synchronicity because the time from sending the message to the receipt of reply varies greatly. If instant messaging is low in persistence, electronic mails and message boards excel in this characteristic because through electronic mails and message boards, the messages that are sent and received can be automatically saved. In general, computer mediated communication differs from other methods of communication because computer mediated communication is transient and naturally multimodal. At the same time, computer mediated communications do not have the codes of conduct that should govern such form of communication (McQuail, 2005). Computer mediated communication has the ability to break the barriers of physical and social limitations that are present in other methods of communication. Thus, computer mediated communication enhances the interaction among the people who can not physically communicate with each other because they are not in the same physical location.
Computer mediated communication gives massive chances for language learners to enhance their skill in the language they want to learn. A study done by Warschauer discussed the effects of using electronic mails and discussion boards in language classes. The study concluded that the use of information and communications technology serves as the linking bridge between speech and writing (Warshauer, 2006)
Anonymity, privacy and security of users of computer mediated communication are based on the specific program used or website visited. Some programs and sites support communication that provides the user full anonymity, privacy and security. Some other sites and programs at the other hand, fails in this aspect. Most studies done by researchers are concerned in the significance of taking into account the social and psychological implications of the said factors.
Interaction can be enhanced by computer mediated communication because it reduces the issue of the parties’ confidence and trust. Some people are more comfortable to talking through chat or electronic mail instead of talking to other people personally. This enhances the interaction between the people communicating. This is because of the anonymity and privacy features of computer mediated communication. Users are freer to express themselves. At the same time, inhibitions to effective interaction may also arise. Deception and lies can easily go undetected. Because of the lack of physical contact, it will be very hard to identify the truths from the lies. Unlike, in physical interaction, the tone of the voice, the body language and other factors can help people detect if the person is lying or not.
Computer mediated communication inhibits interaction because it is susceptible to misinterpretation especially on text-based messages. The tone and emotion of the message can not be easily recognized in text-based messages. On the other hand, the use of emoticon might help in reducing this problem. Furthermore, computer mediated communication today also includes other forms of communication like voice and video. Through these, it is almost like talking to the other party in person.
The most important thing that computer mediated communication does, is it eliminates the physical barrier for interaction. Before, people located in different physical location are impossible to communicate with each other in a physical level. The use of the traditional mail system, helped to eliminate this but it lacks the aspect of synchronicity. It takes quite a long time before the message is received by the recipient up to the time the response is received by the original sender. The use of telephones also helped in eliminating the physical barrier for interaction. Though, this is mainly auditory in nature. A lot of misinterpretation can still occur. Furthermore, though it has synchronicity, it lacks the aspect of persistence unless a person recorded the entire conversation. Through computer mediated communication, people that doesn’t share the same physical location can now interact with synchronicity and persistence. Computer mediated communication also provides features that will let you see the person in a camera and talk to the person by using microphones.
Computer mediated communication permits a more effective and more efficient communication in the sense of the timely receipt and acknowledgement or response of the message. Other computer mediate communication allows the users to talk not only on text-based communication but also via the use of microphones and web-cams. In that way, you can talk to the other party and see them at the same time.
In an educational setting, computer mediate communication has the ability to enhance the learning of the students. It also has the power to reduce the feelings of isolation that the students experience in traditional educational setting. Furthermore, increase satisfaction and motivation in the course being studied can also be expected.
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