In my Computer Mediated Communication class, we currently are looking at the affordances of online communication technologies and how they affect communication. As part of the class, I had my students try out different technologies for 3 categories of CMC affordances: Broadcasting, interaction, and networking.
Broadcasting is the ability to deliver a message to a large group of people, usually including information. Interaction is the ability to have communication between more than two people. The purpose of interaction is to transfer information, give and receive feedback, and create shared meaning. Networking can be broken into two parts, 1) developing a network and 2) accessing a network to find information, create common or shared meaning, and/or to problem solve with others (crowd sourcing).
In many cases, students would try out the same technology, such as twitter or facebook, but using it slightly different so they could determine the affordance of that technology for a particular purpose. I then had them reflex on the experience and answer a series of questions about communicating for those affordances. Below is a summary of what I feel are necessary for effectively broadcasting, interacting, and networking online.
I had my students fill out a form to answer the following questions for each category of affordance (e.g. attributes for broadcasting, attributes for interacting online, attributes for networking).
1. Technology: What attributes should you be looking for when choosing technology?
2. What information do you need to know about the audience?
3. What guidance will your audience need to communicate with you effectively?
4. What training or experience will employees need to use the technology effectively?
5. What time constraints will the technology impose? Users? Audience?
6. What resistance or potential problems may impede communication?
7. What is the purpose of communication?
The most important aspect of CMC in broadcasting is to know the audience. In choosing technology, it is important to know where your target audience will go to get the type of message you want to convey to them. One good resource is an infographic that ad-age put together (found on aging online) on how different generations consume technology, broken down by technology, time of the day, and age groups.
One important aspect of CMC for broadcasting is to have a feedback mechanism to insure that the message you intended is the message that was received to the targeted audience. Using a tool like google analytics or any other web page collection code is important to ensure who is seeing the message, how they got to your site, where they went while on your site, etc...
Just like broadcasting, online interaction is dependent upon the audience. However, choice of media and the level of familiarity that an audience has with the technology you are planning to use becomes more important. One of the observations my students and I made when they used different interactive technologies was the level of frustration a technology created when they were not sure how to use it. In addition, technology that had instant guidance built in (through prompts, online support) resulted in more communication.
For example, I noticed that most of my students asked me at some point in time how they were supposed to use Prezi, the online group editing feature providing interaction with their classmates. Even though they could find that out through training videos available on Prezi, they did not take the opportunity to do so because it was too time consuming and less frustrating getting direction from a person. One reason for this was the time constraint they were working under in class. However, another factor was their preference to ask targeted questions rather than having to find the answer on their own by filtering a lot of information.
Another aspect of interaction is the understanding of the communication protocols used by a technology community. I found, for example, that my students were much more comfortable interacting on facebook (on which many of my students were members) rather than twitter. Even those that had twitter accounts that they used on a regular basis felt uncomfortable "interacting" on twitter. Once they were shown some of the features (i.e. retweet, reply) and communication protocols (i.e. use of hashtags, search) they began to interact more on twitter.
While many of the Millenniums are comfortable with social networks, if you asked them to explain how to create a social network or communicate in one, most would not be able to explain them. As I have told my students, in our class, we are looking at ways to improve and "manipulate" networks to maximize its use, especially in a professional setting.
Creating networks requires an understanding of who is in your network and how you can maximize the social net outside of your own network. Communication in networks is based on "what can be" or potential help. This requires getting to know and trust members of your network before you need them. It also means being aware of who can help you when.
The second part of the networking is to actually access those within your network when you need them. This may require interaction, the ability to create a ripple effect (getting those within your network to access their network), and planning out your communication in a more strategic way. For example, my students were asked to find out information from their networks on Linkedin, twitter, and facebook. Many of them were well versed in using their facebook networks, but not as familiar with twitter or linkedin. Identifying those within their network that could answer their question or who had access to experts was important. So was feedback from the network. In some cases, my students had the answers but did not know how to access the locations of those answers (i.e. twitter mentions or searches using hashtags). Likewise, some of them tried so share their answers but others did not see them.
Student evaluation of CMC tools
In the weeks to come, hopefully my students and I will be adding to our insight on CMC. You can help by looking at their reviews of online tools and how they affect communication.
Van Den Dam, R. (2010). How social media is redefining broadcasting. Broadcast Engineering, May 1. Available at: http://broadcastengineering.com/production/social-media-redefining-broadcasting-0510/index2.html
Alcatel-Lucient White Paper (2011)New communication behaviours in a Web 2.0 world — Changes, challenges and opportunities in the era of the Information Revolution. Available at: http://enterprise.alcatel-lucent.com/private/active_docs/Communication%20Behavior%20in%20a%20Web2%200%20World_ALU.pdf
Boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). "Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11. Available at Library in eholdings database.
TECHNOLOGY SPHDC (2011) Exploring the potentials of computer mediated communication (blog post). Available at: http://www.sphdc.com/exploring-the-potentials-of-computer-mediated-communication.html
- V Yonkers
- Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.