Theorizing the Future of Computer-Mediated Communication: The Changing Role of Self-Presentation, Audience, and Interaction
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Theorizing the Future of Computer-Mediated Communication: The Changing Role of Self-Presentation, Audience, and Interaction

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Presentation at Theorizing the Web conference in College Park, MD on April 9, 2011.

Presentation at Theorizing the Web conference in College Park, MD on April 9, 2011.

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  • Usenet created in 1979 by some Duke students : users post messages to newsgroups; no central server  rather it is distributed across a large number of more localized servers.Baym studied a soap opera form, focused on norms guiding site useDonath focused broadly on identity and deception online (signaling theory), used Usenet as the example.
  • Started in San Fran in 1985.See Rheingold’s website for links to early meetups.
  • Commercials tell us 1 in 5 relationships begin on an online dating website.
  • Some interesting points: Ellison et al. found that people are not really using SNSs to develop new relationships but to reconnect and maintain existing relationships. One exception to this could be when it comes to SNGs (our research).Donath & boyd (2004) suggest that displaying a connection with another user signals one’s willingness to risk their reputation. Mutual connections help place an individual within a larger network and can help establish common ground.
  • Rooted in social presence theory andmedia richness
  • CFO effects are limited to a narrow range of experiences, specifically zero-history, one-shot interactions.
  • message features—including the ability to edit messages before sending, minimize cue leakage, and reallocate cognitive resources—allow individuals to more thoroughly engage in selective self-presentation
  • Note that this is a bit of an oversimplification of what is going on but at a high level holds true.For example, researchers have expanded on the hyperpersonal model to include visual cues and synchronous communication, but all of these theories are about impression formation rather than relationship maintenance and impression management.
  • Some would argue that while we apply the social capital framework, it is not a theory. Others argue that social capital is recursive, that it includes everything and therefore it includes nothing.
  • Talk about these inter-relatedly
  • Sites like Lamebook and Failbooking aggregate pictures and updates that may have been marked as “private” but were copied by a friend and submitted to the site.
  • http://gawker.com/#!321802/your-privacy-is-an-illusion/bank-intern-busted-by-facebookKevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank's North American arm got into trouble after he got caught in a lie on Facebook.
  • Talk about social capital research, how we see this relationship as a weighing of risks and benefits. Could bring in lowest-common-denominator approach, but point to problems inherent in that.
  • Talk about social capital research, how we see this relationship as a weighing of risks and benefits. Could bring in lowest-common-denominator approach, but point to problems inherent in that.
  • Talk about social capital research, how we see this relationship as a weighing of risks and benefits. Could bring in lowest-common-denominator approach, but point to problems inherent in that.
  • Inputs: time, effort, loyalty, hard work, commitment, ability, flexibility, toleranceOutcomes: Sense of achievement, praise, recognition, reputation, social support
  • Outcome = benefits – costsSatisfaction = outcome – comparison levelDependence = outcome – comparison level of alternativesCritique: human interaction isn’t always rational

Theorizing the Future of Computer-Mediated Communication: The Changing Role of Self-Presentation, Audience, and Interaction Theorizing the Future of Computer-Mediated Communication: The Changing Role of Self-Presentation, Audience, and Interaction Presentation Transcript

  • Theorizing the Future of Computer-Mediated Communication:
    The Changing Role of Self-Presentation, Audience, and Interaction
    Jessica Vitak | @jvitak
    Michigan State University
    Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Let’s take a walk through CMC’s past…
    1. Computer-mediated communication is not a new phenomenon.
    2. Theories of CMC have evolved with the technology.
    3. BUT this evolution cannot keep pace with technological developments.
    2
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • CMC is as old as the Internet
    3
    Usenet (1979)
    Best-known and widely researched online discussion forum.
    Newsgroups for every topic imaginable.
    See Baym (1998) & Donath (1999) for examples of research using Usenet.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • CMC is as old as the Internet
    4
    The WELL (1985)
    Became widely known through Howard Rheingold’s book, “The Virtual Community”
    Strong geographic component.
    Highlighted the modality-switching capabilities of the Internet.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • CMC is as old as the Internet
    5
    AOL connected millions of people to the Internet and served as both an ISP and as a homebase for establishing an online identity.
    AOL Chat Rooms enabled large-group pseuodonymous, synchronous interactions.
    AIM (1996) enabled synchronous one-to-one interactions.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • 6
  • CMC is as old as the Internet
    7
    Online dating sites serve a very specific purpose: finding someone to date (casually or seriously) 
    Modality switching.
    Static profiles  asynchronous communication  synchronouscommunication  face-to-face meetings.
    See Ellison, Gibbs & Heino’s (2006) research for more.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • CMC is as old as the Internet
    8
    Boyd and Ellison (2007) define SNSs as “web-based services that allow individuals to:
    (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system;
    (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and
    (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.”
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Let’s take a walk through CMC’s past…
    1. Computer-mediated communication is not a new phenomenon.
    2. Theories of CMC have evolved with the technology.
    3. BUT this evolution cannot keep pace with technological developments.
    9
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Theories of CMC
    10
    Cues-filtered-out approach (Culnan & Markus, 1987)
    Dominant in 1980s and into the 1990s
    CMC is impersonal; less social/personal; leaner than in-person interactions
    "CMC, because of its lack of audio or video cues, will be perceived as impersonal and lacking in normative reinforcement, so there will be less socioemotional content exchanged" (Rice & Love, 1987).
    <
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Theories of CMC
    11
    Social Information Processing (SIP) Theory (Walther, 1992)
    Direct response to cues filtered out approach.
    Relationships can and do form online, albeit at a slower rate than in face-to-face environments.
    =
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Theories of CMC
    12
    Hyperpersonal Model (Walther, 1996)
    Sometimes, the unique affordances of CMC allow individuals to develop develop relationships that are “more socially desirable than we tend to experience in parallel FtFinteraction” (p. 17).
    Role of sender, receiver, channel, and feedback.
    >
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Theories of CMC
    13
    Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE; Reicher, Spears, & Postmes, 1995 )
    In deindividuated/depersonalized settings, individual identity is submerged into the group identity.
    We identify with the “in group” and disassociate with the “outgroup.”

    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Let’s take a walk through CMC’s past…
    1. Computer-mediated communication is not a new phenomenon.
    2. Theories of CMC have evolved with the technology.
    3. BUT this evolution cannot keep pace with technological developments.
    14
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Evolution of CMC
    15
    CMC’s early features:
    Asynchronous
    Examples: Email, discussion forums
    Benefits: Allows user to carefully compose and edit messages prior to sending.
    Drawbacks: limited/no real-time interactions  slowed down processes
    (2) Reduced-cues environment
    Examples: any text-only online interaction
    Benefits: selective self-presentation, identity play
    Drawbacks: No visual cues misinterpretations of messages, deception
    Theories of CMC are based off of these properties.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Evolution of CMC
    16
    CMC in 2011 is:
    (1) Highly interactive
    (2) Highly visual
    (3) Synchronous, near synchronous, and asynchronous communication
    (4) Interactions are with FRIENDS, not strangers
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • The Problem
    17
    CMC has changed…
    BUT
    the theories that attempt to predict, explain, and control it have not.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Enter my research…
    18
    https://www.msu.edu/~nellison/TOIL
  • Enter my research…
    19
    What do we study?
    The relationship between Facebook use and social capital:
    We have found that various measures of Facebook use, including FBI (Ellison et al., 2007), actual friends on the site (Ellison et al., in press), connection strategies (Ellison et al., in press), and engagement in reciprocal communication (Vitak et al., 2011) predict perceptions of social capital.
    But this only tells part of the story.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Enter my research…
    20
    Problems with this research:
    Atheoretical?
    Does not account for two inter-related and
    critical components of SNS use:
    -- Audience
    -- Self-Presentation (a la disclosures)
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • What’s audience got to do with it?
    21
    danahboyd (2008) identified three dynamics that differentiate networked publics from traditional publics:
    invisible audiences
    context collapse
    blurring of public and private
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Selective Self-Presentation via CMC
    22
    Goffman’s (1959) dramaturgical approach:
    … a performer tends to conceal or underplay those activities, facts, and motives which are incompatible with an idealized version of himself… a performer often engenders in his audience the belief that he is related to them in a more ideal way than is always the case (p. 48).
    Hyperpersonal Model (Walther, 1996): senders engage in selective self-presentations // receivers idealize the sender // behavioral confirmation through feedback
    So how do we selectively self-present on SNSs?
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • 23
    Selective Self-Presentation in our SNS Profiles
    Profile Picture
    Highlighted Pictures
    Friends
    • How many?
    • Who are they?
    • Who is highlighted?
    Status updates
  • 24
    Communication Channels on SNSs
    Public: Status Updates, Comments, Likes, Posting Photos, Sharing Links
    Private: Messages, Chat, Filtering Posts with privacy settings
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Blurring of Public and Private
    25
    Marwick and boyd (2011):
    “We may understand that the Twitter or Facebook audience is potentially limitless, but we often act as if it were bounded.”
    But Facebook is just my friends!
    Technical features enable sharing of “private” information far beyond your articulated network.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Blurring of Public and Private
    26
  • Blurring of Public and Private
    27
    Canadian woman on medical leave dropped from insurance for not looking depressed in Facebook photos (story)
  • Blurring of Public and Private
    28
    Eagles employee fired over status update (story)
  • But what does it all mean?
    29
  • But what does it all mean?
    30
    We cannot rely on older theories of CMC to explain current user experiences.
     Older theories focus on reduced cues, asynchronous
    communication.
    • These theories also focus on relationship formation, not maintenance.
    Social Information Processing
    Hyperpersonal
    SIDE
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • But what does it all mean?
    31
    We cannot rely on older theories of CMC to explain current user experiences.
    • Older theories focus on reduced cues, asynchronous communication.
    One’s audience—both known and unknown
    —is critical.
    • But can you ever really know who your entire audience is?
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • 32
  • 33
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • But what does it all mean?
    34
    We cannot rely on older theories of CMC to explain current user experiences.
    • Older theories focus on reduced cues, asynchronous communication.
    2. One’s audience—both known and unknown—is
    critical.
    • But can you ever really know who your entire audience is?
    3. While scary things can and do happen, online
    communication is full of benefits for those
    who choose to engage.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Looking forward
    35
    How can we theoretically explain the communication and relationship building that occurs online?
    Don’t treat online and offline as separate entities.
    We don’t necessarily need to build new theories from scratch 
    • Can we expand on existing theories of CMC to include new technological features?
    • Can we adapt existing social science theories explaining offline interaction?
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Looking forward: Where to start?
    36
    Equity Theory (Adams, 1965)
    • Distribution of resources in a dyadic relationship
    • Compares ratios of contributions and benefits of each member of a relationship.
    MY INPUT = YOUR INPUT _
    MY OUTCOMES YOUR OUTCOMES
    • When these ratios are unequal, individuals feel distress and seek to restore equity
    • People seek to maximize rewards while minimizing costs.
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Looking forward: Where to start?
    37
    Social Exchange Theory (review: Emerson, 1976)
    • Relationship development process consists of a series of cost-benefit analyses
    • Main concepts: cost, benefit, outcome, comparison level, satisfaction, and dependence
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • Looking forward: Where to start?
    38
    Altman’s (1975) theory of privacy—selective control of access to the self, involving:
    A dynamic, dialectic process
    An optimization process
    A multi-mechanism process
    Functions of privacy:
    • management of social interaction
    • establishment of plans and strategies for interacting with others
    • development and maintenance of self-identity
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011
  • 39
    Thanks!
    Twitter: Email:
    @jvitakvitakjes@msu.edu
    Website:
    http://vitak.wordpress.com
    Jessica Vitak | Theorizing the Web | April 9, 2011