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About Face Threat: An Analysis of Negative Behaviors in Computer-mediated Communication


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Presented at the New York State Communication Association’s Annual Conference, October 21-23, 2011, Ellenville, New York.

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About Face Threat: An Analysis of Negative Behaviors in Computer-mediated Communication

  1. 1. About Face Threat: An Analysis of Negative Behaviors in Computer-mediated Communication Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Rutgers University ( Jocelyn A. DeAngelis, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Rutgers University ( Gary P. Radford, Ph.D., Professor, Fairleigh Dickinson University ( Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, OCLC New York State Communication Association October 21-23, 2011
  2. 2. Virtual Reference (VR) o Web-based chat & instant messaging (IM) CMC reference services o VR encounters capture full transcript of interaction between reference librarian & user o VR interactions complex & fraught with possibility of misunderstandings & miscommunications
  3. 3. Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior Erving Goffman 1922-1982 “On Face-Work: An analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction” (1967)
  4. 4. Face-Work “Much of the activity occurring during an encounter can be understood as an effort on everyone’s part to get through the occasion and all the unanticipated and unintentional events that can cast participants in an undesirable light, without disrupting the relationships of the participants” (Goffman, 1967, p. 41)
  5. 5. Face Defined • Positive social value person claims • Self-image in terms of approved social attributes
  6. 6. Face-Work in Encounters • Face is located in flow of events o Feelings about face reinforced by encounters o If better face established – feel good o If expectations not fulfilled – feel bad or hurt o Neutral experience – expected, not memorable
  7. 7. Face Threat = Negative Face-work Face Threat o Communication threatens face of interactants Types o Losing Face • Person caught in embarrassing or damaging position (e.g., in a lie or inappropriate behavior) o Wrong Face or Out of Face • Experience shame • Possible to maintain confidence, if others cover (e.g., one makes faux pas & others pretend not to notice) • Poise is ability to conceal wrong face or out of face
  8. 8. Face-Work in VR • Goffman provides powerful frame to analyze VR encounters • Face & face-work appear in flow of transcript (event) • Analysis identifies instances or lack of face- work
  9. 9. Methodology • Data from Institute of Museum & Library Services Grant of $684,996 • “Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference services from user, non-users, and librarian perspectives” o Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and OCLC, Online Computer Library Center, Inc. o Project duration: 2 ½ Years (10/05-3/08) o 4 phases including transcript analysis
  10. 10. Sample Selection • 850 VR transcripts randomly selected from 479,673 transcripts (8/04-11/06) • 746 usable transcripts qualitatively analyzed & coded • 1 transcript selected to illustrate face-threats in VR • “Physics” - “The Accelerating Bumper Car” Duration: 17 min., 8 sec.
  11. 11. Conclusion • Goffman offers powerful way to gain insights into VR practice & understanding of interpersonal dynamics in CMC • Physics transcript analysis reveals, similar to the FtF environment, importance of face-work, e.g., politeness rituals • Expressions of deference & demeanor (Goffman, 1956), are important to success of VR encounters
  12. 12. Future Research • Many questions involving participant’s perception of these interactions remain unanswered • New grant: “Cyber Synergy” (10/11-9/13) for $250K • Next analyze 500+ transcripts from 2010 • Developing theoretical model based on Goffman
  13. 13. End Notes • This is one of the outcomes from the project Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, & Librarian Perspectives • Funded by IMLS, Rutgers University, & OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. • Web site: activities/synchronicity/default.htm
  14. 14. Questions & Comments?