Speaking Interpersonal-E

These items all deal with the similarities and differences between face-to-face and computer-mediated-communication and will appear in a somewhat edited form (some items were deleted, some new ones were added) in the margins of the next edition of TICB—the existing “Web Exploration” and “Try It!” items will be deleted. I’m calling them Speaking Interpersonal-E. Just thought you might find these useful.

Chapter 1. Universals of Interpersonal Communication
Computer-Mediated Communication
Throughout this text you’ll find marginal items labeled “Speaking Interpersonal-E” which draw your attention to the uniqueness of computer-mediated communication as well as to its similarities and differences with face-to-face communication. A definition from TheFreeDictionary.com will serve us well to begin: “Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is any form of communication between two or more individual people who interact and/or influence each other via separate computers” and generally refers to “e-mail, video, audio or text conferencing, bulletin boards, listservs, instant messaging, and multi-player video games.”

Gender Differences
Whether face-to-face or online, men seem to communicate more for information, to play, and to relax while women seem to communicate more for relational and expressive purposes and focus more on personal and domestic topics (Shaw & Grant, 2002; Colley, Todd, Bland, Holmes, Khanom, & Pike, 2004; Leung, 2001). Do you observe these gender differences?

If you want an easy way to create a presence for yourself on the web consider a personal blog—“a web application which contains periodic, reverse chronologically ordered posts on a common webpage” and coined as a combination of “web” and “log” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog). Blog hosts such as Blogger (www.blogger.com) enable you to do this very easily.

Access for Persons with Disabilities
Persons with impaired vision have much greater difficulty accessing information through print but computers are making it a lot easier (Williamson, Wright, Schauder, & Bow, 2001). In what specific ways might computer mediated communication help the visually impaired?

Spam and Spim
Just as spam—unwanted e-mail—have intruded into your e-mail, spim—essentially spam except that it comes through in instant messaging, is likewise adding noise to your computer-medicated communications (searchMobileComputer.com, smallbusinesscomputing.com). How might you use spim (also written spIM) ethically and without unwanted intrusiveness to get people to visit your website? Would you support a “don’t spam/spim” list on the analogy of the “don’t call” list that you can put your name on to reduce or eliminate telemarketing phone calls?

Chapter 2. Culture in Interpersonal Communication
If you want to understand a file written in a foreign language or translate a word or phrase, Google may be able to help. Go to Google’s home page (www.google.com) and explore the relevant information under Language Tools.

Loneliness and the Computer
One study finds that lonely people are more likely to use the Internet to obtain emotional support than are those who are not lonely. Further, lonely people are more satisfied with their online relationships than are those who are not lonely (Moahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2003). How would you explain the reasons for these findings?

You’re more likely to help someone who is similar in race, attitude, and general appearance. Even the same first name is significant. For example, when an e-mail (asking receivers to fill out surveys of their food habits) identified the sender as one with the same name as the receiver, there was a greater willingness to comply with the request (Gueguen, 2003). Why do you think people do this? Do you do this?

People who interact in online political discussions see themselves to be interacting with people very different from themselves, Yes, and contrary to the research showing that we communicate most with people we perceive as similar to ourselves, they enjoy this diversity of people and differences of opinions (Stromer-Galley, 2003). Is this true of your own experiences in online discussions?

Chapter 3. The Self in Interpersonal Communication
Some research claims that shy people communicate with less anxiety on the Internet than in face-to-face situations (cf. Scealy, Phillips, & Stevenson, 2002; Stritzke, Nguyen, Durkin, 2004). Do you think that shy people experience different reactions and communicate differently in face-to-face and in computer mediated situations? In what way? Why?

Self-disclosure in computer mediated communication
Some research indicates that self-disclosure occurs more quickly and at higher levels of intimacy online than in face-to-face situations (Joinson, 2001; Levine, 2000). Other research finds that people experience greater closeness and self-disclosure in face-to-face groups than in Internet chat groups (Mallen, Day, & Green, 2003). What has been your experience with self-disclosure in online and face-to-face situations?

Uses and Gratifications
One study identified seven gratifications you derive from online communication: being in a virtual community, seeking information, aesthetic experience, financial compensation, diversion, personal status, and maintaining relationships (Song, LaRose, Eastin, &Lin, 2004). How would you describe the gratifications you receive from online communication?

Communicating Anonymously
When you browse the internet, the websites you visit can collect information on you. But, you can surf the Net without disclosing your identity if you purchase additional services that allow you to receive Internet communication through an anonymous server. Although you may not have a need for this kind of anonymity now, can you envision situations in the future where this might be useful to you?

Cookies—small files that keep track of the sites you visited and generally make surfing the web more efficient—also collect information on your computer behavior which you may not want anyone to know about. You can easily delete cookies by going to Tools/Internet Options/General Tab/Settings/View Files and click on the cookie files you want to delete.

Beware the Trojan Horse
When you tell people about yourself, say, in chat rooms, you’re revealing information about yourself that an enterprising hacker, with some Trojan horse programs—“a malicious program that is disguised as legitimate software” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog) can use to discover further information and use it in unethical ways (Brandt, 2004). What precautions do you take to prevent such things from happening?

Chapter 4. Perception in Interpersonal Communication
Primacy and Recency Online
How would you explain the operation of primacy and recency in online communication? Which seems the more important in influencing your perceptions of another person—their earliest messages or their more recent messages?

Online Uncertainty
What kinds of uncertainty might you have with an online relationship partner that you wouldn’t have in a face-to-face relationship?

People also make judgments of you on the basis of your web page or blog. What types of web design elements do you think would lead people to form a favorable impression of you, solely on the basis of your web page. Visit one of the web pages of an instructor at your college who you do not know. What impressions of this instructor do you get from the website? What specific website cues do you use to form these impressions?

Online dating
According to a New York Times survey, online dating is losing its stigma as a place for losers (June 29, 2003, p. A1). Why do you think perceptions are changing in the direction of greater acceptance of online relationships?

Third Person Effect
Consistent with the research on the third person effect are the findings that most people believe Internet pornography has less of a negative effect on themselves than on others (Lo & Wei, 2002). What implications does this finding have for the attitudes people have about Internet pornography?

Perceptual Accuracy
How would you describe your own perceptual accuracy in face-to-face versus online relationships? What perceptual cues do you use in each situation?

Chapter 5. Listening in Interpersonal Communication
Limited Storage
There’s no limit to your brain’s long-term memory but there is limited storage space on your computer and the less free space there is, the longer it takes to load web pages. So, if you want to increase the speed for loading web pages, close programs you don’t need, whether they’re visible or operating in the background

Internet Noise
Spam and pop-ups are visual noise and, like any kind of noise, interfere with your receiving the messages you want to receive. Check out the ways your ISP allows you to block unwanted messages. It will help you attend to the desired messages.

Cell Phone Annoyances
One researcher has argued that listening to the cell phone conversations of others is particularly annoying because you can only hear one side of the conversation; cell phone conversations were rated as more intrusive than two people talking face to face (Monk, Fellas, & Ley, 2004). Do you find the cell phone conversations of people near you on a bus or in a store annoying, perhaps for the reason given here?

Chapter 6. Universals of Verbal and Nonverbal Messages
One way of communicating more information in less time is to use abbreviations which e-mail users have brought to a new level. Among the more popular are: AFAIK, AISI, BTW, OTOH, IMHO, BG, IAC, LOL, and CM. Check out the numerous websites that identify these and others.

Cell Phone Etiquette
A survey of cell phone users found that more people will more likely turn off their cell phones when entering a church or hospital than a retail store, for example (www.cellular-news.com/story/10000.shtml, posted 28-October-03, accessed September 10, 2004). Where are you most likely to turn off your cell phone? In what public situations are you likely to leave it on?

Increasing Information Load
Messages vary in the information they carry. If you want to increase the amount of information you can examine in a specific amount of time, you might want to set up your web browser to be graphics free. Do this by going to Tools/Internet Options/Advanced Tab/Multimedia Options and delete the check marks next to those items you want to eliminate—at least for now.

How would you describe the level of directness you use when talking face-to-face versus the level you use in e-mail and chat rooms? If you do notice differences, to what do you attribute them?

Chapter 7. Verbal Messages
Low Order Abstraction
In much the same way that you use specific terms to direct your face-to-face listeners’ attention to exactly what you want them to focus on, you also use specific terms to direct the search engine to narrow its focus to (ideally) just those items you want to access.

Instant Messenger
Among the values of Instant Messaging—“instant text communication between two or more people through a network such as the Internet” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki) –is that it occurs in real time, unlike e-mail where the message sending and the message receiving can be separated by varied amounts of time. What other values do you see for Instant Messaging?

Message Surveillance
How do you feel about an employer’s monitoring your electronic messages, your e-mail, listservs, and websites that you use on the job (Miller & Weckert, 2000)? How do you feel about employer surveillance in general?

Chapter 8. Nonverbal Messages
When you have lots to communicate in a short time, the best you can do while speaking is to increase your rate. When you have a lot to communicate electronically, you can significantly compress your files to reduce the time they take to send and receive and to reduce the amount of storage space they take up. For instructions on how to do this, see www.winzip.com.

Adjusting Volume
Much as you have a preference for a certain volume of speech, you probably also have a preference for the size of text with which you’re most comfortable. You can easily adjust the text size by going to View/Text Size/ and select your desired text size.

Online Immediacy
In what ways might you communicate immediacy online—in your chats and e-mail messages?

Chapter 9. Messages and Conversation
Gender Differences
In the mid-1990’s men used the Internet much more than women and although the differences are lessening, women still remain less frequent users and are less intense users than men (Ono & Zavodny, 2003). Do you find gender differences in online communication? How would you describe them?

Conversation Transcripts
In most cases, you really don’t want to save transcripts of conversations but in certain cases you might—e.g., you do an online interview with a famous person or you arrange to schedule a variety of activities and you want to be able to recall them exactly. In such cases, software is available to enable you to accomplish this. Check out the cost and the applications of this type of software should you want to save conversations verbatim. Or, in some cases, you could select, copy, and paste the conversation into a word processing file.

Turn-taking and Empowerment
A study of Thai women shows that females participate in chat discussions more than males. Women are also responded to more than are males by both males and females. Despite the fact that these women live in a male dominated society, they are quite dominant and empowered on the Internet (Panyametheekul & Herring, 2003). Can you think of other instances where access to the Internet has empowered people?

Relationship Communication in E-mail
Women are more likely to use e-mail for relational purposes—e.g., keeping in touch with family and friends—than are males, a finding that replicates the gender differences found in face-to-face communication and that demonstrates that it’s especially easy for women to expand their social networks (Boneva, Kraut, & Frohlich, 2001). Do you find that women are more relational in their communication than men?

Driving and the Cell Phone
One of the great advantages of cell phone communication is that you can talk wherever you are but while driving this creates problems—something that common sense and research both agree on (Charlton, 2004; Gugerty, Rakauskas, & Brooks, 2004). What can you do to guard against the dangers of driving while talking on the phone? Would you support laws banning cell phone use while driving as done in some municipalities?

Chapter 10. Universals of Interpersonal Relationships
Advantages of Online Relationships
Among the advantages of online relationships is that they reduce the importance of physical characteristics and instead emphasize such factors as rapport, similarity, and self-disclosure and in the process promote relationships that are based on emotional intimacy rather than physical attraction (Cooper & Sportolari, 1997). What do you see as the main advantages of online relationships?

Stages of Online Relationships
How would you describe the stages of online relationships? How would they be similar to face-to-face relationships? How would they differ?

Face-to-Face and Online Flirting
How would you describe flirting and how would it differ in face-to-face and in online situations? A beginning attempt at answering this question may be found in Whitty (2003).

Privacy and Emotional Closeness [Could also go in Chapter 3]
In face-to-face relationships, emotional closeness compromises privacy; the closer you become, the less privacy you have. In online relationships, however, because you’re more in control of what you reveal, you can develop close emotional relationships but also maintain your privacy (Ben-Ze’ev, 2003). Do you find this to be true? If not, how would you express the relationship between emotional closeness and privacy?

Online Attractiveness
How would you define online attractiveness, using as your basis, the three variables identified here for face-to-face attractiveness: physical and personality attractiveness, proximity, and similarity?

How would you compare relationship risk in face-to-face and online relationships? Generally, in which situation are the risks greater? Why?

Chapter 11. Interpersonal Relationships: Growth and Deterioration
Virtual Infidelity
Online infidelity is a relatively new problem with which couples must cope. Generally such infidelity is seen as a consequence of a failure in communication between the couple (Young, Griffin-Shelley, Cooper, O’Mara, & Buchanan, 2000). How would you describe online infidelity? What warning signs would lead you to suspect that your partner may be engaging in a secretive online relationship?

Relationship Maintenance and E-Mail
E-mail is one of the major ways in which meaningful relationships are maintained (Stafford, Kline, & Dimmick, 1999). In what specific ways can you envision e-mail being used to communicate relationship maintenance messages?

Online Equity
How would you describe equity in online relationships compared with, say, cohabitating relationships? Under what conditions would the costs exceed the rewards in online relationships?

Staying Together
One study found that of the people who met on the Internet, those that met in places of common interests, who communicated over a period of time before they met in person, who managed barriers to greater closeness and who managed conflict well were more likely to stay together than couples who did not follow this general pattern (Baker, 2002). Based on your own experiences, how would you predict which couples would stay together and which would break apart?

Chapter 12. Interpersonal Relationships: Friendship, Love, Family, and Workplace
Intimacy and Friendship
One study found that cross-sex face-to-face friendships were viewed as more intimate than computer-mediated friendships. But, for female-female friendships, face-to-face and CMC friendships were rated equally. CMC friends among males were rated as more intimate than face-to-face friendships (Haidar-Yassine, 2002). How would you compare CMC with face-to-face friendships on such dimensions as intimacy, closeness, and attraction?

Some Reasons for Internet Friendships
Research on young people (ages 10-17) finds that for both girls and boys, those who formed close online relationships were more likely to have low levels of communication with their parents and to be “highly troubled” than those who don’t form such close online relationships (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2003). Based on your knowledge and memory of this age group, did you find similar relationships? What other characteristics do you think might differentiate those who form close relationships online and those who don’t?

Advantages of Online Friendships
Among the advantages of online friendships are that they provide recreation, support, safety, diversity, and networking possibilities (Reiner & Blanton, 1997). What advantages to you see to online friendships?

The Internet and Generational Conflict
In South Korea, Internet use seems to be contributing further to the already significant generational conflict between children and parents (Rhee & Kim, 2004). Has computer mediated communicated contributed to generational communication gaps within your own family network?

Students Away at College
When students go away to college, they often maintain close connections with their family and high school friends through cell phones, e-mail, and instant messaging. What advantages does this ease of connection provide? Can you identify any problems this might create?

Taking Safety Precautions
One study suggests that people who make friends on the Internet do take safety precautions, e.g., protecting anonymity and talking on the phone before meeting face-to-face (McCown, Fischer, Page, & Homant, 2001). What safety precautions do you take in online friendship and romantic relationships?

Chapter 13. Conflict in Interpersonal Relationships
What specific kinds of messages do you consider flaming—“the practice of posting messages that are deliberately hostile and insulting to a discussion board (usually on the Internet). Such messages are called flames, and are often posted in response to flamebait” (TheFreeDictionary.com). What messages in face-to-face communication might you also consider flaming (cf. O’Sullvan & Flanagin, 2003)?

E-mail and Interpersonal Conflict
In what ways do you find that e-mail can escalate interpersonal conflict? In what ways might it help resolve conflict?

Aggressiveness in Internet Communication
In what ways might a person express anger and aggressiveness in e-mail communication?

One study found that generally at least people are more positive in dealing with conflict in face-to-face situations than in computer-mediated communication? (Zornoza, Ripoll, & Peiro', 2002), Do you notice this to be true? If so, why do you think it’s true?

Chapter 14. Power in Interpersonal Relationships
In one study, 10-15 percent of the students surveyed reported being harassed via e-mail or Instant Messaging (Finn, 2004). What is the state of online harassment on your campus? What can you do about it?

Censoring Interactions
Censoring Interactions with a particularly annoying person (see TOP 100 #76)
Could also go with sexual harassment

E-Mail Information
When you receive an e-mail, the sender—with the appropriate software—can tell when you opened the e-mail, how long you kept it opened, and whether you read it once or more than once. Can you identify any business applications of this ability? How might it help the researcher who uses e-mail surveys, say? How might it be abused?

Organizational Hierarchies
Some theorists believe that CMC will eventually eliminate the hierarchical structure of organizations and perhaps ultimately society largely because it “encourages wider participation, greater candor, and an emphasis on merit over status” (Kollock & Smith, 1996, p. 109). If this is true, it would mean that high power distance cultures will move in the direction of low power distance and gradually become more democratic. What evidence can you find bearing on this issue?


Updating Some Statistics

Here's a useful website for updating statistics on relationships--here sexual. For especially interesting reports click on Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures and Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths.


Films and Interpersonal Communication

Reviewing pages for the next edition of TICB and thinking about how I can better integrate media literacy into my books, I thought that different students are going to have very different opinions about how effectively the chapter opening photos function to introduce the chapter. And they’ll also have very different opinions as to which film might have been a better choice. So I think I’d try using this with any kind of chapter summary lecture: Now that you’ve read the chapter, what film would you have used to introduce the chapter? What television show? Why? How would you write the opening paragraph?

Here, btw, are the films and opening paragraphs that will appear in the next edition (I retained the same order of chapters):

1. The Aviator tells the story of Howard Hughes, one of the most interesting and eccentric people of all time, and his relationships with a wide variety of very different people; in a way it covers many of the topics discussed in this text—the importance of the self, verbal and nonverbal messages, interpersonal relationships, and perhaps especially conflict and power.

2. Hotel Rwanda tells the story of an attempted genocide by one cultural group, the Hutu, against another cultural group, the Tutsi, and the hotel manager who fights to save as many Rwandans as he can. Although the film can be appreciated on many levels, one level is clearly the horrors that can result from a lack of cultural understanding and an appreciation for cultural diversity—some of the issues explored in this chapter.

3. Sideways tells the story of two college friends who have entirely different self-concepts and the ways these self-concepts influence what they do and how they form relationships, topics considered in this chapter along with other topics relating to the self and interpersonal communication.

4. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (like all six films in the series) challenges your initial perceptions and forces you to see dramatic changes in various characters. As you’ll see in this chapter, however, our perceptions of other people (and their perceptions of you) are extremely resistant to change—a good reason to make favorable first impressions.

5. Cellular tells the story of a high school science teacher (played by Kim Basinger) who is kidnapped and locked in an attic. With only a broken cell phone she tries to find someone to listen to her and come to her rescue and to save her son. This chapter is devoted to listening with a much more modest goal—to make your interpersonal communication more effective.

6. The financial and critical success of Ray is clearly due in great part to the effective combination of verbal and nonverbal messages used by Jamie Foxx to depict the life and music of Ray Charles. In this chapter we look at verbal and nonverbal messages and how they interact to yield effective messaging.

7. Finding Neverland is the story of James Barrie and especially his creation of Peter Pan and how entirely through words brought to life characters (Tinkerbelle and Captain Hook) that have lived in the minds of children (and adults) ever since. Words have tremendous power and can enable you to accomplish a great deal as you’ll discover in this chapter.

8. With little in the way of story, House of Flying Daggers engages you with its visual display. It is the power of the nonverbal messages that maintain your interest and attention much as it happens in interpersonal communication—the subject of this chapter.

9. In Phone Booth you see a man who is confined to talking on the telephone to prevent his own death and although conversation is not usually a matter of life or death, it does have considerable consequences as you’ll discover in this chapter.

10, One of the most influential people in bringing to light the sexual and relationship practices of ordinary people was Alfred Kinsey whose life and contributions are depicted in Kinsey. In this chapter we also look at relationships and describe their characteristics, stages, and how they are influenced by both culture and technology.

11. Closer tells the story of two couples—their growth and their deterioration and the changes that take place in their interpersonal communication—a topic that closely reflects the substance of this chapter.

12. On one level Vera Drake tells the story of a woman who performs illegal abortions in London in the 1950’s. On another level it is the story of a family and how its members are all affected by what happens to one of them, a defining quality of relationships that are interpersonal. This chapter too discusses family as an interpersonal relationship along with friendship, love, and work relationships.

13. Million Dollar Baby is on the surface a film about conflict in the boxing ring but on a deeper level is about a wide variety of relationship conflicts, the subject of this chapter.

14. The Incredibles tells the story of a superhero who must now fight a giant killer robot to save the world, a test of who is more powerful. This chapter also focuses on power but of a different type—the power of messages to influence and help you accomplish what you want.



If I remember my movies correctly, in “The Punisher”—a B-movie making its rounds on cable—hero Tom Jane “tortures” someone to get information. After an elaborate build up of what the torture will feel and smell like—he administers the torture—placing an ice pop against the would-be informant’s flesh while he burns meat on a grill—all outside the vision of the informant. Of course, Jane gets the information he wants. Now, a research study confirms the effectiveness of what Jane did. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but is widely reported on the Net. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist University Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC—led by Tetsuo Koyama--found that subjects “experienced” pain (in part) in accordance with what they expected. So, those who were told that they were going to receive a heat stimulus that was more intense (and painful) than the previous one, actually experienced greater pain. When subjects expected moderate pain but actually were given high pain they rated the intensity of the pain about 28 percent lower than when they expected a high level of pain and did in fact receive it. Twenty-eight percent is approximately the pain reduction a person would get from a shot of morphine.
There seem lots of implications from this study. One very practical one is to train people to manage pain. But, there are lots of other implications--for perception and expectations, for verbal messages, for persuasion.


Breaking Up

It's interesting that we discuss what to do after the breakup and the causes of relationship dissolution but we rarely mention how to do it. I'm not aware of research that addresses this topic, though I intend to look.
MSN Dating & Personals - Ready to break up? Read this


Interpersonal Communication in China

Some time ago, my Interpersonal Communication Book was translated into Chinese (I’m still not off the high I got from that) and I thought it strange that a book with a decidedly "Western" perspective and research would be translated into Chinese, apparently to be used in universities throughout the country. Now, I see that not only do courses in interpersonal communication apparently exist in China but, the New York Times reports, Fudan University in Shanghai now has a new class, Introduction to Gay and Lesbian Studies--largely, it seemed from the description, dealing with gay and lesbian interpersonal relationships. Apparently it’s the first such course ever offered to undergraduates in China and is likely to encourage more such courses at other universities. According to the Times the class was overflowing.

Small Talk

Small Talk

While browsing the bookstore, I came across Debra Fine’s The Fine Art of Small Talk—it’s not a scholarly work and has no references to research; it’s a simple discussion of the dos and don’ts of social talk or conversation. The book made me think that although small talk occupies most of our communication talk time, we devote amazingly little attention to it. I suspect it may be because we assume that small talk is inconsequential, without rules or strategies (as, say, in public speaking), and most often mindless. But maybe not.


Relationship News

I guess this was to be expected from the Terminator. Interestingly enough the research findings (from Kurdek and Gottman, for example) show there is little difference between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. And in places where gay marriage is permitted, no great catastrophe has occurred.
Schwarzenegger will veto gay marriage bill - Politics - MSNBC.com