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Social Media Research
Communication technology and theory: Research into the interpersonal and social interface

Summary: We tend to view communication using social media, online tools and web sites, IM, chat, SMS, and so literally. Messages have authors, what they seem to be saying is what they in fact mean to say, and so on. The reader is the interpreter of what's communicated. But the medium not only transmits and enables talk by capturing communication on web pages, in chat and IMs, in emails, blog posts, and comments. It also produces the author: as an appearance or effect of the medium. This is enough to go on in most cases, but it does have implications. We do not "exist" online any more than a Second Life avatar exists in the real world. These are media of production. Presence, talk, intent, motive, character, personality.... all these are manufactured by the social media that are their means of production. HCI and human factors research has a deep field of study in social media.

Producing audience relations with technology

Even if we don't know the people we're speaking to, face to face situations allow us to make educated guesses concerning their relationships to one another. We can draw on their body language, facial expressions, dress, and other cues. Aware of it or not, we use that information during the course of own interaction. For a social interaction is as much about the relations between participants as it is about content of what is said.

This gets complicated when technology makes us invisible. And technology often conceals our relations with each other, too. Take email, and the ease with which we can "blind copy" and forward messages. Who's to say with certainty where a message may end up? Not knowing our audience with total certainty, do we self-censor our communication?

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