Computer-mediated communication (CMC) systems blur traditional context distinctions made by communication theorists. Developments in computer and telecommunication technologies have begun to redefine the process of human communication. Scholars have been forced to reconceptualize information and communication processes.In this study, we add to this reconceptualization by integrating separate approaches to research on CMC systems and extending the discussion in new ways. Three types of media are included in the discussion:1)interpersonal media, including face-to-face and telephone;2)CMC systems, including electronic mail, voice mail, computer conferencing, and electronic bulletin boards; and 3)traditional print and broadcast media. This research framework identifies four classes of CMC characteristics and uses an approximate scale to demonstrate different degrees of various characteristics of each medium.
The four classes of CMC characteristics include:
1) Access to terminals, accounts or other equipment.
2) Process, including six dimensions of interactivity.
3) Social presence, the extent to which users perceive others to be psychologically present when interacting over a medium.
4) Constraints, including personal and communication factors influencing media use.
The proposed framework represents a fruitful research app roach. First, the characteristics of CMC systems have modified human communication process. A focus on the communication process will help researchers better understand how information is exchanged. Moreover, as more and more new media become available, a focus on the communication process directs research attention to make comparisons across media to better understand media choice-making. This study argues that CMC systems should be studied in a more systematic way and the proposed framework suggests a number of research directions.
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) systems provide new opportunities for understanding communication processes. The communication environment created by the computer is rather different from that of traditional modes communi cation. CMC systems blur traditional context distinctions make by communication theorists. Developments in computer and telecommunication technologies have begun to redefine the process of human communication.
Scholars (Rice & Williams, 1984; Rogers, 1988; Rogers & Chaffee, 1983) have recognized a need to reconceptualize the communication process to accommodate the interactive characteristics of new communication technologies such as CMC systems. As development and applications of CMC systems increase, research regarding their uses and implications continues to grow. Rice (1989) argues that the existing body of research on uses and effects of CMC systems tends to “emphasize technological idiosyncrasies rather than communication commonalities” (p.436). It is, thus, essential to provide a framework for research on CMC. This paper outlines key concepts of CMC that have differentiated CMC itself from traditional human and mass communication. A research framework for system atic studying of CMC systems is proposed. Implications for research are then dis cussed.