L574: Communication in Electronic Environments

Computer-Mediated Communication


Semester: Spring 2001   Instructor: Dr. Susan Herring
Time: Tuesdays 5:45-8:25 p.m.   Office: IUB Library 021
Place: IUPUI Campus   Phone: (812) 856-4919 (voice mail)
Section: C529   Email: herring@indiana.edu

Instructor's Office hours: T 4:30-5:30 (IUPUI - CL1110); R 4-5 (IUB) and By Appointment
Class majordomo list: herring_cmc_iupui@indiana.edu

Required text:

Sproull, Lee & Sara Kiesler. (1991). Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Articles to be put on electronic reserve on ERROL.
1. Course Description
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is the human-to-human interaction that takes place via computer networks such as the Internet. Historically, most CMC is text-based; familiar examples include email, distribution lists, threaded newsgroups, chat, ICQ, MUDs, and Instant Messaging. Since the mid-1990's, multimodal CMC has become increasingly important as well, in the form of the World Wide Web, video chat, audio chat, and graphical virtual reality environments. CMC may be either synchronous (chat, I CQ, MUDs, video chat, etc.) or asynchronous (email, distribution lists, the World Wide Web, etc.), depending on whether or not the system requires the sender and the receiver to be logged on at the same time in order for communication to take place.
  Invented in the late 1960's, CMC has been growing at an extraordinarily rapid rate over the past three decades, with millions of new users currently logging on to the Internet each year. It is predicted that by the year 2002, users in North America alone will send 8 billion email messages a day. Pundits, politicians, and computer professionals claim that CMC is fast on its way to becoming as ubiquitous on a global scale as such now-taken-for-granted communication technologies as the radio, the telephone, and the television. Arguably the moment has already arrived when every educated person in technologically-advanced countries is expected to know how to communicate using email, including knowing how to express her- or himself appropriately and effectively in the new medium for a variety of different purposes professional, educational, commercial, and personal.
  Yet communicating via computers is not simply a matter of transferring one's face-to-face speech or traditional writing habits to the computer medium. The medium itself shapes the nature of communication: Style, coherence, etiquette, message length, conte nt and interpersonal and group communication dynamics are all influenced, directly or indirectly, by the technical properties of CMC systems and the cultures that have grown up around their use. This observation has given rise to claims that CMC is both b etter and worse than traditional forms of communication. What is clear is that CMC is a unique phenomenon, subject to its own potentialities and constraints, and therefore important to understand and use well.
  In this course, we will evaluate the potentials and constraints of a range of different types of CMC, focusing on two contexts: structured organizational environments (intranets), and the Internet. The order of contexts recapitulates the evolution of CMC research itself, which first focused in the late 1970's and early 1980's on how CMC affects communication and productivity in the workplace, and expanded with the growth of the Internet in the 1990's to investigate the social and recreational (and increas ingly, economic) practices that take place in public space online.
  Some of the questions we will address in this course include:

  • How do the technical properties of CMC systems (synchronicity, interface, etc.) affect human communication in different contexts of use?
  • What are virtual communities, and what causes them to form, maintain themselves, and fail?
  • How does CMC affect language and language use?
  • How does CMC affect human relationships and social life?
  • Are multimodal forms of CMC better than text-only CMC?
    2. Course Objectives

    As a result of completing this course, you should gain:

  • practical, hands-on experience using different kinds of CMC
  • a broad understanding of the nature of CMC, its social effects, and what uses different kinds of CMC are best suited for
  • the ability to describe and analyze the communicative effects of possible-but-as-yet-unrealized CMC system designs that you might encounter in the future
  • experience conducting CMC research, including carrying out a small original research project on a type of CMC in a setting of your choice.
    3. Course Requirements
    Readings: You are expected to read the assigned readings and take informal reading notes on them (1-2 paragraphs identifying each article's main claim(s), and commenting on or questioning some aspect of the article that is of interest t o you). The reading notes will help prepare you for class discussion, and will provide feedback that will enable me to conduct the course to better meet your interests and needs. Reading notes will be collected at the end of each class period. Therefore, you will need to write or type them on individual sheets of paper, rather than in a bound journal.
      Course project: Early in the semester, you will collect a sample of the kind of CMC that you plan to study for your original research project. At different points throughout the semester, you will be asked to turn in brief reports (1-2 pages each) describing your sample, identifying your research questions, and describing the proposed methodology for your study. These steps will help prepare you to write the term paper.
      Term paper: At the end of the semester, you will write a 12-15 page paper (excluding references and appendices) reporting on the results of original research on CMC in a mode and setting of your choice (same as described under course project above ). This need NOT be a type of CMC we have discussed in the course, but can be any type of CMC you are interested in (providing you can get reasonable and ethical access to it), including CMC related to research you are conducting for other purposes.
      Oral presentation: Before the term paper is handed in, you will share the findings of your research with the class in an oral presentation (10-15 minutes).
      Written guidelines to the above will be provided in advance of all assignment due dates, either in class or through the class listserv. You are expected to check your email at least twice between class meetings, including the morning before class for last -minute announcements and reminders.
      There will be no exams in this course.
    4. Grading
    Your grade for the course will be calculated as follows:
    Reading notes and class participation   25%
    Reports on data description, research methods, etc.   15%
    Oral presentation of term-paper research   15%
    Term paper   45%
    Total:   100%
      Grading policy:

  • Late reading notes will be accepted once during the semester, no questions asked, provided they are turned in electronically at least two days before the next class meeting.

  • Late reports will be accepted only with advance permission from the instructor. I reserve the right to lower your grade by one-third of a letter grade (from A to A-, A- to B+, etc.) for each day a report is late.

  • Reading notes and class participation will be graded with a check mark for each class meeting, to indicate that the requirement was met. Reading notes are to be handed in on the day the reading is discussed. Class participation means being wil ling and able to speak intelligently in class about the topics under discussion. In order to be able to speak intelligently about a topic, you will need to have done the readings for that topic before class. You will also need to be physically present and alert. Participation cannot be made up if you miss a class.

  • All written reports, the oral presentation of your term-paper research, and the written term paper will be assigned letter grades (A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, etc.).

  • The oral presentation of your term-paper research will be graded primarily on form: how well it is organized, how informative it is, and how clearly and professionally it communicates to your audience (i.e., the rest of the class). An 'A' qual ity oral report conveys an appropriate amount of information given the time allotted for the presentation, is presented in a straightforward and concise manner, and is logically organized (usually following the schema: identification and motivation of you r research question, brief background, data studied and methods of analysis, your findings, and some interpretation of the findings).

  • The written term paper will be evaluated on content -- originality of the research question, appropriateness of the data and methods used to investigate the question, plausibility of your interpretations -- and form -- organization (similar to that for oral presentations), clarity and quality of written expression, and appropriate use of scholarly conventions such as citations and footnotes. An 'A' quality term paper addresses an interesting research question, makes use of an appropriate empir ical method to analyze real CMC data, and interprets the findings thoughtfully, in addition to being well-organized and clearly and professionally written.

    Note: Learning is a collaborative enterprise. However, plagiarism, copyright infringement, and other types of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, cite the source!
    6. Schedule of Readings and Class Discussions

    Note: All readings and reading notes are due on the date shown, except where indicated by *.
      Week 1:   Introduction to Computer-Mediated Communication. Types of mediated communication. Types of CMC.
        *After class meets,
        Read: Baron, 2000. "Language at a Distance". In: Alphabet to Email.

    Herring, In Press. "Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis," sections 1-2. In: Handbook of Discourse Analysis, ed. by D. Tannen, D. Schiffrin & H. Hamilton.

    (Note: No reading notes are required for these two articles.)
      Week 2:   The early days of CMC technology and use. The development of the Arpanet, Internet, and Usenet.
        Read: Leiner et al. (1997). "The Past and Future History of the Internet." Communications of the ACM 40 (2).

    Licklider and Taylor. (1968). "The Computer as a Communication Device." International Science and Technology, April.

    Hafner and Lyon. (1996). "E-mail." Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet.

    Rheingold., (1993). "Grassroots Groupminds." The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/
      Week 3:   The debate over the nature of CMC. Information exchange vs. socio-emotional expression. What is CMC good (or bad) for?
        Read: Daft & Lengel. (1984). "Information Richness: A New Approach to Managerial Behavior and Organization Design." Research in Organizational Behavior, vol.6, 191-233.

    Kiesler et al. (1984). "Social Psychological Aspects of Computer-Mediated Communication." American Psychologist, 39, 1123-34.

    Rice & Love. (1987). "Electronic Emotion: Socioemotional Content in a Computer-Mediated Network." Communication Research, 14, 85-108.

    Walther. (1996). "Computer-Mediated Communication: Impersonal, Interpersonal and Hyperpersonal Interaction." Communication Research, 23(1), 3-43.
        Project: Between Week 2 and Week 3, post to the class listserv a brief description of the kind of CMC you plan to study for your research project. Start observing and collecting data.
      Week 4:   Conducting CMC research. Analytical approaches and methods. The ethics of studying naturalistic CMC.
        Read: Bauer. (2000). "Classical Content Analysis: A Review." In Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound, ed. by M. Bauer and G. Gaskell.

    Witmer et al. (1999). "From Paper-and-Pencil to Screen-and_Keyboard: Toward a Methodology for Survey research on the Internet." In Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net., ed. by S. Jones.

    Mitra & Cohen. (1999). "Analyzing the Web: Directions and Challenges." In Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net., ed. by S. Jones.

    Suler, John. (1996). "Ethics in Cyberspace Research." http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/ethics.html
        Project: First written report due (1-2 typed pages). Describe your CMC data, using the medium and situation variables presented in Week 1. Include a paragraph about what you find interesting about this kind of CMC, and possible research questions you might wan t to ask.
      Week 5:   CMC in organizations, Part I: Efficiency, decision-making, and group dynamics. Secondary social effects.
        Read: Sproull & Kiesler, Chs. 1-5.
    (Note: Take separate reading notes for each chapter.)
    Week 6:   CMC in organizations, Part II: Influence, control, and organizational change. Speculation vs. empirical findings.
        Read: Sproull & Kiesler, Chs. 6-7.
    (Note: Take separate reading notes for each chapter.)

    Rice & Gattiker, 2000. "New Media and Organizational Structuring." The New Handbook of Organizational Communication, ed. by F. Jablin & L. Putnam.
        Project: Second written report due (1-2 typed pages). State the research question(s) you want to investigate in your study. Describe the methodology, step-by-step (inasmuch as possible) you will follow to find an answer to the question(s).
      Week 7:   CMC on the Internet: Community. Is virtual community real? Examples of a listserv community (The Well) and a MUD community (ElseMOO).
        Read: Jones, 1995. "Understanding Community in the Information Age." Cybersociety, ed. by S. Jones.

    Rheingold, 1993. "Introduction" and "The Heart of the Well." The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier.
    (Note: Treat the two Rheingold chapters as one article for reading notes.)

    Cherny, 1999. Conversation and Community, Chs. 1-2.
    (Note: Treat the two Cherny chapters as one article for reading notes.)
        Lab Demonstration: MUDs and MOOs.
      Week 8:   CMC on the Internet: Community (continued). Usenet and IRC. When pre-existing communities go online. Examples of TV soap opera fans, South Asians.
        Read: Baym, 1995. "The Emergence of Community in Computer-Mediated Communication." In: Cybersociety, ed. by S. Jones.

    Reid, 1991. Electropolis: Communication and Community on Internet Relay Chat. Senior Honours thesis, University of Melbourne, Australia. http://www.crosswinds.net/~aluluei/elect ropolis.htm

    Paolillo, Forthcoming. "Conversational Codeswitching in Usenet and Internet Relay Chat." In: Computer-Mediated Conversation, ed. by S. Herring.
        Lab Demonstration: Usenet; Chat.
      Week 9:   Register and style. Is CMC a special variety of language? Genres of CMC and their linguistic features.
        Read: Cho, Forthcoming. "Linguistic Features of Electronic Mail." In: Computer-Mediated Conversation, ed. by S. Herring.

    Herring, 1996. "Two Variants of an Electronic Message Schema." In S. Herring (ed.), Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives.

    Werry, 1996. "Linguistic and Interactional Features of Internet Relay Chat." In S. Herring (ed.), Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives.

    Cherny, 1999. Conversation and Community, Ch.3.
          Suler, 1996. "E-Mail Communication and Relationships." http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/emailrel.html

    Suler, 1996. "TextTalk: Psychological Dynamics of Online Synchronous Conversations in Text-Driven Chat Environments." http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/texttalk.html
      Week 10:   Conversational management. How do computer communication systems affect the structure and management of conversation? Turn-taking and topic coherence. Conversations in large groups.
        Read: Woodburn et al., 1991. "A Study of Conversational Turn-Taking in a Communication Aid for the Disabled." Proceedings of HCI 91: People and Computers VI, pp.359-371.

    Herring, 1999. "Interactional Coherence in CMC." JCMC 4(4). http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol4/issue4/herring.html

    Rafaeli & Sudweeks, 1997. "Networked Interactivity." JCMC 2(4). http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol2/issue4/rafaeli.sudweeks.html
        Lab Demonstration: 'talk' (split-screen protocol)
      Week 11:   Nobody knows you're a dog? Identity, gender, and race. Conscious self-presentation vs. unconscious cues given off through communication styles.
        Read: Donath, 1999. "Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community." In: Communities in Cyberspace, ed. by M. Smith & P. Kollock.

    Danet, 1998. "Text as Mask: Gender, Play and Performance on the Internet." In: Cybersociety 2.0, ed. by S. Jones.

    Herring, 2000. "Gender Differences in CMC: Findings and Implications." Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Newsletter, Winter. http://www.cpsr.org/publications/newsletters/issues/2000/Winter2000/herring.html

    Burkhalter, 1999. "Reading Race Online." In: Communities in Cyberspace, ed. by M. Smith & P. Kollock.
        Project: Third written report due (2-3 typed pages). Sample analysis of your data using the methods described in the second written report. What trends are starting to be evident? What difficulties are you encountering in implementing your chosen methodology, and how are you resolving them (or how do you think you might resolve them, if you haven't already)?
      Week 12:   The World Wide Web: A special case of CMC. Broadcast vs. interpersonal communication via the Web. Web graphics and format as systems of meaning.
        Read: Hoffman and Novak, 1995. "Marketing in Hypermedia Computer-Mediated Environments: Conceptual Foundations." http://www2000.ogsm.vanderbilt.edu/cmepaper.revision.ju ly11.1995/cmepaper.html

    Jackson, 1997. "Assessing the Structure of Communication on the World Wide Web." JCMC 3(1). http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol3/issue1/jackson.html

    O'Sullivan, 1999. "'Personal Broadcasting': Theoretical Implications of the Web." http://www.ilstu.edu/~posull/PersBroad.htm
        Lab Demonstration: The Web
      Week 13:   Multi-modal CMC. What are the effects of adding other channels of communication? Graphics, audio and video.
        Read: Lombard & Ditton, 1997. "At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence." JCMC 3(2). http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol3/issue2/lombard.html

    Walther, 1999. "Visual Cues and Computer-Mediated Communication: Don't Look Before You Leap." http://www.rensselaer.edu/~walthj/ica99.html

    Neal, 1997. "Virtual Classrooms and Communities." http://www3.ncsu.edu/dox/NBE/neal/nealtitle.htm
          Chou, C. Candace. 1999. "Computer-Mediated Communication Systems for Synchronous Online Learning." (Powerpoint slides of conference presentation.) http://www.lll.hawaii.edu/chou/conf/ppdla99/sld001.htm
        Lab Demonstration: Video conferencing
      Week 14:   3-D Graphical Virtual Reality Environments.
        Read: Krikorian et al., 2000. "Isn't That Spatial? Distance and Communication in a 2-D Virtual Environment." JCMC 5(4). http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol5/issue4/krikorian.html

    Damer, 1999. "The Coming of Inhabited Cyberspace." Xploration. http://www.digitalspace.com/papers/xplor1.htm

    Ligorio and Trimpe, n.d. "Euroland: Active Knowledge Building Through Different Formats of Mediated Communication."

    (Note: No reading notes are required for these articles.)
          Suler, 1996. "The Psychology of Avatars and Graphical Space in Multimedia Chat Communities." http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/psyav.html
        Lab Demonstration: ActiveWorlds
        Project: Finish analyzing your data.
      Week 15:   Oral presentations on term paper research
      Week 16:   Term paper due by 5 p.m. in my mailbox.