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Q: Communication on the Internet ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Communication on the Internet
Category: Business and Money > Advertising and Marketing
Asked by: swt-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 13 Sep 2002 17:04 PDT
Expires: 13 Oct 2002 17:04 PDT
Question ID: 64828
What research has been done on the communicative characteristics 
of the Internet? (Characteristics such as monologue/dialogue, 
interactivity, range etc…) I need references to scientific work on this 
Subject: Re: Communication on the Internet
Answered By: angy-ga on 14 Sep 2002 03:16 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi, swt-ga!

This is a fascinating subject, and a there's a large body of very
specialist research investigating various areas. I've summarised a
few, and indicated where they in turn point to other references,
though many of these are not available on-line. Because of the delay
in gathering scientific information, assessing it and publishing, most
studies are using data froma year or two ago. J.Habermas' "The Theory
of Communicative Action"  ( Vol. 1, Translated by Thomas McCarthy,
Beacon Press, Boston) which seems to be basic to this area of
interest, was published in 1984.

A discussion from a psychological viewpoint is: "Internet Paradox
A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological
Well-Being?" by
Robert Kraut and Vicki Lundmark
Human Computer Interaction Institute
Carnegie Mellon University

Michael Patterson and Sara Kiesler
Social and Decision Science Department
Carnegie Mellon University 

Tridas Mukopadhyay
Graduate School of Industrial Administration
Carnegie Mellon University 

and William Scherlis
Computer Science Department
Carnegie Mellon University 

This was published by the American 
Selected Article
September 1998, Vol. 53, No. 9, 1017–1031
 1998 by the American Psychological Association

" This research examined the social and psychological impact of the
Internet on 169 people in 73 households during their first 1 to 2
years on-line. ... In this sample, the Internet was used extensively
for communication. Nonetheless, greater use of the Internet was
associated with declines in participants' communication with family
members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle,
and increases in their depression and loneliness. "

The article has extensive references, which are hyperlinked.

They write: "Our research has shown that interpersonal communication
is the dominant use of the Internet at home (Kraut, Mukhopadhyay,
Szczypula, Kiesler, & Scherlis, 1998). That people use the Internet
mainly for interpersonal communication, however, does not imply that
their social interactions and relationships on the Internet are the
same as their traditional social interactions and relationships
(Sproull & Kiesler, 1991), or that their social uses of the Internet
will have effects comparable to traditional social activity. "

Part of their conclusion states:

"People use the Internet to keep up with family and friends through
electronic mail and on-line chats and to make new acquaintances
through MUDs, chats, Usenet newsgroups, and listservs. Our previous
analyses showed that interpersonal communication was the dominant use
of the Internet among the sample studied in this research (Kraut et
al., 1998). They used the Internet more frequently for exchanging
electronic mail than for surfing the World Wide Web and, within a
session, typically checked their mail before looking at the Web; their
use of electronic mail was more stable over time than their use of the
World Wide Web; and greater use of e-mail relative to the Web led them
to use the Internet more intensively and over a longer period (Kraut
et al., 1998). Other analyses, not reported here, show that even
social uses of the Internet were associated with negative outcomes.
For example, greater use of electronic mail was associated with
increases in depression. ...
... The paradox we observe, then, is that the Internet is a social
technology used for communication with individuals and groups, but it
is associated with declines in social involvement and the
psychological well-being that goes with social involvement. Perhaps,
by using the Internet, people are substituting poorer quality social
relationships for better relationships, that is, substituting weak
ties for strong ones (e.g., Granovetter, 1973; Krackhardt, 1994).
People can support strong ties electronically. Indeed, interviews with
this sample revealed numerous instances in which participants kept up
with physically distant parents or siblings, corresponded with
children when they went off to college, rediscovered roommates from
the past, consoled distant friends who had suffered tragedy, or
exchanged messages with high school classmates after school. "

Interestingly, if as your question implies you are interested in the
problem from the advertising and marketing viewpoint, they found that
people who frequently used email to communicate with each other,
reverted to telephone calls when the issue was of real importance to

There is a very extensive bibliography with this article.

John December has a paper "Units of Analysis for Internet
Communication" at:

Copyright 1996 Journal of Communication 46(1) Winter. 0021-9916/96 

This is extremely thorough and includes extensive references to other
researcher's work.

Among much else, December writes:

"Another approach to researching on-line communication is a focus on
language and rhetoric. Researchers in these areas have likewise
discovered many insights into the structure and content of
computer-mediated communication and how literacy and orality are
affected by communication technology (Baron, 1984; Black, Levin, Mehan
& Quinn, 1983; Ferrara, Brunner & Whittemore, 1991; Finnegan, 1988;
Gurak, 1994; Lakoff, 1982; Murray, 1991; Ochs, 1989; Ong, 1977, 1982;
Shank, 1993; Spitzer, 1986). These studies have examined a variety of
on-line content and used many schemes for defining or discussing units
of analysis.
Murray (1991), for example, looked at electronic documents and mail
used for interpersonal and small group communication on a proprietary
computer network, and identified cognitive and contextual strategies
for writing documents on personal computers and using electronic mail
in a study of an IBM project manager and his colleagues. Shank (1993)
examined electronic mailing lists involving a large number of people,
many of whom are unknown to each other, on the Internet or other
networks. Shank argued that communication in these on-line discussion
lists is neither oral nor written, but semiotic. Can the Murray and
Shank results be compared? Each researcher looked at different uses of
computer-mediated communication, and thus used different units of
analysis for the communication. Without careful attention to the
definition of the units of analysis researchers used, it is difficult
to integrate the results of these studies. "

There is a huge list of references at the end of the article, of which
some which look as if they might be of interest are::

Baron, Naomi, S. (1984). Computer-mediated communication as a force in
language change. Visible Language, 18(2), 118-141.

Black, S., Levin, J., Mehan, H., & Quinn, C. N. (1983). Real and
non-real time interaction: Unraveling multiple threads of discourse.
Discourse Processes, 6(1), 59-75.

Chew, J., & Yanoff, S. (1995). Inter-network mail guide. [On-line]
Available: file://

...Feenberg, A. (1989). The written world: On the theory and practice
of computer conferencing. In R. Mason & A. Kaye (Eds.), Mindweave:
Communication, computers and distance education (pp. 22-39). Oxford:
Pergamon Press.

Feenberg, A. (1992). From information to communication: The French
experience with videotex. In M. Lea (Ed.), Contexts of
computer-mediated communication (pp. 168-187). New York: Harvester

Ferrara, K., Brunner, H., & Whittemore, G. (1991). Interactive written
discourse as an emergent register. Written Communication, 8(1), 8-34.

Finnegan, R. H. (1988). Literacy and orality: Studies in the
technology of communication. Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Fulk, J., Schmitz, J., & Steinfield, C. (1990). A social influence
model of technology use. In J. Fulk & C. Steinfield (Eds.),
Organizations and communication technology (pp. 117-140). Newbury
Park, CA: Sage.

Fulk, J., Steinfield, C. W., Schmitz, J., & Power, J. G. (1987). A
social information processing model of media use in organizations.
Communication Research, 14(5), 529-552.
Havelock, E. A. (1986). The muse learns to write: Reflections on
orality and literacy from antiquity to the present. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.

Hiltz, S. R., & Turoff, M. (1978). The network nation: Human
communication via computer. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Kiesler, S., Siegel, J., & McGuire, T. W. (1984). Social psychological
aspects of computer-mediated communication. American Psychologist, 39,
Lea, M. (1992). Introduction. In M. Lea (Ed.), Contexts of
computer-mediated communication (pp. 1-6). New York: Harvester

Lea, M., & Spears, R. (1991a). Computer-mediated communication,
de-individuation, and group decisionmaking. In S. Greenberg (Ed.),
Computer-supported cooperative work and groupware, people and
computers (pp. 155-173). London: Academic Press.
Littlejohn, S. W. (1989). Theories of human communication (3rd ed.).
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
McGuire, W. J. (1974). Psychological motives and communication
gratification. In J. G. Blumler & E. Katz (Eds.), The uses of mass
communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research (pp.
167-196). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Miles, I. (1992). When mediation is the message: How suppliers
envisage new markets. In M. Lea (Ed.), Contexts of computer-mediated
communication (pp. 145-167). New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Murray, D. E. (1991). The composing process for computer conversation.
Written Communication, 8(1), 35-55.

Ochs, Elinor(1989). Language, affect, and culture. Cambridge, England:
Cambridge University Press.
Rapaport, M. (1991). Computer mediated communications: Bulletin
boards, computer conferencing, electronic mail, and information
retrieval. New York: Wiley.

Rice, R. E., & Shook, D. E. (1990). Voice messaging, coordination, and
communication. In J. Galegher, R. E. Kraut, & C. Egido (Eds.),
Intellectual teamwork: Social and technological foundations of
cooperative work (pp. 327-350). Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.
Shank, G. (1993). Abductive multiloguing the semiotic dynamics of
navigating the net. The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual
Culture, 1(1). [Online]. Available:
Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1986). Reducing social context cues:
Electronic mail in organizational communication. Management Science,
32(11), 1492-1513."
John holds an MS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in
Communication and rhetoric:

Unfortunately the Shank's paper on semiotics seems to have been
removed form the Arachnet archives, and the link above is also

Hans-Juergen Bucher has an article "Crisis Communication and the
Internet: Risk and Trust in a Global Media"  published in First
Monday, a peer-reviewed internet journal, volume 7, number 4 (April

Hans-Juergen Bucher is Professor of Media Studies at the University of
Trier in Germany.He asks:

"In terms of crisis communication this leads to the question: does the
Internet increase or decrease the risk of a communication breakdown?
It has been demonstrated that trust is one of the features in complex
modern societies which compensates for risk. So does the Internet
increase trust in global crisis communication? The questions
concerning the interrelation of risk, trust and crisis communication
are seen in a much broader context: does Internet communication force
a structural transformation of the public sphere?"

He discusses reaction to the Sept. 11 crisis and the significance of
Internet communication in shaping our reactions to it. Among other
conclusions are:

"The integration of the Internet in crisis communication alters the
role of journalism and undermines the power of communication of
official sources. "


"We have to consider in crisis communication that there are tendencies
towards a global public. Satellite TV like CNN or Al Jazeera are the
starting points of a global public. But with the Internet this becomes
much more apparent. So whoever communicates in a crisis, which is of
international relevance, has to be aware of a global audience. Of
course one has to take into account that the access to Internet
communication is far from a fair distribution in the different regions
of the world. But from that, one gets an argument for setting the new
world order of information on the public agenda again."

His bibliography includes:

Kathy Foley, 2001. "There are no words," 17 September 2001, at,
accessed 31 March 2002.

Matt Welch, 1999. "Kosovo Highlights Failings in Journalism," Online
Journalism Review (9 April), at, accessed 31 March

A less esoteric discussion can be found in "THE INTERNET BUSINESS
BOOK"Written by Jill H. Ellsworth, Ph. D. and Matthew V. Ellsworth
Copyright (c) 1994 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

This includes a section on Computer Mediated Communication (CMC).

They say the "... equalizing affect carries over to some extent to
communications within a corporation. People seem freer at all levels,
from CEO to mailroom clerk, to join in discussions about the business
. Participating in e-mail discussion groups within a company can
improve the sense of participation and openness within that company --
a giant corporate water-cooler that can span all sites and divisions
of a company."


there is a 1999 paper by student Lev Lafayette on "A SOCIAL THEORY OF
THE INTERNET: A PRELIMINARY REVIEW" which covers communicative action
and is well referenced.

I hope this is of assistance.

Search terms:

"communicative characteristics internet"
"communication characteristics internet"
swt-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

The article you mentioned by G. Shank (1993), "Abductive multiloguing
-- the semiotic dynamics of navigating the net" was of great help. (I
found the article on a different server: and I also browsed
through their archive and found various approaches to my subject.)

I am still interested in more references of this kind.

There are no comments at this time.

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