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Dialogue processes in computer-mediated communication: a study of letters in the COM system
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Communications Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
1986 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis concerns the basic communicative potentials of a new communications medium: computer-based communication systems. The computer medium has properties which makes it possible to carry out an interactive dialogue, although messages are written and there is a delay between successive contributions. However, the substantially reduced possibilities of giving and-receiving feedback in the medium have the consequence that the norms of comparable spoken dialogues no longer hold. This is also contradicted by the potential for infonnation overflow in the system. A main purpose of the thesis has been to assess the structural properties of a computer-mediated dialogue with special consideration of the role of feedback.

As a point of departure, an outline of a theory of language games is given as a basis for analyzing human dialogues. Further, the notion of feedback in spoken discourse is discussed with reference to an earlier study of communication via different spoken media. In this context, the particular importance of feedback for the interactivity of a dialogue is considered.

A study is presented which concerns letters (private messages) produced whitin the COM system. The data for the dialogue analysis were obtained from 11 COM users and comprised 450 complete dialogues. In order to study the attitudes of users to the computer as a medium, interviews have been carried out with the users who provided the data, and a questionnaire svrvey including these users as well as 40 other experienced users.

The results of the dialogue analysis show that there are important structural differences beween computer-mediated dialogues and a spoken dialogue face-to-face. The computer dialogues have a structure which is collapsed compared to the number of levels in a spoken dialogue, and independent feedback moves giving confinnation and evaluation of previous contributions are largely missing. This means that a prototypical question-answer exchange is 2-part instead of 3-part.

An investigation of questioning strategies shows, however, that computer-mediated letters mostly employ a simple, unplanned language partly reminiscent of a spoken dialogue. The management of several simultaneous topics seems to give rise to conflicts between written and spoken nouns, and topics are often dropped, presumably as a result of the rapidity of the medium.

The interviews and questionnaire survey confirm that the medium is preferable used as a fast way of carrying out an interactive dialogue, and that most users taking part in the study do not primarily seek to take advantage of the technical possibilities of the system for increasing the efficiency of communication.

The integrated analysis of letters and interviews/questionnaire leads to a discussion on the consequences of the diminished feedback opportunities and on the properties of the computer medium as compared to other forms of writing and speaking. A model is proposed which posits two basic modes of interaction in the medium, and which makes possible a distinction between different patterns of usage. Some consequences of the study for the education of users are briefly discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: LiberFörlag , 1986. , 176 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 6
Keyword [en]
Dialogue, Discourse analysis, Feedback, Question strategies, Written communication, Computer-mediated communication, Message systems, COM system
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-35290Local ID: 26189ISBN: 91-40-05164-1OAI: diva2:256138
Public defence
1986-09-19, Wallenbergssalen, Östergötlands och Linköpings Stadsmuseum, Linköping, 14:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2012-11-14

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Severinson Eklundh, Kerstin
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