Mediated communication is communication where a technological medium is employed to communicate messages to another. In today’s technology-driven world, we spend less time in the same spaces as our friends and colleagues. Much of our work and free time is spent communicating through a screen with one another rather than sitting face-to-face.
Technology has allowed us to expand our ability to communicate instantly with others worldwide, creating online communities and spaces for people who never would have met otherwise to come together. Yet the physical distance between colleagues, friends, and family can often feel overwhelming.
However, as the ability to use computer-mediated communication (CMC) has grown, the expansiveness and availability of modes of mediated communication have dramatically increased, giving us more opportunities to connect with those we love. This article will discuss the idea of mediated communication and how it can expand our ability to communicate with those around us, allowing us to expand our lives and businesses further than we have in the past.
It will also discuss the issues that relying so heavily on mediated communication may present ways to combat them to ensure that any mediated interaction provides the necessary information and feedback.
Mediated Communication Defined
Mediated communication is any form of communication where a technological medium is employed to communicate messages to another. It is also called asynchronous communication. Mediated communication is essentially anything that is not face-to-face communication, where the people are in the same physical space and communicating with each other there. While there are limited similarities between face-to-face interactions and mediated communication, more differences further define mediated communication and how it works.
Less Nonverbal Cues
One of the biggest challenges with computer-mediated communication is the lack of nonverbal cues and body language in face-to-face interaction. When you are in someone else’s presence, you can make eye contact and reach the facial expressions that the other person uses. Depending on the relationships between the parties, they are often able to communicate as much if not more through their body language.
However, when we use different technologies, there are fewer chances for the unspoken communications that can happen with social presence. Eliminating the cues can make communication more difficult, differentiating it from face-to-face communication.
Less Relational Understanding
When we communicate with someone primarily face-to-face, we develop relationships with them and begin to understand how they communicate through more than words. We see how their tone and body language change the delivery and understand how when they are joking based on a certain smirk on their face.
Mediated communication can remove the relational understanding between the speakers because the tone and body language are not present, often making it more difficult for the parties to fully communicate with one another. Human communication can depend on the parties to understand the relationships that exist and how they impact communication.
When we remove the human connection that is present in face-to-face communication, we often feel more comfortable putting more information inside messages than we normally would. This is partially because the messages are often in writing, which allows the recipient to reread and process the information at their own pace. Additionally, we may not see or understand the overload that the person is feeling when they encounter the information over a physical distance.
This often means that the speaker will not hold in information in the same way that they would if they were together. Allowing for more information to be shared is helpful in some cases, but can be overwhelming in others.
No Answer Required
Unlike the potentially awkward situations that can result when you do not have an answer during an in-person conversation. mediated communication does not always need an answer or reply, particularly not right away. Often the sender has given time for the recipient to process and take in the information and is not expecting an immediate response. In some cases, they may not even need an answer at all. It is often one-way communication between the parties.
Both Require Coordination
Both mediated and face-to-face communication require that the sender and the recipient coordinate the sending of the message in some way, such as arranging a time to meet face-to-face or expecting an email. This coordination allows both parties to be an active part of the communication process, even if they are communicating through a computer.
Types of Mediated Interpersonal Communication
When it comes to the mediating technologies present in mediated communication, it is important to understand that it is not just the electronic interactions that we frequently consider when we think of technology. Technology can include less extensive forms, such as written words, or complicated communication forms, such as electronic mail.
This section will consider the various forms of mediated communication media to illustrate the wide variety of options that fall under this umbrella, also acknowledging the ways that changes and growth in the information science field have created new and occasionally better reasons to use mediated communication.
Mass communication and mass media are some of the biggest forms of mediated communication. Mass communication media includes newspapers, radio shows, or television programs where a message is shared with a large number of people. In this type of communication, no answer is expected or requested, and the message is shaped by the sender alone. It allows for a massive number of people to receive the same message, giving the sender a lot of power.
One of the earliest forms of mediated communication was writing. Because the sender can convey the message separately from their physical presence, the communication is mediated by the letter. Throughout history, people have communicated by sending letters to each other, often waiting weeks for the return.
Another earlier type of mediated communication was the phone call. The development of the telephone and the ability to make phone calls dramatically changed how we communicate and the time it takes to do so. Instead of waiting weeks for a return letter to be delivered, two people could pick up the phone and speak to each other in real time even though they were not in the same space. This erased the physical distance that many people felt and brought people closer together, changing mediated interpersonal communication for the better.
The next major development in the interpersonal communication realm was the creation of the computer and the rise of computer-mediated communication (CMC). The development of computers and specifically the internet allowed people to communicate instantly with one another through electronic mail (now called email) and eventually text messaging.
The instantaneous delivery of the message through the technological medium allowed people to become closer to one another and form a community with others that they may not have met without a computer mediating the communication. There are many different types of computer-mediated communication, but most forms of mediated communication are now done through a computer.
Reasons to Use Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC)
Now that we have a grasp on what mediated communication is and how it works, we can look at some of the ways that computer-mediated communication may be useful, both in our personal lives and professional lives. While most people would still prefer face-to-face interaction in many instances, mediated communication can still be valuable to interpersonal communication in a variety of ways.
One of the most common ways that interpersonal communication has relied on a technological medium is when there is physical distance between the people who are hoping to communicate. When face-to-face communication is not possible, turning to other forms of communication and technology can help us keep a sense of connection and community, even when we are not together. This is common among college students and their parents, those in a long-distance relationship, and any else needing or hoping to connect. An example would be a student sending a text message to their mom in between classes.
Another common use of mass media and communication is using technologies for information sharing and disbursement. When someone is hoping to shift a perspective or would like to influence how people see an event or discourse, they may turn to mass media and communication to do so, specifically with mediums such as social networking among young people and Facebook use. This can also be true when looking at print and television news programs or a video of a politician’s speech.
It allows the sender to control the way the information is shared. When we need to disburse information to a large number of people, media and asynchronous communication can be the way to do so.
Working Together But Apart
Another reason to use computer-mediated communication is because it gives employees and the workforce the tools to work together while being apart. Computer-supported cooperative work allows everyone to contribute to a project and interact with each other while they do so. This encourages the development of professional relationships, even when the employees are working from separate corners of the country or world. With the use of computers, text messaging, and even the telephone, employees can shift their perceptions and begin to work together better through technology.
Another common reason that many young people may use social media and mediated communication to interact with each other is that they cannot find the same sense of community within their everyday lives and relationships. By finding a community online, they can find meaningful interaction with others and can control how and what is shared, potentially avoiding embarrassment that can happen in real life. It provides a place for people with a similar interest or behavior to form meaningful relationships with others.
Mediated Communication and Conflict Resolution
When it comes to using mediated communication for conflict resolution, there are often mixed feelings on how well this can be used. On the one hand, it allows people to process and consider the differences that are causing the conflict. It also allows us to control our emotions and keep our behavior and speech in check while dealing with a tense interaction. The availability of good mediators and arbitrators has grown online, giving more people a chance to have access to a professional to help them move toward resolution.
However, dealing with conflict through a computer screen or any way other than face-to-face communication can put a strain on our relationships. It is difficult to pick up on the subtleties of speech and body language when we are communicating through a technological medium or another person. Sharing our feelings can become more difficult when we are not in the same space as the other person. Conflict resolution can be. arduous process, and the use of computers can feel impersonal.
Mediated communication can be a valuable tool for everyday life and connections, and it can be helpful when it comes to conflict resolution. However, many people may feel unsatisfied and unloved if relationships are created purely through mediated communication. We have one of the best tools for connecting with others and sharing our successes online, but we need to value human connection and interaction as well. Creating space for both forms of communication allows us to find deeper relationships and community no matter where we are.
To learn more about mediated communication, mediation, and more, contact ADR Times!