Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Linguistic and paralinguistic cues of text-based computer-mediated communication and their associated social processes

Linguistic and paralinguistic cues of text-based computer-mediated communication and their associated social processes

Joseph A. Sindone III

With the prevalence of social interaction mediated by computers and communication technology in the modern age, much literature has emerged to investigate the effects of computer-mediated communication (CMC) on social interaction. This study reviews social science literature spread across the fields of communication, psychology, linguistics, and anthropology, to investigate how the qualities of CMC change and adapt the linguistic and paralinguistic cues available during face-to-face (FtF) interaction, as well as the effect the medium has on social processes that depend on cues. Core to existing theories on social interaction in CMC (such as the hyperpersonal model of CMC by Walther, the Social Identity Deindividuation Theory of Lea and Spears, and the ‘cues-filtered-out’ perspectives in early research) is the role that cues (and the lack of cues) in CMC play in influencing social interaction and the development of interpersonal relationships.

The cues available in CMC exist due to inherent qualities of the medium that set it apart from FtF: the asynchronicity of communicative exchanges and the restriction of communication to the written verbal channel. These two traits result in an overall greater degree of control over the cues transmitted in CMC in comparison with the extemporaneous delivery of FtF cues. Profile information is one example of a cue that can be moderated and selectively presented online depending on how advantageous it is to display these cues. In face-to-face interaction, there is no way to easily control the presentation of one’s visage and physique. In a number of computer-mediated social outlets (such as forums, MMOs, and weblogs), the lack of these cues are standard, giving users the freedom to present these cues at will. However, while some automatic cues in FtF contexts are optional and selectively presented in CMC, others cues persist as unconscious processes in both mediums.

In addition to reviewing the types of cues available in CMC, attention is focused on how these cues affect the perceptions of one’s communicative partner, the content and meaning of the messages being communicated, the transmission of emotions, the potential for linguistic mimicry, and the signaling of irony.

This review identifies some of the weaknesses in current literature on CMC, and suggests a direction for future research: testing the generalizability of current theories to CMC as a whole by investigating the variability of cue function across different online social contexts and communities.


April 23, 2010 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. If possible, I’d like to get a copy of your paper once it’s finished.

    Comment by Chris Diehl | June 7, 2010 | Reply

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