[Air-l] e-mail destroying friendships?

Steve Jones sjones at uic.edu
Mon Apr 21 04:36:39 PDT 2003

Who says "venues of CMC" are "decontextualized"? ;-)

Sheizaf Rafaeli, Quentin (Gad) Jones, Michael Schudson, are among 
those who I found very useful as I thought through some of the issues 
associated with the dualisms we tend toward when it comes to 
face-to-face communication in my Cybersociety 2.0 collection (or to 
put it another way as I pondered the "f2f vs. the world" card). I 
continue to be fascinated by the primacy of f2f in our thinking and 
scholarship, and the privileging of sight it entails and entwines. At 
the same time as we privilege sight, most often by noting that 
without seeing communication is "decontextualized" because we cannot 
see non-verbal expression, in the realm of CMC we are in fact using 
the sense of sight to read. We're just seeing different "stuff." Is 
that a loss? Is it a sign of nostalgia? Is it a real difference? Or 
is it d) all of the above?

And what does it mean that we talk about "tone of voice," a decidedly 
non-visual matter in human perception, in f2f communication? I need 
not face anyone to hear their tone of voice.

Along with Nancy I'm dubious about claims regarding particular forms 
of communication as, at least implicitly, "ideal" or even "more 
human" than others (which is not to say that some may not be "more 
mediated" than others). I'd prefer, I suppose, to center 
relationships in the human, and to put the onus on humans as actors 
who create, destroy or repair relationships, making choices from 
numerous means of communicating one with the other.


At 10:26 PM -0500 4/20/03, Charles Ess wrote:
>As usual,  Nancy's critical acumen is helpfully forcing me to sharpen my
>admittedly vague and diffuse query.
>Question: in ways analogous to how the decontextualized venues of CMC  seem
>to allow for more aggressive forms of communication - and forms of
>communication that are themselves decontextualized (e.g., the sharp reply
>sent not simply to a friend who might know the author well - but also to a
>range of strangers who have no experience with the author and hence have
>less ability to interpret his/her meaning, tone, etc.) -
>is it possible that such e-mail venues as I described might foster less
>judicious rhetoric (e.g., language use, etc., that one would never use
>face-to-face)  that is thus more likely to be destructive of relationships?
>I really don't know!  My query was sparked by discussion today with friends,
>in which two different examples of such destruction - severing of e-mail
>connections as well as reduction of f-2-f engagements with one another -
>were noted.  Again, two examples hardly a generalization make - but at least
>help occasion a query?
>Still curiously,
>Charles Ess
>Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
>Drury University
>900 N. Benton Ave.                          Voice: 417-873-7230
>Springfield, MO  65802  USA            FAX: 417-873-7435
>Home page:  http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
>Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/
>Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23
>>  From: Nancy Baym <nbaym at ku.edu>
>>  Reply-To: air-l at aoir.org
>>  Date: Sun, 20 Apr 2003 20:40:35 -0500
>>  To: <air-l at aoir.org>
>>  Subject: Re: [Air-l] e-mail destroying friendships?
>>  Charles  ponders whether email is destroying friendships...
>>  Sounds to me like politics are destroying friendships. Is there
>>  anything radically different in the scenario Charles poses than a
>>  person who raises politics at a party, leading to disagreement,
>>  perhaps vehement, and no more party invitations for some of the
>>  arguers? Face-to-face communication is clearly the biggest threat to
>>  relational survival there is -- almost every relationship that ever
>>  gets started ultimately falls apart via f2f communication. But we
>>  don't even think to blame face-to-face interaction for their
>>  downfall. As an interpersonal communication teacher, I have yet to be
>>  convinced there is anything profoundly different about email's role
>>  in relationships. Communication builds friendships. Communication
>  > destroys friendships. Email is a communication medium. Why wouldn't
>>  email destroy friendships as well as help build them?
>>  Nancy
>>  --
>>  Nancy Baym http://www.ku.edu/home/nbaym
>>  Communication Studies, University of Kansas
>>  102 Bailey Hall, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045, USA
>>  Association of Internet Researchers: http://aoir.org
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