Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Type Me How You Feel: Quasi-Nonverbal Cues in Computer-Mediated Communication. (an Internet Fieldtrip Report)

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Type Me How You Feel: Quasi-Nonverbal Cues in Computer-Mediated Communication. (an Internet Fieldtrip Report)

Article excerpt


ONE OF THE most cherished pieces of wisdom I have gained through cultural study is that each of us, as unique individuals, perceives our self, each other, the world, the universe, and all components thereof somewhat differently as a result of our ever-changing personal attitudes, values, beliefs, expectations and experiences. I've grown to rely on the fact that no two people ever actually perceive an "identical" object or situation in exactly the same way. Therefore, as a somewhat altruistic individual who wishes to embrace humanity for all our magnificent diversities, I strive for open-mindedness. Nonetheless, I admit my principles in this regard went somewhat awry as I listened to many candid anecdotes exchanged in a Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) class I recently attended regarding varied personal perceptions of the nonverbal aspects of communicating online.

As a traditionalist in thought regarding what constitutes nonverbal behavior, I can't help but explore what at first may seem an absurd notion -- that effective and reliable nonverbal communication can actually exist in a technological mode. Hence, my investigation regarding the existence of nonverbal cues during CMC.


As both urban and rural societies move toward a global community with technology soaring to the dominant position, the way each of us views the world, the people in it, our cultures, and our ideals, changes too. Such metamorphoses are part of life and as age-old as they are futuristic. Think about it: Language, for example, has evolved from the guttural grunts and growls of our most ancient ancestors to the plethora of tongues spoken worldwide today. Denotative and connotative meanings of words and actions constantly change as people employ them in different ways. Today, the rate at which new words are being developed (as a means to refer to innovations in technology and the human understanding thereof) calls for the continuous development of new dictionaries. From the New Scrabble Dictionary to The Hacker's Dictionary, printing presses glisten, ready-wet with ink for a new run. Semanticists and linguists boast "field day!" while delving into new rhetoric and nomenclature involved with Computer-Mediated Comm unication (CMC).

More and more people today rely on CMC to "meet" with others for business purposes, information exchange, or simply to form personal relationships. Therefore, as we move toward a new language base linked to online communication channels, we automatically form a new analytical basis upon which we transmit messages and interpret meanings; in doing so, we tend to neglect the fact that most nonverbal cues are missing in the exchange!

Undoubtedly, the relationships and communities formed through CMC enable participants to create important social climates. Still, to what degree participants perceive the online textual and graphic content to signify behavioral truths is a separate matter. In fact, fledgling social and psychological theories abound regarding the changing perceptions of online "behaviors" as more and more people associate typewritten symbols with forms of nonverbal action (which a few years ago would have been considered oxymoronic).

The question demands further exploration: How much can one person really get to know about another merely through CMC? In exploring a variety of responses to that query, I remain surprised at how many individuals actually perceive a strong interconnectedness to certain people without ever making their personal acquaintance; the birth of a relationship -- closeness -- proliferates upon a computer screen, keyboard, and modem.

In this age saturated with CMC, the norms for personal interaction change from day to day. With a click of the mouse, the traditional way people once perceived closeness, personal awareness, and social contact mutates before our very eyes. Face-to-face bonds, born in a handshake, the wink of an eye, a hug, or a simple bow, are no longer the prime prerequisites for creating friendships. …

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