Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

The Role of Communication Technologies in Serial Arguments: A Communicative Interdependence Perspective

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

The Role of Communication Technologies in Serial Arguments: A Communicative Interdependence Perspective

Article excerpt


The study of technologically-mediated communication (TMC) within personal relationships has become a significant topic of study (Baym, 2010). Yet, there is a dearth of research on the role of TMC in relational conflict (for exceptions, see Caughlin, Basinger, & Sharabi, in press; Scissors & Gergle, 2013). This is surprising given evidence that romantic partners commonly use both TMC and face-to-face (FtF) communication during conflict episodes (Caughlin et al., in press). The popularity of communication technologies opened up the possibility that people engage in serial arguments, a specific type of conflict in which partners repeatedly confront one another about the same issue (Trapp & Hoff, 1985) in ways they would not (or could not) have before. For example, when a FtF serial argument episode ends without resolution, relational partners can now continue talking about the issue in subsequent FtF or TMC conversations.

One way to explore this issue is by employing Caughlin and Sharabi's (2013) communicative interdependence perspective of close relationships. The communicative interdependence perspective highlights how close relational partners use several communication modes when discussing relational topics. For example, in addition to FtF communication, dating partners now have the option to video conference while communicating in real-time via text message or asynchronously via email (Dainton & Aylor, 2002; Yang, Brown, & Braun, 2013). Relational partners who can easily integrate several communication modes may have higher levels of relational closeness and satisfaction when compared to couples who segment communication to one mode (Caughlin & Sharabi, 2013).

The communicative interdependence perspective has important implications for how scholars investigate conflict more broadly, and serial arguments specifically. Some evidence (e.g., Caughlin et al., in press) suggests that relational partners integrate and segment communication modes during relational conflicts. For example, some dating partners used TMC in order to continue a conflict that began in person (FtF and TMC integration) whereas others noted that they engaged in the conflict only through technology (TMC segmentation). Alternatively, many participants felt that FtF was the only appropriate channel for relational conflicts (FtF segmentation). Because Caughlin and his colleagues did not consider serial arguments, it is unclear whether partners will similarly integrate TMC and FtF communication during this particular type of argument and how these decisions will impact relational markers. Because serial arguments extend beyond a single episode (Trapp & Hoff, 1985), it is possible that relational partners integrate several communication modes over time. Alternatively, relational partners may segment communication to one mode, like FtF, if they feel that conducting a serial argument episode over technology is inappropriate. Exploring this communication process is important because the decision to integrate and segment has implications for partners' relational closeness and satisfaction (Caughlin & Sharabi, 2013).

The goal of the present study is to explore if (and how) individuals in dating relationships integrate or segment communication modes during serial arguments. By doing so, we extend the utility of the communicative interdependence perspective into a new communication context. With this in mind, our paper begins with an overview of Caughlin and Sharabi's (2013) communicative interdependence perspective. Then, we explicate the role of TMC in serial arguments in order to conceptualize the interconnections between FtF and TMC modes in this context.


The communicative interdependence perspective (Caughlin & Sharabi, 2013) acknowledges that understanding how communication channels operate together is more important than exploring how they function in isolation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.