Computer-Mediated Communication and the Gallaudet University Community: A Preliminary Report

Article excerpt

THE STUDY examined the use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) among individuals involved in a conflict sparked by the appointment of an administrator as president-designate of Gallaudet University in 2006. CMC was defined as forms of communication used for transmitting (sharing) information through networks with digital devices. There were 662 survey respondents. Respondents reported overwhelmingly (98%) that they used CMC to communicate. Students and alumni reported CMC use in larger proportions than any other group. The favorite devices among all respondents were Sidekicks, stationary computers, and laptops. Half of all respondents also reported using some form of video device. Nearly all reported using e-mail; respondents also identified Web surfing, text messaging, and blogging as popular CMC activities. The authors plan another article reporting on computer and electronic technology use as a mechanism connecting collective identity to social movements.

The use of computer-mediated communications (CMC) in the United States has been tracked throughout the years by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which reported in 2005 that 18to-28 year-old Internet users were more likely to participate in CMC than any other age group ("Usage Over Time," 2006). Specifically, 84% of 18-to-28-year-olds go online, 66% use instant messaging, 6096 text message, 41% read blogs, and 20% create blogs ("Generations Online," 2005). Flanagin (2005) identified 30% of instant messengers as 18-to29-year-olds. Pew found e-mail to be the most used CMC tool, particularly among college students, who also were twice as likely to use instant messaging compared to the average Internet user Gones, 2002).

Deaf individuals came to the Internet in much the same fashion as other computer users: at work, school, and home (Rogers, 1998). Zazove and colleagues (2004) noted a 63% computer use rate among Deaf respondents in a study conducted in Michigan. (In the present article, the authors use the term Deaf, rather than deaf, when discussing members of the Deaf community.) Indeed, the most popular uses of communication technology among Deaf and hard of hearing Americans were reported to be e-mail and instant messaging, which were used to a far greater extent than teletypewriters (TTY) and other relay services (Bowe, 2002).

Historically, the advent of the telephone early in the 20th century basically cut off Deaf and hard of hearing people from the daily interaction normally enjoyed by those who can hear. This was finally overcome in the late 1960s with the invention of the acoustic coupler (modem), which translated teletype signals over the phone and resulted in widespread use of teletypewriters (TTY) by the Deaf community. In 1968, Telecommunications of the Deaf (TDI) was founded to advocate for public communication access and ensure that communication technologies include the Deaf and hard of hearing community (Lang, 2000). Increased awareness of the need for communication access enables the Deaf and hard of hearing community to explore avenues of potential use of various communication devices and determine the best devices for use. For example, the benefits of computers and other electronic technology in an educational setting for the Deaf and hard of hearing have generated some-though scantscholarly attention. Eleven years ago, Monikowski described how the use of electronic media could be advantageous to Deaf students (1997). More recently, Belcastro (2004) identified electronic technologies that can overcome barriers to services for rural Deaf students, while Austin (2006) suggested that the presence of communicative tools such as video and computer conferencing will stimulate a socially inclusive environment when students in a school for the Deaf work with children in a mainstream school.

Yet no research has examined the use of CMC among Deaf university students or people who are connected to postsecondary education of the Deaf and hard of hearing. …