Human-Computer Interaction: Communication, Cooperation, and Application Design

By Hans-Jörg Bullinger; Jürgen Ziegler | Go to book overview

2. Sense-making in Cyberspace

Various information technologies, such as e-mail, IRC, BBS's, MUDs and virtual worlds engage us in diverse ways at a number of conceptual levels. Often these technologies are regarded as a tool to help us communicate with people or retrieving information from around the globe. At the same time people are attributing information technologies with characters previously, mostly, associated with humans and the commodious and comfort of homes and communities ( Stolterman & Janlert 1997, Reeves & Nass, 1996).

The diverse and various ways in which people speak of computer mediated communication indicates that information technologies puzzle and amaze. People are trying to make sense of a new and unfamiliar technology and forms of communicating and being with others, through various notions and metaphors. At the same time they are forming new ways of community and life.

Researchers, that studies the impact of information and communication technologies, often consider organizations, institutions, communities, and cultures as bounded containers for work, play, learning and living. These studies utilize a variety of theories about how we process and make sense of stimulus in our communicative worlds and explores information technology, including social presence, media richness, cues filtered out and social information processing ( Sproull et. al 1991, Baym 1995 and Herring 1996). So far, these theories have been useful informing a body of research that explores information technology and as a tool to be examined, utilized, improved and applied within various organizational and social contexts.

In contrast to the tool perspective, there are more and more users and researchers that conceptualize computer-mediated communication itself as the organizing process. Most researchers within this perspective argue that information technologies are very influential mediators and moderators of human experiences. For scholars such as Benedikt ( 1991), Featherstone & Burrows ( 1995), Jones ( 1995), Markham ( 1998a), Rheingold ( 1994), Turkle ( 1995), and Agren ( 1998) online communication not only structure relations, it is the structure within which the relation occurs. As such, very different issues become salient.

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