This week’s readings came from Nancy Baym’s Personal Connections in the Digital Age. After reading chapters 1 through 4, I not only was able to find a connecting factor that was showcased within all 4 chapters, but I was also able to connect these topics to my daily media and digital use. It would be easy to say the topic that connected all these chapters is the way in which people communicate using many different devices, which is true, but a common topic that I found was the importance of social cues and how they have changed within communication today.
Chapter one identifies the key concepts that can be used to differentiate digital media today and the effect it has on people. As we discussed in class, and as the book mentions, there are seven key concepts that tie into this topic. One of the many modes of communication is the interactivity that these devices offers. Fornàs and his co-authors (2002:23) mention that “interactivity is the ability of a medium to enable social interaction between groups or individuals.” Unlike the television, we can use our phones, the internet, Skype, and many other devices to talk back to people and are able to show social cues, where before it was almost impossible to do so with a telegraph. Along with this interactivity that chapter 1 mentions, Baym expressed the importance of social cues within communications and how it offers “further information regarding context, the meaning of messages, and the identities of the people interacting.” (9) Within face to face communication, people are able to pick on many social cues including body language, gestures, and the ability to see facial expressions. There is that sense of interactivity within a face to face conversations that people texting, or talking on the phone cannot have. Baym goes on to explain how digital media provide fewer social cues, where the user is forced to ask more questions to get a better understanding of the person they are talking to.
Chapter 3 discusses communication in a digital space and really focuses on the social cues that are missing within todays new media. This chapter goes on to explain the theory of Social Presence where social cues can set the mood or intimacy for a conversation and also mentions the Media Richness Theory that explains how certain technologies limit social cues. As opposed to chapter 1, chapter 3 expresses that these fundamental social cues that help individuals with the meaning of messages and help identify further information regarding the context are becoming difficult to point out. Baym mentions how society is now coming up with new cues as technology becomes newer. An example of this would be Scott E. Fahlmans innovation of the Emoticons.
With both of these chapters, I found that social cues are slowly becoming something of the past. With new technology like instant messaging and texting, it is hard for individuals to find social cues that help express and show the persons emotion as chapter 3 describes. In chapter one, we were able to see that a mediums ability to “convey social cues about the people who are interacting and the context is an essential component of its communicative possibilities and constraints.” (50) Along with chapter two which showed how many users of technology have a fearful or hopeful outlook on technology and the limits on social cues that affect people’s relationships, chapter 3 digs deep into explaining how todays new technology does make it difficult for…