Saturday, May 14, 2005

Survey Results 6a: Communication

It is difficult to say that there are any trends in terms of preferred CMC technologies for interpersonal communication. And of course, personal preferences do play a big role here, and often the follow-up interviews have given a clearer picture of preference trends than mere box-ticking does. The respondents were asked how they preferred to communicate with 1) strangers, for formal purposes 2) family and relatives near and far, 3) friends, close by or abroad.

The following were the results:





Regular MailPhoneEmailChatWebcam
Formal communication
with people close by
- 8 8 - -
Formal communication
with people abroad
1 2 13 - -
With family and
relatives close by
- 11 - 2 -
With family and
relatives abroad
- 11 3 3 1
Friends
close by
- 8 1 6 -
Friends abroad - 1 10 6 -

It is not so surprising that the more traditional media was preferred when communicating with family and relatives, compared to friends. This undoubtedly has to do with the age gap - Barbara, 44, would find it very unnatural to contact her parents in any other way than over the phone - "they would be insulted!". David, who chats with his family members nearby, admits that this is because the only family member in his vicinity is his one year older sister.

However, when communicating with family abroad, although the phone is by far still the preferred medium, we see a couple more instances of chatting, including Natalie who speaks to her family in Canada over the webcam.

With friends however, although the phone is still preferred to other media, the tendency of communication through chatting is emerging (Chatting will be dealt with in more detail in a later post). Follow-up interviews highlighted that much communication with friends over the phone actually takes place via SMS (text messaging), indicating then that communication style as well as medium is different depending on who they communicate with. Generally, while communication with family members occurs perhaps once a week, but perhaps for an hour or so, communication among peers is rather a session of punctuating the every day lives of Danish TCKs. Natalie explains how happy she gets when she receives SMSes from a high school friend, currently living in Australia. Her friend mentioned that he was eating Korean food, and thought he'd mention to Natalie how it reminded him of the "good times". By consequence, Natalie opened up Google to search for Korean recipes. Something, she says, wouldn't have happened if she hadn't had the Internet.

Although space and time friction has been minimised over the advent of the Internet, these are still a hurdle. David and Britta both mention that chatting with individuals abroad is difficult because one must first make arrangements for a time in which to call - often resulting in their forgetting the appointments or having to turn on the Internet at odd times. Once chatting though, Britta states she usually doesn't think about the time difference, unless it is expressed by the interlocutor. For the respondents in general, chat sessions with friends happen impulsively and sporadically, and interaction with friends overseas is squeezed in naturally between chores or during work breaks.

For some, such as in Abira's case, interaction with friends and acquaintances abroad is so pervasive in their lives that they feel their lives are still spent abroad rather than in Copenhagen. An avid skype user, she is on the web based telephone to Israel "constantly".

I was surprised to see so little webcam usage however. Only Natalie mentions that she owns a webcam, while Abira and Manuel chat with others who own one, although they don't own one themselves. Abira is pleased with being able to see her friends and their families when she chats with them, and expects to buy a webcam herself soon. Manuel on the other hand, doesn't see the need - webcams are useless when chatting, as the chatting counterpart "is always just staring down at the keyboard".

Yet, Natalie and Abira enjoy being able to see their friends' new haircuts, their children, and basically, it serves well as a substitute for meeting in real life. Natalie adds that she hasn't seen her family in Canada for at least two years.

(Please note that all the respondents' names have been changed.)

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