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The Computer Mediated Communication Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3951 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Computer-mediated communication is defined by Metz as cited in Miller Brunner, 2008 as any communication patterns mediated by a computer. The notion of CMC was first discussed in Licklider and Taylor (1968), which posits “men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine (i.e., a computer) than face to face”. After almost two decades of studies, researchers have found it increasingly useful to regard computers, through which communication is mediated, as a mass medium (Morris & Ogan, 1996).

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With changes taking place in various aspects of life today due to proliferation of communication, Miller & Brunner (2008) hold that research into CMC has become increasingly prominent. CMC studies in both education and business domains have been concerned about the effects of computer as a medium of mass communication (Morris & Ogan, 1996). This is largely due to the following characteristics of CMC that Morris (as cited in Chen, 2009) has identified: ubiquity, transparency, asynchronism, hyper-reality, and interactivity.

Contrary to its actual potential, earlier ideas about CMC advocated a lack of capacity to deliver rich social information due to text-based and visually anonymous environment (Yao & Flanagin, 2004). CMC had been criticised to have inherently prevented interpersonal communication and encouraged impersonal interactions such as bashings on the Internet (Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1984). Siegel, Dubrovsky, Kiesler, and McGuire (1986) find that computer-mediated groups tend to demonstrate more aggressive behavior such as name-calling and swearings, as compared to groups that use face-to-face interactions.

Nevertheless, such a deterministic view was challenged in subsequent studies. For instance, it is claimed the email plays a positive role by deconstructing organisational structures, allowing for greater information exchange among more people, and improving socialisation (Spence, 2002). Besides, CMC users are found to be able to adapt to the virtual environment and develop interpersonal relationships that resemble relationships formed face-to-face (Yao & Flanagin, 2004). It is also found that group collaboration in CMC has contributed to group processing outcomes deemed innovative and democratic (Miller & Brunner, 2008).

2.2 A shift on the Internet

The Internet is evolving into a “PeopleWeb”, which indicates a shift from a web comprised of pages to one populated by people and their artifacts and interactions (Ramakrishnan & Tomkin, 2007). In that regard, social networking sites such as Facebook and Friendster that allow information sharing and sourcing, have become extremely popular in the new media (Lipsman, as cited in Pfeil et al., 2009), and according to Bausch and Han (2006), will continue to attract users in a large number.

Users are moving away from a state of anonymity on the Internet (McKenna & Bargh, 2000) with the evolvement of computer technologies. For instance, popular Chinese social networking site RenRen is concluded to be an extension of users’ real life as “self-disclosure phenomenon elicited by reality rather than anonymity” is found present on the site (Yu & Wu, 2010). While web 1.0 is getting replaced by applications in the web 2.0 era such as blogs, wikis, and collaborative projects (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009), content now can be modified by all users in a participatory and collaborative manner rather than on an individual basis (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2009; Cheung, Chiu, & Lee, 2010). With the rise of the social networking sites, their popularity is gauged not only by the size of the user base, but also the ability to provide users with the most significant amount of interaction (Cheung et al., 2010).

It is reported in Bausch and Han (2006) that users of the top ten social networking sites in the U.S. had grown from 46.8 million in 2006 to 68.8 million in the following year. The growth of social media has influenced social interaction among people and contributed to a new meaning of the interaction, where scholars have begun looking into (as cited in Lipsman, Pfeil et al., 2009).

The ramification of the new media is, as Grossman (2006) puts it, a “community and collaboration on a scale never seen before”. The web 2.0 a revolution is as if “a new version of some old software” (Grossman, 2006). Papacharissi and Rubin (2000) have identified online empowerment of individuals linking to instrumentality, interactivity, activity, and involvement as the causes of influence of the new web. On the other hand, Jacobs et al. (2009) attribute the rapid growth of social media to its ability to allow users to produce and share content.

While the active audience theory has been shunned as far as traditional media is concerned, Livingstone (1999) highlights the importance of audience activity in both the design and use of interactive media. In fact, the shift in media user activity has been discussed since as early as 1963, when Klapper (as cited in Chigona et al., 2008) put forth the idea that U&G focuses on what people do with mass media, rather than what mass media does to people. Shin (2009) calls the U&G approach a “paradigm shift” from traditional media research, where focus was placed on media effects (e.g., what media does to people). A review of the U&G theory can be found after this sub-chapter.

2.3 Uses and gratifications (U&G) theory

The U&G theory, otherwise known as the “needs and gratifications” theory (Roy, 2009, revolves around why and how people use certain media (Lo & Leung, 2009). The term “gratifications” was coined by psychologist Herta Herzogto in 1944 to illustrate specific dimensions of radio audience’s usage satisfaction, following which mass communication theorists had adopted and adapted the concept to study various mass media such as TV and electronic bulletins (Luo, 2002).

The U&G theory is built upon the basic assumption that audience has their own agenda and is deemed as active and goal-oriented rather than passive consumers of information (McQuail, Blumler, & Brown, as cited in Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974). By assuming the audience to be active and goal-directed, the U&G perspective posits that they opt for and consume certain media and content that would satisfy their psychological needs, which explains the motivation of their media use (Katz, Gurevitch, & Hass, 1973; Rubin, as cited in Roy, 2009; Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, as cited in Kim, Sohn, & Choi, 2010). Such fulfillment of needs – as a source of motivation, is proposed to be affecting user gratification of media use (Sangwan, 2005).

The U&G theory has been adopted and adapted over the years to study the use of various media ranging from the more conventional mass media to the new media and later to mobile technology (Stafford et al., 2004; Chigona et al., 2008; Roy, 2009; Shin, 2009; Liu et al., 2010). Although some scholars have questioned U&G’s utility in studying the digital media, Ruggiero (as cited in Quan-Haase, 2012) posits the need to “seriously include” the U&G approach in any attempt to speculate on the future direction of mass communication theory. Besides, it is contended that whenever a new technology makes its way into the arena of mass communication, users’ underlying motivations and decisions to use the new communication tool could be explained by applying the U&G paradigm (Elliott & Rosenberg, Liu, Cheung & Lee, 2010).

However, in order to effectively study and measure the new media by using the U&G scales intended for traditional media research, Lin (as cited in Shin, 2009) holds that a revision to the scales will be required. Consistent with Lin’s idea is Angleman (as cited in Shin, 2009), who believes existing theories require amendments in order to fit new media studies. Application of the U&G theory in various new media studies has been reviewed and an overview of those studies with their respective motivations is presented in Table 1.

Table 2.1: Overview of Prior Studies on New Media U&G

Author and year

Research area

Motivations identified

James, Wotring, & Forrest (1995)

Electronic bulletin board (i.e., forums)

Transmission of information and education, socialising, medium appeal, computer or other business, entertainment

Korgaonkar & Wolin (1999)


Social escapism, transaction, privacy, information, interaction, socialization, economic motivations

Papacharissi (2002)

Personal home pages

Passing time, entertainment, information, self-expression, professional advancement, communication with friends and family

Stafford et al. (2004)


Process: resources, search engines, searching, surfing, technology, web sites

Content: education, information, knowledge, learning, research

Social: chatting, friends, interactions, people

Ko, Cho, & Roberts (2005)


Information, convenience, entertainment, social-interaction

Diddi & LaRose (2006)

Internet news

Surveillance, escapism, pass time, entertainment, habit

Cheung & Lee (2009)

Virtual comminity

Purposive value, self-discovery, entertainment value, social enhancement, maintaining interpersonal interconnectivity

Haridakis & Hanson (2009)


Convenient entertainment, convenient information seeking, co-viewing, social interaction

Mendes-Filho & Tan (2009)

User-generated content

Content: information consistency, source credibility, argument quality, information framing

Process: medium; entertainment

Social: recommendation consistency, recommendation rating

Liu, Cheung & Lee (2010)


Content: disconfirmation of self-documentation, disconfirmation of information sharing

Process: disconfirmation of entertainment, disconfirmation of passing time, disconfirmation of self-expression

Social: disconfirmation of social interaction

Technology: disconfirmation of medium appeal, disconfirmation of convenience

2.4 Media user gratifications

Katz et al. (1974) suggest research on gratifications has revolved around media-related needs that serve to satisfy media consumers – at least in part – who are deemed active and goal-oriented. Despite having a problem with ambiguity as far as definition is concerned, Weiss (1976) asserts that related key terms like “uses”, “needs”, “satisfactions”, “gratifications”, and “motives” are being used interchangeably across different papers and within single papers.

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Stafford et al. (2004) define “gratifications” as some aspects of user-reported satisfaction. It has been found that satisfaction of user motivations is positively correlated with future internet usage (Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000). Before resorting to a certain behavior of media use, past experiences of individuals and whether or not their motivations can be satisfied by certain behaviors will be evaluated (McLeod & Becker, as cited in Johnson & Yang, 2008).

Sangwan (2005) puts forth the idea that gratification can be used as a proxy measure to evaluate the success or failure of a virtual community, which is similar to that used in information systems. He proposes that gratification of media users will be affected by fulfillment of media needs that acts as a motivator. In this research, a total of 22 questions on social media use are employed as the instrument to evaluate and explain users’ motivations. By taking up the proposal by Sangwan (2005), the research outcome will tell if users’ motivations have an effect on the gratifications or satisfaction of media users. Detailed information on the research instrument can be referred to in Chapter 3.

2.5 Categorisations of needs and gratifications

The U&G theory proposes five categories of needs, namely cognitive, affective, personal integrative, social integrative and tension release needs (Katz et al., 1973). Over the years, researchers appropriating the U&G theory to study various media have discovered a plethora of different needs. While some of these needs are rather consistent with one of the earliest classifications of needs by Katz et al. (1973), others are not.

In a study that examines the relations between web usage and satisfaction, Luo (2002) employs three constructs drawn from previous traditional media U&G research, namely informativeness, entertainment, and irritation, in order to assess how each of them affects user attitude towards the web. Research results have confirmed the said constructs were what determine users’ attitude towards the web. Also employs similar constructs include such researchers as Eighmey (1997), Eighmey and McCord (1998), as well as Kargaonkar and Wolin (1999).

Livaditi, Vassilopoulou, Lougos, and Chorianopoulos (2003), in their interactive TV applications U&G study, catogorise media needs into the two basic constructs of “ritualised” and “instrumental”. Other researchers who have adopted such a classification of needs are Metzger and Flanagin, as well as Rubin (as cited in Ran, 2008), who have found that gratifications, as motivations, do lead to both ritualised and instrumental use of media.

In Sangwan (2005), several types of needs have been identified to explain the motivations behind the use of virtual community platforms, such as forums: functional, emotive, and contextual needs. However, it is posited that although the research sample has been assumed to be active participants of virtual communities, there are also passive participants whose latent needs have yet to be identified (Sangwan, 2005).

Cutler and Danowski, as well as Stafford and Stafford (as cited in Chigona et al., 2008) divide motivations into the categories of “process” and “content”. Later, an additional category known as “social motivations” has been identified and included (Stafford & Stafford, as cited in Chigona et al., 2008). Stafford et al. (2004) describe this additional social dimension as “unique to Internet use”. Although found to be the weakest variable among others, social motivations serves as a vital construct in the Internet-specific U&G research (Stafford et al., 2004).

Chigona et al. (2008), who appropriate the motivation categories verified in Stafford et al. (2004) to study mobile Internet U&G, have confirmed the presence of all three constructs. Peters, Amato, and Hollenbeck (2007), as well as Mendes-Filho and Tan (2009) are among other researchers who have adopted the three constructs in their respectively studies of wireless advertising and user-generated content. Also adopting the instruments is Shin (2009), who, on top of the three motivation types, has added “embedded gratifications” to study wireless Internet use. Besides, Liu et al. (2010) also employ the three motivations types – on top of an additional “technology gratification” – to study Twitter use.

2.6 Process, content, and social motivations

This study bases its main framework on one developed by Stafford and Stafford (as cited in Chigona et al., 2008), and later verified by Stafford et al. (2004): the three motivation types of “process”, “content”, and “social”. The rationale behind this choice has been explained in Chapter 1 under “Statement of problem” (p.zz). What is defined by each of the process, content, and social motivations, is illustrated in the next few paragraphs.

Content gratifications from the U&G theory are characterised by their relation to information content, such as product or store information (Stafford & Stafford, as cited in Stafford et al., 2004) and place concern on messages carried by the medium (Stafford et al., 2004). Such motivations are stemmed from the use of mediated messages for the receivers’ intrinsic value (Cutler & Danowski, as cited in Chigona et al., 2008). Content motivations take consideration into to the messages that a medium carries (Stafford et al., 2004; Stafford, 2009), which may be informative or entertaining (Stafford, 2009). Roy (2009) asserts that content is normally skewed towards entertainment and dispersion in U&G studies of non-Internet media, as compared to informativeness in those of Internet.

Nevertheless, certain Internet users may be motivated by such usage process as random browsing and site navigation (Hoffman and Danowski, as cited in Stafford et al., 2004). Process motivations are driven by the actual use of the medium per se (Cutler & Danowski, as cited in Chigona et al., 2008; Stafford et al., 2004; Stafford, 2009), such as enjoyment of the process of using the Internet (Hoffman & Novak, as cited in Stafford et al., 2004; Stafford, 2009). On the other hand, social motivations include such aspects as chatting, friendship, interactions, and people (Chigona et al., 2008).

2.7 Social dimension and the rising impact

Social contacts and interactions have shifted from offline to online realms (Boyd, as cited in Smeele, 2010) and this social dimension defines what users understand about themselves and their relation to the communities (Dyson; McMillan & Chavis, as cited in Jacobs et al., 2009). Stafford et al. (2004) posit the importance of looking into the potential U&G of the Internet as a social environment, as researchers may be expected to discover emergent social gratifications for Internet use.

Research by Jacobs et al. (2009) shows a majority of the students utilise social media in a manner that resembles the social “friends and family” setting. Besides, Ellison, Steinfield, ande Lampe (as cited in Ross, Orr, Sisic, Arseneault, Simmering, & Orr, 2009) also assert that maintenance of pre-existing social relationships has been made possible and may be stronger through online platforms. Users now turn to the Internet more frequently to socialise with people they know and expand their circle of friends (Jones, as cited in Correa, Hinsley & Zúñiga, 2010).

Active participation on sites like Facebook, communication via texting and chat programmes, as well as creation of blogs have become “a way of life” for the new generation according to Jacobs et al. (2009). Correa et al. (2010) are of the opinion that individuals who choose not to engage online may be limiting their ability to advance socially as it is an increasingly user-generated environment.

2.8 The need to quantify social dimension

Stafford et al. (2004) concede that there is limited evidence in support of the distinct social aspect to Internet use. Following the identification of social motivations in Stafford and Stafford (as cited in Chigona et al., 2008), researchers are trying to validate this emerging motivation type, which eventually has been found present in studies by such researchers as Chigona et al. (2008), Haridakis and Hanson (2009), as well as Norway Brandtzæg and Heim (as cited in Kim et al., 2010).

Miller and Brunner (2008) hold that studies that focus specifically on the social aspect of online communicators and its theoretical foundations are lacking. For instance, although the social dimension is found present in a mobile Internet U&G study by Chigona et al. (2008), the researchers merely confirm its existence without providing much elaboration into how it fares in contrast to content and process motivations – the latter of which according to Aoki & Downe; Leung & Wei; Rubin; Stafford & Gillenson; Stafford et al. (as cited in Chigona et al., 2008), are the most pronounced motivation types found on traditional Internet use. Besides, several social media studies also show that the social dimension does not live up to the media’s supposedly social nature (e.g., Liu et al., 2010; Smeele, 2010; Xu, Ryan, Prybutok, & Wen, 2012).

2.9 Genders and U&G

Gender differences have been identified as an important aspect in computer-related research (Gunawardena & McIsaac, as cited in Kim & Chang, 2007). The issue of limited women in the fields of technology and ICT remains a topic of interest for both the scientific community and decision-makers today (Sáinz & López-Sáez, 2010). Some studies have suggested that females may be more inclined to have computer anxiety and lower self-efficacy due to the socio-cultural background of gender (Halder, Ray, & Chakrabarty, 2010). Gutek and Bikson (as cited in Harrison & Rainer, 1992) also find that men tend to demonstrate computer-related skills at workplace. In another instance, Wilder, Mackie, and Cooper (as cited in Harrison & Rainer, 1992) find that males show greater interest in using a computer compared to females.

In more recent research, Leung (2003) finds socioeconomic status such as gender, with the exception of age, to be predictive of Internet use, and that heavy users of the web are usually males. Although Okazaki (2006) asserts that effect of gender on mobile Internet service adoption is uncertain, married women indicate more negative perceptions than married men. Besides, a study on mobile phone U&G by Ran (2008) reveals that males are significantly skewed towards a certain news-seeking need. Roy (2009) also discovers gender-related differences in perceived Internet use. In terms of social media U&G, gender-related differences have also been found in a slew of studies such as Sveningsson Elm (2007), Joinson (2008), Jones, Millermaier, Goya-Martinez, and Schuler (2008), Thelwall (2009), as well as Thelwall, Wilkinson, and Uppal (2010).

Volman, van Eck, Heemskerk, and Kuiper (2005) contend that the development of software, websites, and even teaching materials needs to have gender sensitivities taken into consideration in order to facilitate better learning among male and female pupils, who demonstrate very different preferences and attitudes towards ICT. Also in line with their idea are Halder, Ray, and Chakrabarty (2010), who suggest the importance of studying behavioral differences between people with respect to information processing and searching as such behaviors have to be more holistically understood and generalised before information retrieval systems and user support services are designed.

Those are some implications of how gender differences could impact human behavior associated with the acceptance of information and technologies. With gender being neglected as a significant variable, studying human information behavior will remain incomplete (Nahl & Harada; Roy, Taylor, & Chi, as cited in Halder, Ray, and Chakrabarty, 2010). It is, therefore, of the essence to find out if the influence of gender is valid in this social media U&G study. If valid, which aspect of motivations is users’ social media experience influenced the most?


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