Hiltz and Turoff – Social and Psychological Processes in Computerized Conferencing

Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, and Murray Turoff. “Social and Psychological Processes in Computer Conferencing.” The Network Nation. First Edition ed.Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1978. 76-126. Print.

This chapter explores the learning and socialization processes of participants as they take part in “electronic group life.” They analyzed data from a computer conferencing conference’s group over several months between 1976 and 1977.

Based on their analyses the authors develop a list of hypotheses about individual communications and learning behavior among new and regular users. Their initial observations showed that there was a reasonable expectation for socioemotional content. According to Hiltz and Turoff the lack of visual and paralinguistic cues (tone, inflection) did not impede expression of emotion in CMC, but necessitated it:

“The cue-emitting capabilities available in computerized conferencing are both more limited than and different from those in the well-rehearsed face-to-face situation…What seems to happen is that the participants pick up these cues but are not able to have confidence in them, at least at first, because they are missing the confirmation of additional kinds of cues… What may seem an inadequate set of cues in computerized conferencing for novice users may later overcome by participants learning how to substitute for missing kinds of cues” (89).

In regard to social dynamics of group interaction in CMC, their preliminary hypotheses, included:

  • There is a strong tendency toward more equal participation in synchronous discussions, as compared to face-to-face groups.
  • More opinions seem to be asked for and offered
  • There is less explicit agreement and disagreement with opinions and suggestions of others.
  • There is a great deal of explicit sociability of an informal sort on these systems
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