Medium Moderates the Message. How Users Adjust Their Communication Trajectories to Different Media in Collaborative Task Solving.
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Rapid development of information and communications technologies (ICT) has triggered profound changes in how people manage their social contacts in both informal and professional contexts. ICT mediated communication may seem limited in possibilities compared to face-to-face encounters, but research shows that puzzlingly often it can be just as effective and satisfactory. We posit that ICT users employ specific communication strategies adapted to particular communication channels, which results in a comparable effectiveness of communication. In order to maintain a satisfactory level of conversational intelligibility they calibrate the content of their messages to a given medium's richness and adjust the whole conversation trajectory so that every stage of the communication process runs fluently. In the current study, we compared complex task solving trajectories in chat, mobile phone and face-to-face dyadic conversations. Media conditions did not influence the quality of decision outcomes or users' perceptions of the interaction, but they had impact on the amount of time devoted to each of the identified phases of decision development. In face-to-face contacts the evaluation stage of the discussion dominated the conversation; in the texting condition the orientation-evaluation-control phases were evenly distributed; and the phone condition provided a midpoint between these two extremes. The results show that contemporary ICT users adjust their communication behavior to the limitations and opportunities of various media through the regulation of attention directed to each stage of the discussion so that as a whole the communication process remains effective.
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