Archive for September, 2007

computer-mediated group norms

I know it has been a while since I posted the last entry. School is back in full swing and my time is devoted to three classes, two TA discussion sections, and two regular research group meetings. Apart from that, I am also doing four reseach projects and serve as a project manager for ~10 people working for our NSF project right now. All of the above really excite me, but I feel it is a bit difficult for me to keep up with what are going on in the research community….Therefore I am substituting reading notes for “serious” blog entries, but those reading notes are equally thoughtful.

This week and the past week we discussed CMC and group processes in my 641 class.

Postmes, T., Spears, R. & Lea, M. (2000). The formation of norms in computer-mediated communication. Human Communication Research, 26, 341-371

Motivation of study

  • Previous models of social influences of social construction are inadequate in specifying precisely what exerts influence.
  • S ocial construction is a dynamic reciprocal process, which is not accurately captured by rather static operationalizations.

A social identity approach

  • Is context-sensitive, because different situations make different social identities salient

  • SIDE model: mediated group can develop and follow group norms even if they are visually anonymous.

  • Social identity is constantly negotiated through group interaction. This approach allows for the observation of the emergence and development of group norms.

Group norms in CMC setting

  • CMC groups will have more consistencies of interaction content and form within groups than between groups. (Supported).
  • Group norms (in terms of interaction content and form) will be amplified and accentuated over time. (Partially supported for interaction content, but not form).
  • Group norms will influence communication within the group but not outside of the group. (Supported).

My critique

  • Groups were defined as clusters of participants with minimal distance (reciprocal message) in a distance matrix, not based on interaction content/style. Although it is shown that there are significant differences of interaction content and style between groups, the researchers didn’t report within-group differences (individual interaction content and styles) and neither did they compare them with between-group differences.
  • Nothing is known about their prior interaction history. Social norms may have been migrated from other groups formed earlier than this stats course, which could severely undermine the validity of the findings. This actually could explain why interaction style was not amplified over time.
  • The last hypothesis test was not very convincing. Communicating with staff (outgroup) may not necessarily be considered as changing the social context at all. Yes the audience is different, but the social context and group identity may remain the same. It would be interesting to compare people’s interaction content/style with the staff among the same group members.

Discussion questions

  • Researchers didn’t find that interaction styles were amplified over time through group processes. To what extent could individuals develop interaction styles and maintain them in group processes? As we spend more and more time using CMC, how do group processes interact with our individual “style”?
  • (General question) From this article and other CMC research to date, what are the different perspectives to understand the group processes in CMC? How do we reconcile the differences of research findings? What factors and boundary conditions should be considered?
  • (General question) what are the differences between CMC and FtF? When is CMC more/less beneficial than FtF?
  • Considering ecological validity, what are the general methodological challenges of CMC research? What method or combination of methods is good to study CMC?
  • Finally, with the advent of new communication technology and people’s growing comfort of using them, is it accurate to refer to CMC as if it is unitary?



September 30, 2007 at 8:24 pm Leave a comment

Networking for introverts

I study (social) networks, not networking, though people often mistakenly think I should be an expert of networking. So wrong.
I found this article on Businesspundit very helpful as well as the video on “how to not  suck on networking”

Interestingly, it suggests that one’s personality traits, especially extroversion/introversion, are associated with networking ability and networking results, . A borderline extrovert/introvert as I am, I do believe that there are some gifted connectors in the world, while networking ability is also something that begs constant cultivation. One thing I did not realize soon enough about gradschool is that I cannot treat myself as a “real” student, which I often do, but a professional that needs to actively thinking about and planning for her career path.

September 10, 2007 at 12:38 am 2 comments

Network forms of organization – Summary of Powell (1990)

I have read it several times – excited to discuss it tomorrow in the orgnizaitonal communication technology class taught by Janet.

Powell, W. W. (1990). Neither market nor hierarchy: Network forms of organization. Research in organizational behavior, 12, 295-336.


  1. What is alluded to but not formally discussed in this paper is the impact of communication technologies on the evolution of organizational forms. Since organizations use more and more communication technology, are they all moving towards network forms? Or are they just replicating their existing structure electronically?
  2. Network relations may be temporal (actually market could be conceived as a network with one-time relations) as well as long-term. How do we incorporate time into our understanding of network forms?
  3. In this paper and other recent literature of network form of organization, researchers seem to imply that networks represent a better form of organizing and are well-suited for today’s industries that are increasingly technology-intensive. But are there any cases where networks are inadequate or inferior to market or hierarchy? In other words, is network always good? Under what circumstance will network collapse?


  • Three modes of organization (table 1)
    • Market: One night stand
      • good for exchanges that are straightforward, non-repetitive and require no transaction-specific investments.
      • A form of non-coercive organization, coordinating without integrating.
      • Price is the invisible hand.
      • It offers choice, flexibility, and opportunity, but it is bad at capturing technological know-how.
    • Hierarchy: Marriage
      • good when asset specificity goes up (because of bounded human rationality and opportunism)
      • The boundary of a firm expands to internalize market transactions.
      • Management is the visible hand.
      • Reliable but inflexible and inertial.
    • Network: Marriage without licence?
      • Transactions are reciprocal and repeated
      • Can deliver efficient, reliable and tacit information.
      • Organizational boundary has a relational dimension.
      • Reputation/Trust is key
  • Examples of network organization
    • Craft industries (tacit knowledge)
    • Film and recording industries (creative and project-based)
    • Industrial districts
    • Strategic alliances and partnerships
    • Vertical disaggregation (internal)
  • Network forms are for:
    • Activities based on know-how: networks foster lateral communication and mutual obligation
    • Activities that demands speed: networks are good for disseminating and interpreting new information
    • Exchanges based on trust: in certain social contexts that emphasize generalized reciprocity, networks are sufficient for controlling opportunism.

September 9, 2007 at 4:17 pm 1 comment

Digital Natives – OII SDP notes

Here comes my OII SDP notes again.

The very first leture was on digital natives: how do we understand the generation that was born and raised after ICTs become an integral part of our lives. Today’s tech-savvy youth may pose an intimidating object for us to understand. They are consumers as well as creators. The lecture asked questions rather than providing any conclusive answers.

The syllabus does a nice job to summarzie those questions:

With over a million young people “born digital,” now is the time to examine the emerging trends of how these digital natives construct identity, learn, create, and socialize in an ever-changing “always on” landscape. How do we give digital natives the tools (in terms of know-how, technology, social norms, or other means) to navigate safely in the emerging digital social space? How can copyright holders work with digital creators to understand their needs and practices in a way that doesn’t stifle their creativity? As a global society, can we come to understand what’s happening with a generation online, to embrace a digital present, and to shape, in constructive ways, a more digital future?


Their Space: Education for a digital generation – Hannah Green, Celia Hannon

And the Digital Natives wiki

September 2, 2007 at 11:50 pm 1 comment

Time flies

September 2007
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