computer-mediated group norms

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

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?



Entry filed under: COMM641, organization, reading notes, technology.

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