In and instant messaging are both forms of

In less than a few decades, computer-mediated communications have revolutionized the way that people stay in touch and the way that companies conduct business. To find out more about these changes, take a look at this lesson.

What Is Computer-Mediated Communication?

Let’s say that you needed to get a message to someone. In the past, you’d have to physically track them down or have someone else do it. Today, you’ve got a few more options. You can send them a text, an email, post on their wall, or reach out to them in any number of ways. You can even send them a video message of you expressing the news – forget the message; you could just video chat with them! In fact, it may take longer to figure out what method to use to send the message than to send the actual message!All of these are examples of computer-mediated communications (CMC), which is a more concise term that applies to all the ways that we have of reaching out and communicating with someone from a distance via a computer.

Types of CMC

As you can imagine, there are several types of computer-mediated communications. We can divide these all up by two different criteria.

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First of all, does the communication in question involve immediate feedback, or is it dependent on someone checking for messages? We call this synchronous and asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication occurs when communication happens between two actively communicating parties. Video conferencing and instant messaging are both forms of synchronous communication. Of course, sometimes circumstances could disrupt the connection, but most of the time, it’s pretty reliable.On the other hand, asynchronous communication refers to those instances where a conversation does not depend on an immediate answer. Email, video messages, and text messages are examples of asynchronous communication. Of course, you could respond rapidly, as people are prone to do with texts, but the design is not dependent on an immediate response.

The other division we can make between types of computer-mediated communications is the type of message. Text-based messages have been around the longest and range from emails and instant messages to social media posts and texts. On the other hand, video messages are something relatively new. While email has been around for a few decades, video conferencing has only recently become something very popular.

Advantages of CMC

There are many advantages to computer-mediated communications. The most obvious of which is that it saves time and resources. In the past, if two parties wanted to communicate, they would either have to mail letters back and forth or physically move people back and forth.

Mail takes days to arrive, while the cost of flying someone across the country is pretty substantial. On the other hand, computer-mediated communications do this all for a much lower cost. In fact, computer-mediated communications allow work that used to require everyone in one office to be done across great distances.

Disadvantages of CMC

Let’s say that you wanted to share some really good news with someone – the type that would make their whole face light up. How would you want to do it? Chances are you’d like to be there to see it, right? Unfortunately, computer-mediated communications can’t yet recreate the feeling in the air when you make someone’s day. On the other hand, there are times when you’d probably rather be there to console someone who has just received bad news. Even the most advanced video chat services can only replace sight and sound, so you can’t transmit a hug through a computer.Further, when you are talking to someone in person, hopefully that person has your attention.

However, computer-mediated communications don’t always guarantee that you have the undivided attention of the person you’re speaking to. If you’ve ever video chatted with a friend while you have other people over, you know that the person you’re talking to in real life tends to get a higher share of your attention.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, we looked at the importance of computer-mediated communications. We defined computer-mediated communications as all the ways that we have of reaching out and communicating with someone from a distance via a computer. This could range from texting someone next door to video chatting with someone around the world.

We categorized computer-mediated communications as either synchronous or asynchronous, as well as either text-based or including images. We then looked at the advantages and disadvantages of computer-mediated communications.

Key Terms

  • computer-mediated communications (CMC): term that applies to all the ways that we have of reaching out and communicating with someone from a distance via computer
  • synchronous communication: communication happens between two actively communicating parties
  • asynchronous communication: instances in which a conversation does not depend on an immediate answer
Video conferencing is a form of synchronous communication.
computer-mediated communication

Learning Outcomes

Apply your memory of this lesson on CMC in order to:

  • Define computer-mediated communications
  • Compare and contrast synchronous communication and asynchronous communication
  • Provide examples of each
  • Specify the advantages and disadvantages of computer-mediated communications

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