My Journal



It’s Not “Human”

Following a meeting with my dissertation committee, it was drilled-in that what I am calling “Humanness”–the elements of face-to-face communication, such as visual (gesture, facial expression, attire, location, etc.), audio (voice intonation, volume, emotion, etc.), ability to be participatory– is really not represented well (or accurately) by that term. I need to come up with a better term (perhaps my own) for it. This is not a new idea, so I know the terms are out there. It is really about presence, visual social cues, verbal and non-verbal cues, fuller experience, etc. Dr. Eaton (not on my committee) suggested I check out Media Richness Theory – will do.

The reality is that I cannot call it humanness, since few would say that writing is less human than is FtF communication. The two communication forms are certainly different; so, I need to define/explain that difference. Basically, there IS something in distance communication that is limiting/limited in ratio to FtF. Is distance communication less valuable? Not necessarily, although it might be for certain types of communication. I think people have been saying that it is inferior to FtF all the way back to Plato. This is not the point that I am making, so I need to address that fully. Is it lesser in some way? I’d not say that on the whole it is lesser or inferior, but, since certain communication forms are missing, it is less complete, and perhaps less natural. I am merely noting that when one breaks down what forms of communication are present in FtF, it is clear that, depending on the distance communication type, not all of those forms are represented. However, it is not the humanness that is lacking. Distance communication is less productive and less ideal for certain situations/purposes; I’d say, this is because something (the entirety of those communication forms) is lost or at least substantially changed.

I need to fully detail what it is that is lost/changed. Then, I have a pretty decent question/thesis, since I am saying that we’ve lost something valuable, that it may not necessarily be lesser, but it has changed and is different. Then, I can discuss my thought that it is regained or satisfied through the online video conversation, and this recapturing becomes productive for something: conveyance, understanding/comprehension, instruction, etc.

    • Chris
      Jul 19, 2009 at 12:40 PM /

      Beware parenthetical asides.

      I was watching a video by Ryan Trauman earlier ( and thought about your quandary. He’s been doing these (weird, in my opinion, but it’s interesting) “myself as another” videos; he records himself working or thinking or sitting at his desk staring at the computer screen, all without talking or any kind of narration at all. Just a “self” (to use his term). He uploaded a video reflection on these the other day, and that’s the one that got me thinking. He mentions at some point (and I’m paraphrasing badly here) that he is seeing and dealing with another self, one who just feels and does’nt get to explain himself in writing and “mediate it” in any way. I wonder if some kind of concept (or level, or “mechanism”–as Trauman explains) of de-mediation (I’m thinking in terms of Bolter & Grusin’s Remediation) might be something you’re going for?

      Does video not so much add something back as it strips away a level or form of mediation?

    • thbarrow
      Jul 19, 2009 at 7:33 PM /

      Yeh, that post IS filled with parenthetical asi… wait a minute; so is yours! 🙂

      Trauman’s “myself as another” videos are pretty interesting, to be sure. On one hand, it is pretty self-indulgent, in that he is just filming himself thinking for four minutes. On the other hand, there is something to that. However, I’d think it would be a real deterrent to clear thinking, since you would always be aware of the camera, and there is certain need or desire to act a certain way. I think that is, in part, what he is getting at in his reflection video. That he does certain things, has certain ticks, makes certain gestures, none of which can he clarify or explain. However, that final point is the nature of his own project in which he cannot (does not) speak.

      The self that most people put out can answer for his/herself to some extent. For instance, in his example in which he might bite his lip and cannot comment on why, most people would be able to comment on such an action; he just does not due to his own project construct. But, just as Plato said of texts, they cannot answer for themselves, since the author is not present. That is one point that I am making with my discussion on the online video conversation (OVC). When people are tied in to the tool and use it frequently, they can ask questions of a video orator and lagged conversation can occur.

      “De-mediation”… hmmm. There is something to that concept in that by communicating through video, we are mediating the exchange, and I guess I am looking at the OVC as a less rigidly-mediated communication form. That is to say, by sensing more of the person on the other end (visual, audio, and a close-to synchronous response time), it is more like the direct (unmediated communication). However, it is still mediated and I don’t think of it so much as stripping away a level of mediation as it is presenting it at a certain level, a level that is (or is perceived as) less mediated. One point I clearly am going toward is that we inherently find value in the direct/unmediated communication, so these lower levels of mediation in communication are desired.