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Computer-Mediated Communication. Media Richness. “. Media richness theory proposes that media differ in the ability to facilitate changes in understanding among communicators. ”. — Kahai & Cooper 2003. Rich. Lean. Some types of cues. Non-verbal. Verbal. Textual

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Media richness theory proposes that media differ in the ability to facilitate changes in understanding among communicators.

— Kahai & Cooper 2003

Computer-Mediated Communication



Computer-Mediated Communication



Computer-Mediated Communication

some types of cues
Some types of cues




  • Production cost to encode meaning equivalent to FTF in text

Beyond FTF?

Computer-Mediated Communication

  • Type of feedback
    • Acknowledgment — understanding (+/–)
    • Repair — correction or clarification
    • Proxy — completion
  • Immediacy of feedback: more immediate = richer
    • Concurrent:  synchronous nods, mm-hmms
      • a.k.a. backchannel
    • Sequential:  brief interjection

Computer-Mediated Communication

a plausible ranking
A plausible ranking?



Synchronous video

Synchronous audio / asynch. video

Synchronous text / asynch. audio

Asynchronous text


Computer-Mediated Communication


— Clark & Brennan (1991)

Computer-Mediated Communication

media choice vs media use
Media choice vs. media use

Types of tasks

  • “Uncertain” — missing information
  • “Equivocal” — ambiguous interpretations

“Best” medium for an (un)equivocal task

  • What do managers choose?
  • What yields the best performance?

P.S.: What is “best performance”?

Computer-Mediated Communication

dennis kinney hypotheses
Dennis & Kinney hypotheses
  • H1a: Performance improves as multiplicity of cues increases …
  • H1b: … more for more equivocal tasks.
  • H2a: Performance improves as immediacy of feedback increases …
  • H2b: … more for more equivocal tasks.

Computer-Mediated Communication

mean decision time d k
Mean decision time (D&K)

Computer-Mediated Communication

dennis kinney s findings
Dennis & Kinney’s findings
  • Decision time
    • Decreased with greater multiplicity of cues
    • Decreased with greater immediacy of feedback
    • Increased with CMC (vs. AV) more for low equivocality task than for high equivocality task
  • Consensus change
    • More change with high equivocality task than low

Computer-Mediated Communication

hyperpersonal communication
Hyperpersonal communication
  • Receivers overattribute from limited cues
    • Assume similarity based on group affiliation
  • Senders maintain tight control over cues
    • Selective self-presentation —Little “given off” in text CMC
  • Bottom line: Exceptionally favorable perception in the face of limited information

Computer-Mediated Communication


The sensorial parsimony of plain text tends to entice users into engaging their imaginations to fill in missing details while, comparatively speaking, the richness of stimuli in fancy [systems] has an opposite tendency, pushing users’ imaginations into a more passive role.

— Curtis (1992)

Computer-Mediated Communication


Long-term, no photos

Social affinity

Long-term, photos

Short-term, photos

Short-term, no photos

Computer-Mediated Communication


The study of CMC effects is not best served by blanket statements about technology main effects on social, psychological, and interpersonal processes, nor by proclamations that online relationships are less rewarding than FTF ones. Rather, qualities of CMC are … more often the product of interesting and predictable interactions of several mutual influences than main effects of media.

— Walther et al. (2001)

Computer-Mediated Communication