Blog Post

How do mediums affect our communication?

 

To see a glimpse into the answer of this question, I choose two mediums – face-to-face dialogue, and communication over the phone – to observe differences and similarities. However, what I found was that (I talked with two different people – one, I more familiar and closer than the other) it was not really the medium that dictated the quality of interaction, rather, it was how comfortable you were with your dialogue mate.

My assumption, or hypothesis, for the experiment was this: a face-to-face conversation would bring about more in-depth clarity than having a conversation over the phone, because one would be able to read each other’s physical and facial cues, and be able to gain clarity in the conversation. In other words, if the other person looked puzzled or unsure, it would be easier for both to dig deeper and ask why. The constant, the topic, between the two mediums, was to brain storm what my potential research topic could be.

And thus, I set out to find out.

First, I tried out face-to-face.

Putting aside the content for a minute, the quality and focus one can have with a face-to-face may depend on where it takes place.

In my case, it took place in a park.

It was just about a minute into the conversation that an elderly lady fell flat on the concrete, and this was no trivial issue. Luckily, she had company, which sat her down on a nearby bench, however, it definitely became a great deal of concern, a reasonable distraction from the conversation at hand.

So my first comment to make about the face-to-face medium: your surroundings are important.

After such shocking moment, our conversation swiftly returned to its original topic: ideas about my research project. As I was interested in power, and how that intertwines with knowledge, our topics varied from speaking about McDonalization of many things to how power is defined by different people. It was always helpful when questions that called for specifics were asked – since I am aware of how much I can have my head up in the clouds. This was a good start. Occasionally we would go off-topic, and discuss other tangential things, which was refreshing.

Next, I tried over the phone, a dialogue mediated by the mobile gadget. Now, this was a different experience. Firstly, it felt much more linear than the face-to-face conversation. Then again, as I new this person longer than my face-to-face counterpart, it was suddenly a clear, stream-line of thoughts. And I found it interesting, that it was more difficult for external factors to distract away from the conversation. This conversation took place in my room (a relatively quiet and low-distraction space) to walking through the Gold Coast Neighborhood, into the Michigan Avenue (a much more happening, and high-distraction space). Yet, in both locations, as I gave most of my attention to the conversation, as in, to the phone, I was hardly distracted. Perhaps this is why people don’t want drivers to talk while driving (and definitely not texting).

And I must say, I am very familiar with having a conversation with this person. Which makes me think: is it truly the medium that calls the shots at how one converses with the other, or is it how familiar with the dialogue mate that determines the intensity and focus that one gives to a dialogue? I believe both questions are at play, and neither can be ignored. But for now, I am satisfied to see that both dialogues yielded interesting and fruitful results. More on that next.

 

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