What Does Research Say about the Nature of Computer-mediated Communication:
Task-Oriented, Social-Emotion-Oriented, or Both?
With computer-mediated communication (CMC) being widely employed in all fields, a growing body of CMC research has accumulated in recent decades. The research regarding the nature of CMC has been very controversial. Is CMC task-oriented, social-emotion-oriented, or both? Based on two delineated research models in CMC, this literature review indicates that CMC is both task- and social-emotion-oriented in nature. Specifically, this paper discusses, compares, and contrasts several major aspects of these two research models.
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) represents a different medium of human communication and has been described as an “altered state of communication,” including altered physical environments, altered time and space, and altered structures in communication (Vallee, Johansen, & Sprangler, 1975). CMC systems were initially used to facilitate and coordinate emergency tasks among geographically distributed individuals or groups (Hiltz & Turoff, 1978). Now, CMC offers many kinds of services, including asynchronous e-mail, computer conferencing, bulletin boards, electronic databases, facsimile, teletex, videotex (Rice, 1990), voice messaging (Gluck, Coliz, & Rosenbaum, 1991), chatrooms (Halbert, 1999), Mud Object Oriented (MOO) (Jacobson, 1999), or Multi-User-Dungeons (MUD) (Utz, 2000). In addition, CMC has demonstrated a variety of advantages over other media. CMC combines the interactivity and group communication features of face-to-face (FtF) communication; time and place independence and mediated communication features of distance education (Kearsley, 1993), as well as new modes of communication storage and retrieval (Culnan & Markus, 1987). Thus, a rich source of data can be accumulated in CMC compared with FtF or other media channels (Rice, 1990).