January 1997

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Notes on Defining of Computer-Mediated Communication

by John December

If you think of Computer-Mediated Communication only ^in terms of technologies, you might conclude that CMC on the Internet involves only information exchange and retrieval.

But where would this view of CMC on the Internet get you? I say: Nowhere. You'd miss ^the bigger picture of CMC on the Internet and become baffled by its rising popularity.

Therefore my definition of CMC is this:
Computer-Mediated Communication is a ^process of human communication ^via computers, involving ^people, situated in particular ^contexts, engaging in processes to shape ^media for a variety of ^purposes.
[]Ferris outlines the current state of scholarly definitions of CMC in research application areas.

[]Murray applies Wittgenstein's ideas of family resemblance to the definition of CMC.

If the Internet involves only data lookup, I'm in trouble. This means there's nothing profound happening online, and I should get out of the business of writing about the Net and researching how people use it. But I don't think that a technologically deterministic view of Internet-based CMC holds. I believe CMC operates within human contexts and is thus a rich forum for human communication and an inexhaustible source of interest for study.


John December's ( most recent book is The World Wide Web Unleashed 1997 (Indianapolis: Publishing, 1997).

Copyright © 1997 by John December. All Rights Reserved.

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