Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Phrase "Computer-Mediated'

Although I am a fan of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC), and I am indeed typing this on a computer (but could be on a "smart phone", as could you, which are really just mini hand-held computers with touch screens), I have never been a fan of the phrase "computer-mediated communication." It just doesn't resonate with me at all.

I remember as a first year graduate student, a professor told me to look into "computer-mediated communication" which I think I did but I don't think I found JCMC. The phrase was the problem, it was like calling work where people drove to their workplace "automobile-assisted employment." It is true, but to me it really missed the point so much I didnt see why I should look into it. Seemed like "cybernetics" from the 1960s, they were just talking about people using computers, trying to make it sound cooler with a cool name implies quite strongly it really isn't that interesting in the first place.

CMC doesn't quite have that problem, but it seems to miss the point. There was never any "paper- and ink- mediated communication" that studied letter writing and typewriters. And computers in 1985 versus computers currently are so different, as are the things we do easily on them, although this flexibility is useful. The computer doesn't restrict us very much (at least not nowadays), it isn't the interesting part of the equation, the people are.