Lazy Luddite Log

19.10.06

Choose Your Medium

I am becoming increasingly aware that different modes of communication serve different purposes and fit different kinds of behaviour. I recently had a mobile phone given to me and am suddenly noticing how it affects behaviour. I tend to prefer knowing in advance what is happening in my day and therefore my preferred form of communications technology is email, which conveniently allows me to plan things days or weeks in advance, in consultation with however many others. In contrast to this, others prefer things to happen spontaneously, and for them the mobile phone is a godsend, allowing them to plan things on the go, sometimes even as they are happening. Observe the following mock conversation:

"I'm at the corner of Collins and Swanston, where are you?"

"I'm in Flinders Lane, but now I'm walking into that little lane connecting it with Collins"

"Oh, yes, I know the one, I'll run into you in a minute or so..."


I personally prefer to just say (days in advance) "Meet under the Clocks at 12 Noon" and leave it at that. I can however see that there are times in which this more up-to-the-moment communication is very useful. And more to the point, it is a form of communication that suits particular personality and behaviour, and I suppose it is a good thing that different temperaments have forms of communication suited to them. It is also worthwhile for those of us with differing temperaments to recognise that these differences exist, which may help us communicate better once we understand those differences.

Another difference is between private and public forms of internet communication. To my way of thinking email is private while websites are public. Of course this distinction is somewhat blurred by a number of things. In email, some distribution lists are so big that few of those on them truly know who everyone is on the list, thus making this more like a public forum. Likewise, particular sites, such as Live Journal, allow one to 'lock' particular posts so that only specific 'friends' can see them, thus making those sites a private form of communication. The distinction is a confusing one, and this causes problems.

With email its convenience is sometimes its shortcoming, with the possibility of hitting 'send all' rather than 'send' being all-to-easy a mistake to make, so one has to look carefully at what one does and who one is saying things to. Even more caution seems necessary for sites such as blogs and journals, with many forgetting that their tiny little corner of the web is open to scrutiny from anyone and everyone, whether acquaintance or stranger, whether friend or foe (for those of us who are so archaic as to still have foes). Knowing the way in which these different modes work helps to communicate better. If I want the world to know, then put it on a website and use my public speaking filters, if I want to tell particular friends something, then I send an email to specific addresses. And over-and-above that, if I want immediate and nuanced form of communication, I pick up the phone. If I want an even more immediate and nuanced form of communication, I make arrangements to meet with that person face-to-face.

Some years ago VicHealth ran a public information campaign on mental health and one part of this campaign was a postcard-sized advertisement with a picture of a teapot and cup of tea on it. The caption on that card was something like "an indispensable crisis management tool" and it struck me as so relevant to many instances of preventable conflict I have observed, whether among political colleagues, or personal friends, and for that kind of preventative communication to occur, the mode needs to be the right one for the job. Sometimes only face-to-face will do.

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4 Comments:

  • There is some practicality involved...

    Particularly when a pedestrian is meeting a car, there's a problem: the pedestrian doesn't necessarily want to wait at the kerb in the rain, while the car may not be able to park within sight.

    So it begins (=\o/=)


    η

    By Anonymous sabik, At 19 October, 2006  

  • And it ends almost as soon as it starts...

    By Blogger Daniel, At 30 October, 2006  

  • I've noticed over the years that mailing lists and online forums have been haunted by snarking about what constitutes a suitable post, whether people are posting too much, debates about what's on topic, which post style is correct etc etc. As blogs have been more widely adopted as a two-way form of communication, the lists and forums see less and less use.

    People are choosing their medium - deciding to use blogs - probably because they combine a sense of autonomy with the option of opening comments for discourse and the many other handy features that they offer.

    There is always a temptation to turn to monologue when no dialogue is possible.

    By Blogger Jac, At 30 October, 2006  

  • That kind of rules lawyer talk can be very frustrating. But on the other hand it may have been provoked by the behaviour of those who flagrantly ignore accepted standards of the group and who also fill the list with a lot of dross.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 18 November, 2006  

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