Ads Top

Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC)

By: Ifedayo Akinwalere
+234 8033936940
Technology plays a major role in all human cultures and societies, from the first group of humans who domesticated fire to be used as a weapon and a tool to the development of the light bulb that sparked the age of electrification to the development of the computer and the Internet that resulted in our present information age. To this end, Rogers (1986) cited in Bob and Sooknanan (2014) claimed that the microcomputer is one of the most important innovations of recent decades in terms of its impact in homes, schools and businesses. The Internet, in particular, was the catalyst that catapulted the computer into a global phenomenon. 

Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is defined as any human communication that occurs through the use of two or more electronic devices. While the term has traditionally referred to those communications that occur via computer-mediated formats (e.g., instant messaging, email, chat rooms, online forums, social network services), it has also been applied to other forms of text-based interaction such as text messaging.
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is a generic term used for a variety of systems that enable people to communicate with other people by means of computers and networks. Well-known examples of such systems include computer conferencing, electronic mail, discussion lists, and bulletin boards. However, there are yet other possible applications of CMC, both in the work, education and training environments. In the work environment, a common and growing phenomenon is collaborative work by individuals or groups who are separated from each other by either time or distance. This has come to be called computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) (Grief, 1988) cited in Romiszowski and Mason (2001).

Romiszowski et. al. (2001) in addition, stated that the working definition of computer-mediated communication is the kind of communication between different parties separated in space and/or time, mediated by interconnected computers. The computer network acts as a communication medium just as if it were a printed book containing text and graphics or a video broadcasting system. 

For instance, if Mr. A needs to get a message to Mr. B In the past, Mr. A have to physically track Mr. B down or have someone else do it. Today, there are more options. Mr. A can send a text, an email, post on his wall, or reach out to Mr. B in any number of ways. He can even send Mr. B a video message expressing his views. All of these are examples of computer-mediated communications (CMC), which is a more concise term that applies to all the ways that we have to reach out and communicate with someone from a distance via a computer.
Key Concepts
Computer: A computer is a programmable machine. The two principal characteristics of a computer are: It responds to a specific set of instructions in a well-defined manner and it can execute a prerecorded list of instructions (a program).

Modern Computers: Modern computers are electronic and digital. The actual machinery — wires, transistors, and circuits is called hardware; the instructions and data are called software.

Computer Classification: By Size and Power
Most people associate a personal computer (PC) with the phrase computer.  A PC is a small and relatively inexpensive computer designed for an individual use. PCs are based on the microprocessor technology that enables manufacturers to put an entire CPU on one chip.

Personal computers at home can be used for a number of different applications including games, word processing, accounting and other tasks. Computers are generally classified by size and power as follows, although there is considerable overlap. The differences between computer classifications generally get smaller as technology advances, creating smaller and more powerful and cost-friendly components.

Personal Computer: a small, single-user computer based on a microprocessor. In addition to the microprocessor, a personal computer has a keyboard for entering data, a monitor for displaying information, and a storage device for saving data.

Workstation: a powerful, single-user computer. A workstation is like a personal computer, but it has a more powerful microprocessor and a higher-quality monitor.

Minicomputer: a multi-user computer capable of supporting from 10 to hundreds of users simultaneously.

Mainframe: a powerful multi-user computer capable of supporting many hundreds or thousands of users simultaneously.

Supercomputer: an extremely fast computer that can perform hundreds of millions of instructions per second.
Communication: Communication is derived from the latin words communis, and communicare which translate as common and to share respectively. This means that communication aims at the sharing of information, ideas and messages, making them universal. It would appear that this sense of sharing is easy to achieve in human interaction. This is not always the case in the complex business world (Ogbulogo, 2004). Communication can also mean two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meaning. In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places. In business, it is a key function of management. An organization cannot operate without communication between levels, departments and employees. Ogbulogo (2004) defined Communication as a process of transmitting messages from a source to receivers using a signaling system.

Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another. Communication can be Spoken or Verbal Communication: face-to-face, telephone, radio or television and other media. Non-Verbal Communication: body language, gestures, how we dress or act - even our scent.
Mediated-Communication (less often, mediated discourse) refers to communication carried out by the use of information communication technology.

The advent of Computer-Mediated Communication has a lot of benefits for man and his environment. Some of the benefits are highlighted and explained below:

 Highly Interactive Communication: One of the merits of CMC is the capability of making interaction between the participants possible. CMC provides for complex processes of interaction between participants. It combines the permanent nature of written communication with the speed, and often the dynamism of spoken communications, for example via telephone. The possibilities for interaction and feedback are almost limitless, and are not constrained as they are in some of the “electronic page turning” forms of computer-aided instruction, wherein the interaction is limited to a selection among a small number of choices. It is only the creativity, imagination, and personal involvement of participants, that constrains the potential of online discussions. The potential for interaction in a CMC environment is both more flexible and potentially richer than in other forms of computer-based education. The textual aspects of CMC, and in particular of asynchronous CMC, support the possibility of greater reflection in the composition of CMC than is seen in many forms of oral discourse, with implications for levels of learning Romiszowski et. al. (2001).
Feedback: With the use of CMC, the possibilities for interaction and feedback are almost limitless, being a function of the creativity and personal involvement of the participants in the on-line discussion. The feedback messages do not have to be prepared and stored. The participants are able to some extent to express within their messages not only the bare content but the system also allows participants personal viewpoints and, to a limited extent, the emotional overtones that may be present. Thus, the potential for interaction in a CMC system is both more flexible and potentially richer than in other forms of communication.

Multimedia: Ganiyu and Akinreti (2011) stated that one of the outstanding merits of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is its capacity to disseminate multimedia messages. That is, a message can be sent and received in many ways such as in written form, audio, video, pictures among others.

Globalization of Business Communication (Corporate Uses of CMC): In the area of business communications, CMC has already become firmly established. Computer-mediated communications have revolutionized the way that people stay in touch and the way that companies conduct business. Today, most of the major companies in around the world maintain their own data and personal communication networks so that all departments can communicate effectively and efficiently by electronic means. One aspect of increasing importance in these systems is the use of electronic mail, computer conferencing, and, increasingly, computer-supported collaborative work between individuals or groups who may be scattered in different regions of a country or even different continents. The "globalization" of business communication has become necessary for staying competitive.

Increased Worker Productivity and Efficiency: One of the biggest users of computers and computer networks is the business environment. Most companies have local and wide area networks that link individual computers from the same location and multiple locations to each other so that information and messages can be shared. 

These computer networks are then linked via the Internet to the World Wide Web making it easier to communicate with suppliers, clients and business partners. In the modern workplace there is a computer at every desk with each networked to form part the company’s local or wide area network. From each terminal, electronic mail otherwise known as e-mail, can be sent to single as well as multiple recipients thus making the distribution of information easier and quicker than ever before. Managers believe that access to and use of this information would result in increased worker productivity and efficiency and make it easier for them to communicate with staff. Due to the effects of globalization, local businesses must now compete globally for market dominance and this puts increase demands on businesses to ensure that productivity and efficiency are at a high level and continually improving.

Work from Home: Now it is possible to work from home without ever stepping foot into the office, maintain meaningful relationships from around the world, and communicate with someone sitting across the room from you without saying a word. This is because of computer-mediated communication, the name given to any sort of communication that takes place with the assistance of a computer.

Multi-Way Communication: Another aspect of this communication process is that it is essentially multi-way communication. At the very least, the communication is two-way, as in the case of two people exchanging messages in an electronic-mail environment. More often, however, the communication is multi-way, between all the participants of a group who may receive and respond to messages from all the other participants.

Real-Time and Off-Line Communication: The CMC process makes communication between two or more people in real time, such as classroom-based, face-to-face discussion, or a telephone conversation possible. It also allows participants that are not on-line at one and the same time, as in the case of correspondence by letter or fax possible. The interesting aspect of using the computer as a communication medium is that it is possible to use it at will both as a real-time communication medium like a telephone or an off-line communication medium like a letter-writing or fax system, depending on what is ideally required by the particular situation.

Possibility of Education and Distance Education: In education, a particular growth area is the use of Computer- Mediated Communication systems, not only for distance education when the participants are separated physically but also for more convenient communication on the same campus. Applications include institutions that utilize CMC as a principal mode of instruction and communication between tutors and students for whole courses, programs that run a few course units by means of CMC, and the use of CMC as a support medium for enrichment in otherwise conventional courses.  The emerging, operation and success of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) are possible with the CMC based technology. Today Noun has at least a branch in every local government areas of Nigeria without main campus anywhere and with the use of CMC; a lot of successes have been recorded in its academic operations.

Establishing Learning Communities:  There is no doubt that Computer-Mediated Communication has led establishment of learning communities. Hargreaves (2002) cited in Odumuh (2012) claimed that “strong professional learning community is a social process for turning information into knowledge. He posited that it brings together the knowledge, skills and dispositions of teachers in a school, or across schools, to promote shared learning and improvement.’’ Additionally, the use of networked technologies is transforming the traditional environment that teachers have experienced (e.g. web-based teaching, video-conferencing, cross-cultural sharing, and different types of interactive and multi-media materials). Teachers are now beginning to use such opportunities in the networked professional learning communities to share resources and expertise, discuss pedagogical approaches, reflect on practice and provide support for their colleagues as part of the community experience.

Intellectual Merit: on Conventional Courses. The purpose of most of the uses of CMC is to reduce minimized or reduce challenges caused as a result of large geographic distances between colleagues. However, some very important effects from local uses can also be realized. Kuehn (1988) suggests that electronic mail can extend classroom discussions, increase the ease of evaluating student assignments, increase the connectedness of students and faculty, and increase both the social as well as an intellectual impact from this means of communication.

Excellent Medium for Self-Directed Learning
CMC has also been used to promote an excellent medium for self-directed learning as a defining characteristic of adult learning. Self-direction manifests itself when students voluntarily elect to take a CMC-based course, determine how, when, and where they will study, and negotiate the learning activities and content focus they will pursue during the course. Eastmond (1993) cited in Romiszowski et. al. (2001), found that distance students taking CMC courses exhibited varying patterns of self-direction. They were confident about their abilities to manage their schedule and the study process to produce necessary learning results, but they wanted the assignments clearly set forth for them by the instructor.

It Saves time and Money: There are many advantages to computer-mediated communications. The most obvious of which is that it saves time and resources. In the past, if two parties wanted to communicate, they would either have to mail letters back and forth or physically move people back and forth. Mail takes days to arrive, while the cost of flying someone across the country is pretty substantial. On the other hand, computer-mediated communications do this all for a much lower cost. In fact, computer-mediated communications allow work that used to require everyone in one office to be done across great distances.

Teaching through CMC makes it possible to save teachers’ time.  Many educators enthusiastic about the use of CMC as a teaching medium can adapt strategies from small-group and, interactive face-to-face techniques to the on-line world. Examples include seminars, learning partnerships, group projects, team presentations, simulations and role plays, peer counseling, and self-help groups. CMC technology saves time and money in IT organizations by facilitating the use of all communication formats.

Quality of Information: The larger the CMC network, the richer the resource for information exchange. 

Friendly Relationships: Friendly relationships may develop in spite of reduced cues that CMC participants became more casual and humorous over time, and that this medium invites more equitable participation. Some investigators found that students who participated in CMC maintained their attitude of positive potential for this medium after direct experience with it. They enjoyed chatting, and making friends and professional contacts, and felt less isolated. Mediated communication has been, however, described as more preferable in some situations, particularly where time and geographical distance are an issue. For example, in maintaining long-distance friendship, face-to-face communication was only the fourth most common way of maintaining ties, after mediated communication tools of telephone, email and instant messaging.

Members Participated More Equally: Research in the social and psychological impact of CMC in the workplace show that group dynamics changed; members participated more equally and high status members cannot dominate the interaction to the same degree as in face-to-face meetings (Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1987) cited in Bob et al. (2014).   This happened because CMC filters out certain personal, social and behavioural cues, such as voice and body language that people use in face-to-face communication. 

Equitable Access: Those who advocate the use of CMC, especially for distance education, argued that this technology allows for greater access at reduced costs by reaching rural areas, providing communication access for those who cannot attend class because of hectic life schedules, physical limitations, or institutional barriers.

The four main advantages of CMC, which is a type of asynchronous communication media, over face-to-face communication or synchronous communication media include more active and equal team member participation, flexibility over time and distance combined with ease of changing team size quickly, the ability of team members to reflect or collect data before responding, and instant and evolving archived records of the discussion known as threading Berry (2004) cited in Bob et al. (2014).
Other Benefits of CMC are:
• Keep proof of messages sent;
• Reinforce messages;
• Less paper—files stored electronically;
• Same data can be sent to multiple users;
• Corresponding especially with foreign suppliers;
• Keep current with changes and new ideas.
However, in spite of the stated merits of Computer-Mediated Communication, there are some negative effects of using it to communicate and transact businesses in human society. Some of those disadvantages are highlighted and explained bellow:
Difficulty in Separating Relevant and Irrelevant Information
One point that should be considered is whether unlimited multi-way communication is in fact always desirable within an educational situation. Many participants in computer conferencing have expressed frustration and disappointment with the difficulty they have in sorting out relevant from irrelevant information, because there are so many participants contributing messages on a variety of different topics. 

Increase in Teachers’ Workload
In education, a particular growth area is the use of computer- mediated communication systems, not only for distance education when the participants are separated physically but also for more convenient communication on the same campus. Applications include institutions that utilize CMC as a principal mode of instruction and communication between tutors and students for whole courses, programmes that run a few course units by means of CMC, and the use of CMC as a support medium for enrichment in otherwise conventional courses.

 However, one of the challenges identified in the educational uses of computer conferencing is that of teacher workload. Experiences from the NKI Electronic College in Norway show that teachers' main reservation about educational CMC is the open-ended demand on their time (Paulsen, 1992) cited in Romiszowski et. al. (2001). They quoted (Hiltz, 1988) who stated that teaching an on-line course, at least the first time, was a bit like parenthood. That is teachers are to be on duty all the time, and there seems to be no end to the demands on their time and energy.

Expensive to Acquire and Maintain
It has been argued that computer usage in general is accessible to wealthier, high-achieving people living in urban cities of the world. Today, few Nigerians have access to CMC technology. The situation in other developed countries, while in the developing world, computer technology often significantly increases the gap between the rich and the poor. 

Depersonalization: Depersonalization also occurs with the use of CMC, and so individuals are less likely to know the position, background, and expertise of those with whom they communicate. This is a dangerous trend which has led to deception and death of some participants in recent time. For example, Cynthia Osokogu was a 24-year-old and only daughter of General Frank Osokogu (rtd), she was a boutique store owner and post-graduate student of Nasarawa state university, who was murdered about 5 years ago at a hotel in Festac town, Lagos state after being lured to Lagos for business purpose then drugged, strangled and robbed of her possession. It was reported that she was murdered by her Facebook acquaintances. Report said that Cynthia had chatted with the two undergraduates on Facebook for months. In the process, they reportedly got to know that she owned a boutique in Nasarawa State, following which they reportedly had a business proposal with her, promising to host her whenever she visited Lagos. On her arrival at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, on July 22, 2012, she was reportedly picked up by the two undergraduates and driven to a hotel in Festac Town. At the hotel, her drink was reportedly drugged before she was strangled to death. 

Reduced Credibility: Depersonalization of CMC participants can lead to less credibility of the information and opinions that are gathered over the networks. In the case of some of the research on the British Open University's use of computer conferencing, there is the possibility that on-line messages held little important information.

Reduction in Interpersonal Interaction: Some researchers expressed concern that CMC will build global networks while reducing proximate neighborhood and family ties, that CMC may alter peoples' work and communication patterns significantly and may dehumanize interpersonal interaction (Eastmond, 1992; Zuboff, 1988) cited in Romiszowski et. al. (2001).
Compared to face-to-face communication, mediated communication engages fewer senses, transmitting fewer symbolic cues (for example, most mediated communication does not transmit facial expressions) and is seen as more private. 

Loss of Control: CMC can lead to inability of participants to have control over what exactly would be discussed. Maybe partly as a consequence of the loss of a sense of structure on the part of the students, the students would tend to pick up on a recently circulated message and respond to that out of context, often leading the discussion into a completely new area. It was found that the task of bringing discussants back to the original topic was much more difficult in the CMC environment than would normally be the case in face-to-face discussion.

It was shown that these two problems were largely caused by the software environment within which the conferences were taking place by modifying this environment and demonstrating that both the problems were greatly diminished. Specific modifications used were the development of a structured discussion environment within a hypertext software package that would automatically create separate discussion areas for each topic and automatically create links between relevant messages that could later be followed with ease (Romiszowski & Chang, 1992).

Cyber War
Computer-Mediated Communication may lead to cyber warfare. This has become a new form of warfare. Some military war strategists in North Korea asserted that cyber warfare replaces the traditional method of war. Whereas others contend that it simply complements the kinetic methods of warfare. Some go as far as to speculate that the “third world war will be the global cyber war.” They all designate cyberspace as the fifth major battlefield, following sky, land, sea, and space. They stress that cyberspace is its own medium with its own rules, and yet they struggle to define the uses and limits of power in cyberspace. They recognize cyber war capability as a core military combat power, but insist that the enemy does not have the right to retaliate for cyber attacks because of the technical complexity of determining the perpetrators of cyber operations. Despite  an  inferior  information  communication  environment, North Korea has a high capacity to conduct robust cyber operations aimed at collecting foreign intelligence, disrupting foreign computers, information and communication systems, networks and critical infrastructures, and stirring public discontent and disorder in the enemy states. The Korean People’s Army concentrated its efforts on strengthening the cyber war capabilities through establishing a command and control structure dedicated to cyber warfare, forming military units specializing in cyber warfare, training expert manpower, and advancing research and development of core cyber technologies. North Korea critically depends on outside resources for the conduct of its offensive cyber effects operations (Mansourov, 2014).

For example, it was reported in South Korea on March 20, 2013 that Computer networks running three major South Korean banks and the country’s two largest broadcasters were paralyzed in attacks that some experts suspected originated in North Korea, which has consistently threatened to cripple its far richer neighbour. The attacks, which left many South Koreans unable to withdraw money from A.T.M.’s and news broadcasting crews staring at blank computer screens, came as the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as threatening to destroy government installations in the South, along with American bases in the Pacific.

Interpretation Difficult: CMC user statement interpretation may be difficult due to the absence of verbal or face-to-face communication.
Other Demerits of CMC are:
E-mails are taken for granted as persons do not access their mail in a timely and urgent manner, this results in delays in getting a response;
• Lack of security on sensitive documents;
• Too much junk mail;
• Abuse of facility for entertainment;
• Distracting;
• Information overload;
• Send information to wrong persons—same name.

The outcomes of the study were that workers’ productivity and efficiency generally increase, and workers’ usage of new technology varied based on age, gender and educational level with the use of computer mediated communication. Introduction of CMC increased its use as a whole; it impacted negatively on interpersonal relationships. The advantages of CMC, which is a type of asynchronous communication media, over face-to-face communication or synchronous communication media include more active and equal team member participation, flexibility over time and distance combined with ease of changing team size quickly, the ability of team members to reflect or collect data before responding, and instant and evolving archived records of the discussion known as threading. On the other hand, the technical nature of CMC leads to negative outcomes such as depersonalization, impoliteness, information overload and increase worker stress due to having to respond quickly.

All over the world, computer-mediated communication is changing the face of business, teaching, learning, engineering, research and virtually all sectors of our economy. Nigerian educational system cannot afford to take the back seat. To prepare this new generation for development, there is the need to develop skills, knowledge, attitude, and perspectives to teach every subject in the light of globalization from primary to tertiary level. One important function of this era was that CMC provided a means to move ideas to people instead of moving people to ideas. While CMC has contributed a lot to development of human beings by making life easier to live, it also resulted in  some  negative  effects such as depersonalization, impoliteness, information overload and increase worker stress due to having to provide immediate feedback.

Ganiyu, M. and Akinreti, Q. (2011). Secret of Online and Multi-Media Journalism. Lagos: Emgee Publishing Limited.
Mansourov, A. (2014). North Korea’s Cyber Warfare and Challenges for the U.S.-ROK Alliance. Academic Paper Series. Korea Economic Institute of America.
Odumuh, T. O. (2012). English Language Teaching in a Globalized and digital Age: Implication for Teachers Preparation and Professional Development. A Journal of Teachers of English & Communication Skills, 9: 1-7.
Ogbulogo, C. (2004). Business Communication in Practice. Lagos: Sam Iroanusi Communications.
Facebook Death: Retrieved from http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/08/how-ex-generals-daughter-cynthia-was-killed-by-facebook-friends/
Romiszowski, A. J and Mason, R.  (2001). Computer-Mediated Communication. Retrieved from http://www.aect.org/edtech/ed1/14/index.html
Bob, K. and Sooknanan, P. (2014). The Impact of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) on Productivity and Efficiency in Organizations: A Case Study of an Electrical Company in Trinidad. and Tobago. Retrieved from http://www.scirp.org/journal/ajc http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ajc.2014.22005.
Communication: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/communication.html.
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Reviewed by IFEDAYO AKINWALERE on 3:17:00 pm Rating: 5