Digital culture, digital communication and digital conferences are often described, by their participants, in terms of positive outcomes for society. However, a characteristic of Computer Mediated Communications (CMC) often overlooked is: "the possibility, even likelihood, that as CMC grows in popularity, there will be less need for face-to-face interaction. It is one of the supreme ironies of the Utopian view of CMC, that it is likely to reduce that felt sense of community that it so nostalgically seems to uphold as virtuous." (http://well.com/user/hlr/text/VCcivil.html)
With CMC fast becoming as accepted and normal as face to face communications is it possible to envision a future where the two forms of communication become so intertwined that they become indistinguishable from each other? Or are CMC, as a digital form of communication, still too foreign to our daily existence? Are face to face communications the cement which bind our community together? Still, once Skype sort out their audio - how often have you fiddled with it shouting 'Can you hear me? - the sky, it would seem, is no longer a limit...
...as I'm writing this critical analysis I'm being forced away from our home computer by my girlfriend who urgently needs to go on-line to talk to one of her video chat room friends somewhere in the world...
Currently the communication mediums of our digital culture do not allow for the nuances of free expression provided by face to face contact. Subtle nuances communicated through, for example, visual references of body language, attitude or subtle facial expressions. All are lost; greatly disturbing the transmission of a message (especially when Skyping). During CMC it is not difficult to disguise real emotions thus rendering the message less personal. In popular social networks, where the participants can not see each other, such as the email and messaging services of Microsoft Live Hotmail, Yahoo, Facebook or MySpace, people hide behind emoticons or abbreviations (lol) to communicate feelings or thoughts quite different to what may truly be felt.
Even CMC where participants can see each other, such as our friend Skype, do not signal true intent as clearly as when having a face to face discussion, no amount of swaying slightly left to right will blur what is really on your chest. Visual as well as a host of other clues telling a true friend all he or she needs to know. More meaningful interaction between community members is created through face to face communications as any ambiguities are more intimately and informatively transmitted.
It is obvious during direct, personal, face to face communications when one of the party is disinterested, bored, angry, sad or perhaps preoccupied with more pressing matters. Face to face communications allow for the creation of the trust needed to bind us together as a community on a level not as yet achieved by CMC primarily as modern cultures, despite the enthuses of the participants in our digital culture, are still vastly reliant on face to face communications.
To Indigenous communities around the world the communication of knowledge orally is an important part of establishing and maintaining status. This is likewise true in our society where one aspect of maintaining status is best achieved face to face, namely, resolving misunderstanding or even conflict. "It is either the height of arrogance or defeat when one chooses or is forced to leave his or her community over an unresolved conflict"
(http://well.com/user/hlr/text/VCcivil.html). This is one of the multiple layers of face to face communications which enable an immediate resolution of misunderstanding or conflict thus keeping intact our standing within our community.
This naturally takes many forms, in fact, as many different expressions as there are human like creatures we can relate to. This could be in the form of 'saving face' as seen in many cultures or as right now... my girlfriend allowing me to get back on-line to continue blogging. In the meantime her video chat room friend experiencing, hopefully (for I'm not a jealous man), a far diminished personal communication with her then I've just had. Face to face communications, in whatever form, even a humble lets-make-up kiss, allows for a truer freedom of expression then provided for in the dingy chat rooms of digital culture... :)
Despite the claims of the pornographers of CMC, any vision of any harmonious intertwining of CMC and face to face communications may have to wait for generation Z. CMC's inherent depersonalisation of its participants, its inability to meaningfully resolve misunderstandings or conflict and create the trust needed to tightly bond our real life community together will not see it become too entangled with any sort of face to face communication for some time yet... x x x
22 minutes ago