MAS 961  ·  Techno-Identity  ·  Spring 2006

04.20 conversation

"Talk is cheap". And, as we have come to see in this course, honesty is costly. Words are often given as examples of conventional signals: it is easy to lies, at least in terms of saying the untrue words. If you ask me the color of a cat that I know to be white and I deliberately say black


Saville-Troike, Muriel    The ethnography of communicaiton (ch 2 and 3)
Voida, Newstetter and Mynatt    When conventions collide: the tensions of instant messaging attributed


Hayes Raffle and Dan Maynes-Aminzade    fuzzmail
Fernanda Viegas and Judith Donath   Chat Circles and paper
Kurlander, Skelly and Salesin    Comic Chat and paper


  1. Read the papers and explore the programs. (for Comic Chat, read the paper - I have included a link for obtaining the software and you are welcome to try it, though I have not been able to get it to work successfully).

2. Answer: Many things are signaled in conversations. One is the relative status of the participants: this is indicated through the use of polite language, the choreography of interruptions, usef of formal or vernacular language, etc. Another is one's comprehension of the other's statements: this can be siganled through nods, rephrasing, etc. How are these indicated in electronic media such as IM? What could make this signal clearer? Does it need to be more reliable? If so, when - and how would it be made so?

3. Compare fuzzmail, chat circles, comic chat and regular messaging or email. In class today we talked about how physicality is part of what makes a hand written letter different than an email. How do these compare as representations of the physical self?  How does that affect their signaling ability? Think about them in comparison to face to face communication. What can be seen/heard/felt of the sender - i.e. what are the sensory constraints on signaling? How does this affect the reliability of the message? Is there a particular type of message that the medium is especially well (or badly) suited for sending?  How ambiguous are the signals - do you expect the sender and receiver to mean the same thing? Are there particular costs associated with the medium? Are they simply added costs or do they contribute to reliability?  What modifications would you want to make to these interfaces to make them more or less reliable?

Please link your essays by midday on Tuesday.