Association of Internet Researchers mailing list discussion of "CMC"

Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 17:05:45 +0200
From: Jillana Enteen 
Subject: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Hello all,

I'm trying to sort out the differences in etymology and meaning  
between CMC, ICT and digital communication. I'm having a hard time-- 
other than recognizing the academic/educational basis for ICT and its  
roots in IT, it seems to me that these terms are used interchangeably.

Any thoughts?

best wishes, jillana
Jillana Enteen


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 16:18:36 +0100
From: "Martin Garthwaite" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication


I would agree, if you look at a time line, I remember reading about CMC over
15 years ago, and I'll go out on a limb here and say that quite a lot of the
research on CMC was done pre-mass adoption of Internet. So services like
CompuServe, CIX and AOL that provided walled gardens that were not
originally part of the Internet. CMC also referred to mailing lists like
this one, e-mail, usenet groups, all these systems were pre-html

ICT appears to me to be a catch all term, and I find digital communication a
little ambiguous.

MSc candidate media@lse


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 12:00:02 -0400
From: "Mark Bell" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication


As far as I have been told, CMC is an outdated term. One professor told me
it was archaic and vague - asking if we should also refer to "pen mediated
communication". There certainly is a lot of research into how we communicate
in the digital, multi-channel, immersive environment, so we should have a
unifying term.

It sounds like we need a new term but I agree digital communication and ICT
are far too broad. The work I am doing with Wikipedia is definitely
stigmergic in nature (or at least I hope to prove it is) but that is very
different from IM or email.



Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 11:24:30 -0500
From: "Ledbetter, Andrew Michael" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

I've struggled with the term "CMC" in my own writing. While I wouldn't
agree that the term is "archaic" (as many scholars still use the term
frequently), it does "feel" dated to me. Of course, that may just be my
own subjective feeling. But, in my own writing, I have tried to refer to
specific media as much as possible (e-mail, IM, chat, Facebook, etc.)
rather than using the term "CMC"... which might be a healthy move on the
whole, since we know that there are significant qualitative and
quantitative differences in communication across those media, despite
their common online nature.

Yet, simultaneously, people sometimes seem to think about, and socially
construct, online communication channels as a unified whole. Thus, it
seems reasonable that we have an umbrella term to refer to such media.
Recently, I have tended to use "online communication"---it is less
verbose than "computer-mediated communication", seems less intrusive
than an acronym, and seems broad enough to include a lot of different
technologies (e.g., both Internet and non-Internet interaction, etc.).
In short, it seems to get the job done all right, though I'm sure the
term has shortcomings too. But of course, I'm sure appropriate
terminology varies from discipline to discipline.

Andrew M. Ledbetter
Ph.D. Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant
Department of Communication Studies
University of Kansas 


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 12:34:20 -0400
From: Zane Berge 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

I would add that ICT has historically been used much more in outside North
America, with CMC used in the US and Canada in the past.


Zane Berge, Ph.D.
Associate Professor


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 12:35:54 -0400
From: "Han N. Lee" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Hi Jillana, :-)

I think the special issue (2005, vol.21, no.4) of The Information
Society may be helpful in answering your question. Some of the authors
in the issue discuss how the internet/CMC/ICT is conceptualized for
its study/discipline(?)/field to be thought of.

The authors in the issue say that there isn't really any clear-cut
difference among CMC, ICT and digital communication, and all other
sorts. Rather they serve as vague umbrella terms that in a way provide
us with a coherent sense or shared faith of "it"--whatever it is that
we are studying, organized under, have created specific journals
(e.g., NEW MEDIA & Society, Journal of COMPUTER-MEDIATED
COMMUNICATION) for so that we can submit our research to and get
tenured, etc.

Also I recall from the AoIR conference in Chicago that someone did a
content-analysis-like study on all the published articles of Journal
of Computer-Mediated Communication and presented what types of
articles have been published and how the terms have changed over a
decade to refer to "it". CMC was widely used in the beginning then has
faded away, sort of. Now ICT seems used more widely. Anyway, although
it's just a case of one particular journal, it should be worth looking

Then again, there are at least two different ways of answering that
question. That is, as scholars who are pioneers of internet research
in its early stage and shaping what "it" is, we can discuss what CMC,
ICT, and digital communication SHOULD mean. Or we can look at what
CMC, ICT, and digital communication DO mean grounded in empirical data
(e.g., users' everyday language, popular media's rhetoric). I prefer
the later.



Han N. Lee, Ph.D. Student
Department of Communication, Machmer Hall
University of Massachusetts
240 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9278

Curriculum Project Assistant
Commonwealth College
408 Goodell Building
140 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9272
vm: 413) 577-0729


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 11:45:51 -0500
From: "Pam Brewer" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Andrew and all--

I think it's important that we only file a term as "archaic" if it has
ceased to serve the function for which it was coined.  We gain a lot of
knowledge capital from using these terms consistently over time.  That is,
our field constructs a lot of contextual information regarding a term that
is valuable.  It seems that the reservations with "computer-mediated
communication" stem from the fact that communication mediated by technology
has become more and more varied.  I particularly like some of Andrew's
suggestions here--that we use the specific terms whenever possible but that
we have a common broader term--I am drawn to "online communication" for the
reasons Andrew has outlined, and, as I consider it, I don't see the more
complex CMC as conveying any more or different meaning.


Pamela Estes Brewer
Lecturer -- Coordinator, Professional Writing
Department of English and Philosophy
Murray State University
PhD Student in Technical Communication & Rhetoric, Texas Tech University
fax 270-809-4545


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 13:15:42 -0400
From: "Lauren M. Squires" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Perhaps I am waaaay off here, but I'd always thought of "CMC" as
referring to the interaction that occurred through the mediation of
certain "ICT."  That is, doesn't ICT stand for "information and
communication technology"? whereas CMC stands for "computer mediated
communication"?  If this is the case, it could be that ICT is gaining
favor over CMC precisely because ICT permits more specification of
what KIND of mediation (or what KIND of "computer") a particular
application or use or network or device is offering, whereas CMC (as
Andrew pointed out) is a little broad and can problematically imply a
monolithic computer-mediated experience.

On the use of "online" as a substitute for "digital" or "CM," it seems
that it depends on what you want to study - if you're looking at
mobile phone use, for instance, then you're definitely covered by
"ICT" or "CMC," even if it's a little stretch to conceptualize a phone
as a "computer" (though in "computer"'s broader meaning I think it
works, and more and more phones do what computers do, anyway).  You're
not so obviously covered by the term "online," though.  It's nice to
have unifying terms, but I suspect there will always be some measure
of difference in how people in different disciplines and with
different foci will use them, conceptualize them, and deem them as

Very interested to see this discussion continue...

lauren m. squires


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 12:29:41 -0500
From: "Charlie Balch" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

This reminds me of the classic arguments of Clark and Kozmo. I tend to agree
with Kozmo that the medium does change the message. Andrew does bring to our
attention that our termonalogy is too vague.

For instance, with CMC, what do we mean by a computer? Would an iPod count?
How about text messaging on a cell phone? Both devices are arguably
computers and the certainly change the way we communicate.  On the other
hand, audio or video confercing systems do not change the content of the
message to the extent that pod casting and text messaging do. Such systems
usually involve computers.

I also see a distinct difference between computer mediated and online. Yes,
online communication is usually mediated by computers but computers can
mediate communication without being online. This would also depend on your
definition of communication. For instance, does Shakespear still
communicate?  Is a computer based tutorial communicating? I think both
Shakespear and computer tutorials commmunicate.

It is fascinating to explore how our communication is changed by the methods
we have to communicate. 

Charlie Balch
Professor CIS Arizona Western College
Doctoral Candidate, LSU
Yuma, AZ


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 13:07:06 -0400
From: "Mark Bell" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication


I agree with the need for an umbrella term. I am not sure I like "online
communication" for the reason "online" is a vague word. Does "online" mean
on the "Internet", or a LAN's or both? You could say "online" meant plugged
into a digital network, then why not say that?

What about "Digital Networked Communication"?


Mark Bell
MA student in Ball State University's Digital Storytelling program
"The future is's just not widely distributed." - Tim O'Reilly


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 14:30:32 -0400
From: Irina Shklovski 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

I guess it depends on whether we are trying to focus on communication 
specifically, or on technology use in general? ICT (or information and 
communication technologies) sort of becomes an umbrella term for all 
things that allow us to communicate and access information - very useful 
when talking about phones, internet and everything in between. Yet if we 
are talking specifically about communication between people, information 
access becomes a tricky thing to explain - does googling for information 
about a car or the location of a restaurant on a computer or a cell 
phone qualify? Lately, I've been using simply "mediated communication" 
as an umbrella term, I guess because it gets away from words like 
"online" - which to me seems to signify a computer and rules out a 
regular landline phone, or "networked" - which to me seems to be an even 
more ambiguous and relatively overused term. Maybe "mediated 
communication" is a bit too broad, but I've been using it to define any 
kind of communication between people that is not face-to-face 
communication - i.e. mediated by some medium.



Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 15:32:27 -0400
From: "Han N. Lee" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Well, face-to-face communication IS also mediated through our voice,
body, language, etc., but I guess people use in conventional way the
phrase "mediated communication" as the all sorts of communication but
face-to-face one.

I've not been a fan of this particular distinction between mediated
and f2f because the phrase "face-to-face communication" seems to
presuppose that there are individuals (at least two or more) as
separate entities first and then they engage in communication... sort
of like James W Carey's critic of the transmission model of
communication; because it seems to privilege enable-bodied Western
beings (e.g., how do the deaf, the blind, or Islamic women with their
face covered with a veil engage in face-to-face communication without
seeing each other, without showing their face to each other, etc.?);
and because it seems to place us back to real/virtual, offline/online,
authentic/secondary, physical/digital, or all sorts of misleading
dichotomies that other scholars have already critiqued.

Anyway, whatever term/phrase we choose to apply for our research...
leaves out something. I think it's more useful being reflexive about
how terms shape our research, how they operate in
participant/author/reader relations evolving around research, etc.
than thinking of what is UNIVERSALLY the right term. Our participants'
experience is too complicated to be neatly categorized into the labels
we cling onto and force to them.



Han N. Lee, Ph.D. Student
Department of Communication, Machmer Hall
University of Massachusetts
240 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9278

Curriculum Project Assistant
Commonwealth College
408 Goodell Building
140 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9272
vm: 413) 577-0729


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 16:22:39 -0400
From: Sarah Stein 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"

To join in the discussion in regard to f2f vs, "mediated" 
communication: John Peters has a discussion in his excellent book, 
Speaking into the Air, about f2f communication being privileged since 
John Dewey as the one assured of the communication circle being 
completed: message(s) constructed and received with their intended 
meanings fully intact. He uses the parable of Jesus sowing seeds on 
rocky ground to argue that mass communications' broadcasting of its 
messages is actually more likely to connect just by numbers, and that 
the idea that people talking one on one to each other (or in an 
approximation of that configuration) necessarily means they 
understand each other is often far from the case.
	I always found that helpful to keep in mind--and, what's more, amusing.

Sarah Stein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Dept of Communication
Chair, Teaching, Learning & Technology Roundtable (TLTR)
Box 8104,  N.C. State University     
Raleigh, NC 27695-8104
Ph: 919-515-9740; Fax 919-515-9456


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 16:20:19 -0400
From: "Christopher J. Richter" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Umbrella terms can be useful in certain contexts, but virtually by
definition they are also vague, ambiguous and abstract--the more so the
bigger the umbrella.

Ambiguity is not necessarily a bad thing (it is one basis for the
effectiveness of poetry), and in any case is inevitable in
communication.  We can minimize it by defining how we each use a
specific term in our specific writings.  But as far as trying to get all
the rest of us to agree on the specific correct term, or the precise
meaning of such a term . . . . it may make for a good discussion process
(or a flame war), but I think is unlikely to yield a product.

Christopher J. Richter
Assoc. Prof. & Chair, Communication Studies
Hollins University
P.O. Box 9652
Roanoke VA, 24020
Tel. 5403626358
Fax 5403626286


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 23:13:24 +0200
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication (and ahem,	mobile


One thing that is classically overlooked is the electronically mediated
communication via mobile devices (specifically the mobile phone).    CMC
excludes it specifically while when talking about ICT and really meaning
computer based IP traffic, the omission is somewhat different.  

I know that IP based interaction is coming via mobile devices (WiFi,
mobile IM, mobile e-mail, etc) but obviously I think that it is also
worthwhile to consider mobile telephony and mobile text based

Rich L. 


Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 15:40:17 +0200
From: Jillana Enteen 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, ICT, digital communication

Thanks for all your thoughts on this. I'm eager to see how the  
discussion continues.

Hans' suggestion to look at the Information Society is particularly  
interesting--especially since the journal cannot be accessed online  
for one year after it's publication date (the reason: embargo--i'd  
love to hear the explanation). The inaccessibility of a journal about  
online communication and "information" speaks volumes to the general  
discussion about appropriate terms--and what we expect of online  
communication and information.

I do think it's necessary to find an umbrella term to talk about  
digital networked communication (I use this term tentively)--one that  
takes into account that we cannot anticipate how what we  
"communicate," (and here, coming from a post-structuralist and  
cultural studies background, I mean much the same as Hans--that  
language cannot be transparent and communication is and cannot be  
received or interpreted in ways identical to how we send it) or how  
the bytes we transmit will "travel," (i.e. the route of the  
information) or how they will be received. In other words,  
understanding that information is transmitted digitally from  
"others" (other people, other places) encourages a media-specific  
term, but assuming that this term, as Charlie points out, means  
computer to computer is now out of the question.

Similarly, assuming what we send will be read as we expect it--even  
if you are invested in the idea that communication does occur--should  
also be inherent in terminology (and thus far, is not). Think of  
different browser qualities (safari verses outlook explorer or  
computer versus blackberry, for instance)--what people see can vary  
greatly from what is sent.

In the past, it has been useful to place television in one category  
when considering broadcasting and/or spectatorship, and telephony in  
another, when examining the implications of (almost) instantaneous  
voice transmission.

Consequently, I find it imperative to have a category (as most have  
agreed) that takes into account the increasing flexibility--where we  
might as easily be watching a downloaded television show on our ipod  
OR on our harddrive, networked television or talk through regular  
telephones via vonage as surfing the internet--yet the way  
information arrives is related. The term must maintain an awareness  
of the complexity of these new vehicles for digital transmission and  
increasing possible interfaces for their consumption.

This is not to discourage specific considerations--which should use  
terms as specifically as possible. At this point, studying "internet  
use" may be too broad--www or IRC or mobile-to-mobile SMS, located in  
a particular moment and among specific users speaks more to the point.

I find it interesting, and compelling, that CMC is outdated. And as a  
"former" scholar of CMC, I'm still pondering over what term might  
speak best for my framework.

thanks and best wishes--
Jillana Enteen


Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 11:57:51 -0400
From: Barry Wellman 
Subject: [Air-l] CMC, network of networks
To: aoir list 

I believe that Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff were first/early users of
"Computer Mediated Communication" (CMC) in the first edition of
Hiltz, S. Roxanne, and Murray Turoff. 1978. The Network Nation. Reading,
MA: Addison-Wesley.

Yup, that's before some list members were born. (But I don't have the book

THeir Network Nation title was consciously adopted from Paul Craven and my
"The Network City" paper (1973).
Which also introduced "network of networks" well before the Internet.

And which may have begat "THe Network Society" (Castells, 1996), and
certainly begat Tracy Kennedy and my "The Network Household" (2007; ICS)
and my "networked individualism" (2000; IJURR)

As far as CMC/ICT, I've been increasingly using ICT because it encompasses
information as well as communication. (Of course, info has to be
communicated to be useful.)

My sense is that the CSCW crowd still uses CMC a fair amount.
Talk about anachronisms -- CSCW sure is a misleading one. But yet there is
an annual conference.

Everything old is new again.


  Barry Wellman         Professor of Sociology        NetLab Director
  wellman at

  Centre for Urban & Community Studies          University of Toronto
  455 Spadina Avenue    Toronto Canada M5S 2G8    fax:+1-416-978-7162

      You're invited to visit & contribute to the new version of
 "Updating Cybertimes: It's Time to Bring Our Culture into Cyberspace"


Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 18:14:54 +0200
From: "paolo massa" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Social software and ICT on Wikipedia

I found the blog post "Tracing the Evolution of Social Software" [1],
published on October 13, 2004, very interesting.
It starts with "The term 'social software', which is now used to
define software that supports group interaction, has only become
relatively popular within the last two or more years. However, the
core ideas of social software itself enjoy a much longer history,
running back to Vannevar Bush's ideas about 'memex' in 1945, and
traveling through terms such as Augmentation, Groupware, and CSCW in
the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.
By examining the many terms used to describe today's 'social software'
we can also explore the origins of social software itself, and see how
there exists a very real life cycle concerning the use of technical

So here there is one more term "social software", luckly enough nobody
mentioned "Web2.0" [2] yet ... ouch! ;-)

And about ICT, you might like to know that there is no page for ICT on
Wikipedia, in fact the "Information and communication technology"
Wikipedia page [3] redirects to the "Information technology" Wikipedia
page. Of course I'm not saying that if something is not on Wikipedia
then that something does not exist but simply that someone might want
to edit the Wikipedia pages related to the many concepts we are
discussing on this mailing list, such as for example the CMC one [4]




Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 21:12:02 +0100
From: "William Dutton" 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Social software and ICT on Wikipedia
To: , 

As Paolo Massa and Barry Wellman point out, all of these terms -- ICT,
new media, CMC, etc -- are anchored in specific research programmes,
historical periods, and technologies. They are not interchangeable.
While it would be great to improve Wikipedia, I suggest that a useful
source might be a book by Loader and others, which is part of the Key
Concepts series of Routledge. It is a 2004 publication, but this
discussion might encourage them to update Cyberculture: Key Concepts.

In my opinion, these terms matter, so its great to see that a single
post has generated such a stir around the meaning of closely related by
distinct terms. 



Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 01:01:54 +0200
From: Ulf-Dietrich Reips 
Subject: Re: [Air-l] CMC, network of networks

Hi all,
I just asked Elbot (, whom 
I featured as some kind of boundary condition in 
a chapter on CMC recently, on his opinion about 
this discussion, and he replied "I don't know. I 
also do not know what Furbys are. I just accept 
them and hope that they don't eat robots."

After thinking a bit on the difference between 
CMC and ICT he also said that "The virtual 
difference is about 27 megabytes."

Finally he added that we should realize how lucky 
we are we can communicate from human to human, 
and even computer-mediated! He wouldn't dare to 
be the computer though. And then went into some 
kind of mechanical laughter spasm.

I know folks who remember when "online" was still 
"on-line" and meant sitting at a computer 
terminal. (Then, terminals were at a distance 
from the main computer). Times change, 
technologies change, terms change.

Cheers, --u

PD Dr. Ulf-Dietrich Reips

	    President, Society for Computers in Psychology (
	    Editor, International Journal of 
Internet Science (
                     Universit?t Z?rich
	    Psychologisches Institut		 
                     R?mistr. 62, 8001 Z?rich, Switzerland
	    *new address after Sept. 15: Binzm?hlestr. 14/ Box 13, 8050 Z?rich*

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