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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use: Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies
Unformatted Document Text:  Relationship Equals Sum Media Use 10 provide a detailed view of the overall interaction within even a single relationship. It is difficult to imagine applying such methods to large samples. The point, in this discussion, is not to criticize these approaches to the study of relationships or the methods that are generally associated with their use. All have demonstrated value in elucidating the nature of relationships. Still, each approach has limitations. The same will be true for the measurement of relational media ecologies, which almost inevitably entail a grosser level of analysis than would typically be associated with any of these existing approaches. The study of relational media use is limited to showing, in effect, the contexts within which a relationship is enacted rather than the messages and other behavior that are the enactment or the individual perspectives on the relationship that result from and influence those messages. There will certainly be no direct indication of what behavior within a medium, or use of the medium itself, means to a relationship. The best we will be able to say is that some media are more useful for some purposes than are others, and what those purposes are. The reader should note, in this, the applicability of Uses and Gratifications (Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch, 1974) and related mass media research traditions (Littlejohn, 2002, Chapter 15) to an Interpersonal Communication problem. A relational media ecology describes, as a side effect of the collected media, a set of relationship needs that are satisfied through the use of those media. Methodological Advantages The methodological advantages offered by the study of relational media ecologies include: • The use of media is relatively easy to measure. Most people can report whether or not they have eaten a meal at a restaurant, talked on the telephone, sent or received a letter, or had a face-to face conversation with a particular person with a high degree of accuracy, even when asked to remember back over the course of a week, a month, or longer. While reporting on one’s use of what could be an inventory of several hundred media might be tedious, few people have difficulty remembering the various ways in which they shared time with their relational others. Profiling the range of media that are used within a relationship should be fairly easy. • Ratio measures of media use are fairly easy to obtain. There is a considerable literature demonstrating that people have little trouble making ratio estimates of real world experience with log scale accuracy. Measurements of media use via log scale time measurements (for instance, Foulger, 1990, Chapter 22) have demonstrated that such measurements are robust, highly discriminating, and comparable across time. As an example of log scale measurement, one might ask a person if their telephone conversations with a particular person over the course of a month entailed seconds, minutes, tens of minutes, hours, tens of hours, or days. Ratio measures can also be used for estimating the number of times a medium is used. As an example, one might ask a person whether they talked to a

Authors: Foulger, Davis.
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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use
10
provide a detailed view of the overall interaction within even a single relationship.
It is difficult to imagine applying such methods to large samples.
The point, in this discussion, is not to criticize these approaches to the study of
relationships or the methods that are generally associated with their use. All have
demonstrated value in elucidating the nature of relationships. Still, each approach has
limitations. The same will be true for the measurement of relational media ecologies,
which almost inevitably entail a grosser level of analysis than would typically be
associated with any of these existing approaches. The study of relational media use is
limited to showing, in effect, the contexts within which a relationship is enacted rather
than the messages and other behavior that are the enactment or the individual
perspectives on the relationship that result from and influence those messages. There will
certainly be no direct indication of what behavior within a medium, or use of the medium
itself, means to a relationship. The best we will be able to say is that some media are
more useful for some purposes than are others, and what those purposes are. The reader
should note, in this, the applicability of Uses and Gratifications (Katz, Blumler, and
Gurevitch, 1974) and related mass media research traditions (Littlejohn, 2002, Chapter
15) to an Interpersonal Communication problem. A relational media ecology describes,
as a side effect of the collected media, a set of relationship needs that are satisfied
through the use of those media.
Methodological Advantages
The methodological advantages offered by the study of relational media ecologies
include:
The use of media is relatively easy to measure. Most people can report whether or
not they have eaten a meal at a restaurant, talked on the telephone, sent or
received a letter, or had a face-to face conversation with a particular person with a
high degree of accuracy, even when asked to remember back over the course of a
week, a month, or longer. While reporting on one’s use of what could be an
inventory of several hundred media might be tedious, few people have difficulty
remembering the various ways in which they shared time with their relational
others. Profiling the range of media that are used within a relationship should be
fairly easy.
Ratio measures of media use are fairly easy to obtain. There is a considerable
literature demonstrating that people have little trouble making ratio estimates of
real world experience with log scale accuracy. Measurements of media use via log
scale time measurements (for instance, Foulger, 1990, Chapter 22) have
demonstrated that such measurements are robust, highly discriminating, and
comparable across time. As an example of log scale measurement, one might ask
a person if their telephone conversations with a particular person over the course
of a month entailed seconds, minutes, tens of minutes, hours, tens of hours, or
days. Ratio measures can also be used for estimating the number of times a
medium is used. As an example, one might ask a person whether they talked to a


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