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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use: Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies
Unformatted Document Text:  Relationship Equals Sum Media Use 11 particular person on the telephone once a month, twice a month, weekly, a couple of times a week, daily, or more than once a day. • The range of media that people use can be observed with far less effort or intrusiveness than would normally be associated with ethnographic methodologies. Relationships in a work place, for instance, might be readily observed through some of the same kinds of methods that are sometimes used in network analysis. Phone logs, e-mail logs, web logs, computer conference contributions and logs, meeting schedules and other archival evidence of relational media use can be used where media that leave such archival trails of interaction. Other relational media use might readily be obtained through an "observation by walking around" in which a casual observer sampled the constellation of meetings, lunch conversations, doorway interactions, and other face-to-face interaction environments that do not leave such trails. • Because measurements are easy to make, it is possible to apply relational media profiles to relatively large samples such that a wide range of different relationship types can be usefully discriminated. Note, however, that the effort associated with generating a comprehensive media profile for a specific relationship by any one individual will probably remain substantial (comparable to filling out a longish survey). Hence relational media profiles are unlikely to usefully extend network analysis methodology unless archival or passive ethnographic methods are used. • Since the meaning of these measurements (either a binary description of whether a medium is used, or a ratio measurement of the extent to which a medium is used) is straightforward and consistent, media profiles should support typological comparisons between relationships and across relationship types. It seems likely that different types of relationships (for example: friend, acquaintance, coworker, superior/subordinate, marriage (and within marriage, following Fitzpatrick, 1988, traditional, separate, independent, and varieties combinations thereof), will have distinct media profiles that meet specific variations in relational needs. • A media profile should, for similar reasons, enable media use comparisons between cultures. It is likely, given the global digital divide, that there will be strong differences in relational media use between different cultures. E-mail will not be an option for many people in countries that lack effective Internet infrastructure. Telephone use will be problematic for many people in countries in which telephone adoption rates remain low. Even the use of letters will prove challenging for many people in countries that have low literacy rates. While such variations may have implications even at the level of the kinds of things relational partners think they need, it remains the case that relationship types and needs should remain at least somewhat constant across cultures. Variations in media profiles across cultures and relationship types promise to yield interesting insights about the different ways in which we can combine media to meet essential relationship needs. • Media profiles should also be amenable to time series analysis. It should be possible, by measuring a relationship’s media profile at different points in time, to track changes in the relationship, the needs the relationship is satisfying, and perhaps the needs that are not being met. Indeed, if one can reasonably assess the strength of a relationship by its growing profile of shared media use, it may also

Authors: Foulger, Davis.
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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use
11
particular person on the telephone once a month, twice a month, weekly, a couple
of times a week, daily, or more than once a day.
The range of media that people use can be observed with far less effort or
intrusiveness than would normally be associated with ethnographic
methodologies. Relationships in a work place, for instance, might be readily
observed through some of the same kinds of methods that are sometimes used in
network analysis. Phone logs, e-mail logs, web logs, computer conference
contributions and logs, meeting schedules and other archival evidence of
relational media use can be used where media that leave such archival trails of
interaction. Other relational media use might readily be obtained through an
"observation by walking around" in which a casual observer sampled the
constellation of meetings, lunch conversations, doorway interactions, and other
face-to-face interaction environments that do not leave such trails.
Because measurements are easy to make, it is possible to apply relational media
profiles to relatively large samples such that a wide range of different relationship
types can be usefully discriminated. Note, however, that the effort associated with
generating a comprehensive media profile for a specific relationship by any one
individual will probably remain substantial (comparable to filling out a longish
survey). Hence relational media profiles are unlikely to usefully extend network
analysis methodology unless archival or passive ethnographic methods are used.
Since the meaning of these measurements (either a binary description of whether
a medium is used, or a ratio measurement of the extent to which a medium is
used) is straightforward and consistent, media profiles should support typological
comparisons between relationships and across relationship types. It seems likely
that different types of relationships (for example: friend, acquaintance, coworker,
superior/subordinate, marriage (and within marriage, following Fitzpatrick, 1988,
traditional, separate, independent, and varieties combinations thereof), will have
distinct media profiles that meet specific variations in relational needs.
A media profile should, for similar reasons, enable media use comparisons
between cultures. It is likely, given the global digital divide, that there will be
strong differences in relational media use between different cultures. E-mail will
not be an option for many people in countries that lack effective Internet
infrastructure. Telephone use will be problematic for many people in countries in
which telephone adoption rates remain low. Even the use of letters will prove
challenging for many people in countries that have low literacy rates. While such
variations may have implications even at the level of the kinds of things relational
partners think they need, it remains the case that relationship types and needs
should remain at least somewhat constant across cultures. Variations in media
profiles across cultures and relationship types promise to yield interesting insights
about the different ways in which we can combine media to meet essential
relationship needs.
Media profiles should also be amenable to time series analysis. It should be
possible, by measuring a relationship’s media profile at different points in time, to
track changes in the relationship, the needs the relationship is satisfying, and
perhaps the needs that are not being met. Indeed, if one can reasonably assess the
strength of a relationship by its growing profile of shared media use, it may also


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