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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use: Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies
Unformatted Document Text:  Relationship Equals Sum Media Use 4 The model also identifies a fifth element that is structurally relevant to the communication process: media. Others (Cappella, 1991; Foulger, 2002) have suggested that the concept of medium has been substantially overlooked as a possible unifying construct within the field. Media, they suggest, provide a substrate against which communication processes can be organized across a variety of communication contexts, including the interpersonal, organizational, and mass audience contexts. A medium, following Foulger, is "a system that enables the creation and consumption (sending and receiving) of messages." The characteristics of media can be used to describe and discriminate media such that it is possible to identify a large number of distinct systems that enable human communication. Foulger lists about 100 distinct human communication media, including dozens of media that can be regarded as interpersonal. This paper attempts to explore the ways in which the use of media as an entry point might usefully extend the study of interpersonal relationships. Relationships are enacted in media, including interpersonal media, much as they are also enacted in language and messages. We meet people within the context of media, expand our knowledge of them through shared media experiences, collect shared media as our relationships grow, shed media as our relationships decline, and negotiate which media we use for which relational purposes. Indeed, it may be possible to characterize different kinds of relationships (friend, lover, dating partner, spouse, parent, coworker, colleague, long distance) by the set of media the relational partners use when interacting with one another and the ways in which they use those media, including a range of interpersonal media. It is hoped that this paper demonstrates the utility of exploring relationships as media ecologies in which relational behavior is enacted. Figure 2: A model of communication as a process of co-orientation to messages that are created with language and enabled by media. Adapted from Foulger (2002).

Authors: Foulger, Davis.
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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use
4
The model also identifies a fifth element that is structurally relevant to the
communication process: media. Others (Cappella, 1991; Foulger, 2002) have suggested
that the concept of medium has been substantially overlooked as a possible unifying
construct within the field. Media, they suggest, provide a substrate against which
communication processes can be organized across a variety of communication contexts,
including the interpersonal, organizational, and mass audience contexts. A medium,
following Foulger, is "a system that enables the creation and consumption (sending and
receiving) of messages." The characteristics of media can be used to describe and
discriminate media such that it is possible to identify a large number of distinct systems
that enable human communication. Foulger lists about 100 distinct human
communication media, including dozens of media that can be regarded as interpersonal.
This paper attempts to explore the ways in which the use of media as an entry point might
usefully extend the study of interpersonal relationships. Relationships are enacted in
media, including interpersonal media, much as they are also enacted in language and
messages. We meet people within the context of media, expand our knowledge of them
through shared media experiences, collect shared media as our relationships grow, shed
media as our relationships decline, and negotiate which media we use for which relational
purposes. Indeed, it may be possible to characterize different kinds of relationships
(friend, lover, dating partner, spouse, parent, coworker, colleague, long distance) by the
set of media the relational partners use when interacting with one another and the ways in
which they use those media, including a range of interpersonal media. It is hoped that this
paper demonstrates the utility of exploring relationships as media ecologies in which
relational behavior is enacted.
Figure 2: A model of communication as a process of co-orientation to messages that are created with language
and enabled by media. Adapted from Foulger (2002).


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