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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use: Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies
Unformatted Document Text:  Relationship Equals Sum Media Use 8 Relational Media Ecologies This notion of building relationships by collecting media is central to the concept of relational media ecologies that is expressed in the title of this paper and in Figure 3. The equation, as it stands, is a purposeful overstatement. A relationship is many things, including the shared perceptions of its participants, a set of relationship characteristics, and a text composed of language and messages. One might, with equal hubris, state that a relationship is the sum of its messages, the sum of its shared language conventions, the sum of its negotiated scripts, or the sum of its characteristics. Just as a relationship is more than the sum of its participants, it is also more than the sum of its messages, its language, its relationship characteristics, or its media. There is value in viewing a relationship through the perceptions of its participants, as a transcript of its messages, or as an enumeration of its rules. There is also value in viewing a relationship as an ecology of collected media. Figure 3: A Relationship can be described as the sum of its media, where R is a relationship, M is a medium, and U (use) is the extent to which the medium is used. As stated, however, the equation of Figure 3 is a little more complicated than simply aggregating the list of media that is used over the course of a relationship. A relationship (R) is the sum of the media used (M) and the way that each media is used (U). A simple treatment of U might sum the number of times a medium is used or the amount of time for which a medium is used. A more elaborate treatment assumes that we use different media in relationships for different purposes, that those purposes vary in their importance to a relationship at a particular point in time, and that those purposes are at least as important to understanding the value of a medium to a relationship as issues of repetition or aggregate usage time might be. Consider: • Some media take on additional weight because of their primary role in the initiation of a relationship. A couple that meets in a chat room may remember the chat room fondly for the rest of their life, even as they transition their relationship to other media, and even if they never use the chat room again. The medium in which a relationship starts has a primacy, which may give it a weight that is disproportionate to its continuing use. • Some media take on additional weight because of social pressures and expectations. Legitimized physical intimacy and the formation of a family unit are an important impetus to entering a marital relationship. Considerable social

Authors: Foulger, Davis.
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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use
8
Relational Media Ecologies
This notion of building relationships by collecting media is central to the concept of
relational media ecologies that is expressed in the title of this paper and in Figure 3. The
equation, as it stands, is a purposeful overstatement. A relationship is many things,
including the shared perceptions of its participants, a set of relationship characteristics,
and a text composed of language and messages. One might, with equal hubris, state that a
relationship is the sum of its messages, the sum of its shared language conventions, the
sum of its negotiated scripts, or the sum of its characteristics. Just as a relationship is
more than the sum of its participants, it is also more than the sum of its messages, its
language, its relationship characteristics, or its media. There is value in viewing a
relationship through the perceptions of its participants, as a transcript of its messages, or
as an enumeration of its rules. There is also value in viewing a relationship as an ecology
of collected media.
Figure 3: A Relationship can be described as the sum of its media,
where R is a relationship, M is a medium, and U (use) is the extent
to which the medium is used.
As stated, however, the equation of Figure 3 is a little more complicated than simply
aggregating the list of media that is used over the course of a relationship. A relationship
(R) is the sum of the media used (M) and the way that each media is used (U). A simple
treatment of U might sum the number of times a medium is used or the amount of time
for which a medium is used. A more elaborate treatment assumes that we use different
media in relationships for different purposes, that those purposes vary in their importance
to a relationship at a particular point in time, and that those purposes are at least as
important to understanding the value of a medium to a relationship as issues of repetition
or aggregate usage time might be. Consider:
Some media take on additional weight because of their primary role in the
initiation of a relationship. A couple that meets in a chat room may remember the
chat room fondly for the rest of their life, even as they transition their relationship
to other media, and even if they never use the chat room again. The medium in
which a relationship starts has a primacy, which may give it a weight that is
disproportionate to its continuing use.
Some media take on additional weight because of social pressures and
expectations. Legitimized physical intimacy and the formation of a family unit are
an important impetus to entering a marital relationship. Considerable social


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