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'IM Me': Instant Messaging as Relational Maintenance and Everyday Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Instant Messaging, Page 4 their patterns of general use and in the second stage reported their perceptions specific to a recently completed interaction conducted through IM. The Nature of Instant Messaging In its general sense, IM refers to a computer program, which allows geographically distributed individuals to interact in a near-synchronous, or “real-time,” manner. Although IM programs vary in terms of their interface, design, and capabilities, each has chat functions that operate in a similar manner; it is the use of this chat function that is the primary focus of the present study. IM shares several characteristics with other text-based tools and interaction environments available on the Internet. As is commonplace in text-based environments, each individual must create a unique screen name, which is how they and their contributions are identified during a session. Screen names tend to vary in the degree to which they accurately represent an individual (e.g., real name or initials), reflect a preferred image or characteristic (e.g., Muscles2), or convey some variant therein (e.g., HappyGrl7); it is not uncommon for individuals to have multiple screens names much in the same manner as having multiple e-mail accounts. Most programs also allow individuals to create a personal descriptive profile that can be made available to others. Information about their gender, age, location, hobbies and interests, for example, can be stored in the program and made accessible, if so desired. Like other chat-based environments, communication occurs by typing a message into a text- window, which when transmitted appears on recipients’ screens. Unlike traditional chats, MUDs (Multi-User Dimensions or Dungeons) and MOOs (MUDs, Object Oriented), in which interaction occurs by entering the same virtual space shared by many others, dyadic communication through IM is initiated by sending a message that opens a text-widow on their

Authors: Ramirez, Artemio. and Broneck, Kathy.
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Instant Messaging, Page 4
their patterns of general use and in the second stage reported their perceptions specific to a
recently completed interaction conducted through IM.
The Nature of Instant Messaging
In its general sense, IM refers to a computer program, which allows geographically
distributed individuals to interact in a near-synchronous, or “real-time,” manner. Although IM
programs vary in terms of their interface, design, and capabilities, each has chat functions that
operate in a similar manner; it is the use of this chat function that is the primary focus of the
present study.
IM shares several characteristics with other text-based tools and interaction environments
available on the Internet. As is commonplace in text-based environments, each individual must
create a unique screen name, which is how they and their contributions are identified during a
session. Screen names tend to vary in the degree to which they accurately represent an individual
(e.g., real name or initials), reflect a preferred image or characteristic (e.g., Muscles2), or convey
some variant therein (e.g., HappyGrl7); it is not uncommon for individuals to have multiple
screens names much in the same manner as having multiple e-mail accounts. Most programs also
allow individuals to create a personal descriptive profile that can be made available to others.
Information about their gender, age, location, hobbies and interests, for example, can be stored in
the program and made accessible, if so desired.
Like other chat-based environments, communication occurs by typing a message into a text-
window, which when transmitted appears on recipients’ screens. Unlike traditional chats, MUDs
(Multi-User Dimensions or Dungeons) and MOOs (MUDs, Object Oriented), in which
interaction occurs by entering the same virtual space shared by many others, dyadic
communication through IM is initiated by sending a message that opens a text-widow on their


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