January 1997

Root Page of Article: A Rose by Any Other Name , by Peter J. Murray

What is CMC?

There have been many attempts to implicitly or explicitly define CMC. A cursory examination of the online and paper research publications show that it has been viewed as a process, a system, a form of group communication, as only asynchronous, as both synchronous and asynchronous, and as a synonym for e-discourse or for computer conferencing.

Trying to define computer-mediated is perhaps not such a problem, but what do we mean when we are referring to communication? Dictionaries define communication as a noun, meaning "a sending, giving or exchanging (of information, ideas etc)" or "imparting (esp. news); information given; intercourse." In this respect, communication encompasses many forms, and may be one-way and passively received (eg TV broadcast) or may be two-way and interactive (eg a conversation). John December attempted to encompass many of these views in his definition of CMC.

[]December defines CMC as involving processes.

[]Ferris outlines the current state of scholarly definitions of CMC in research application areas.

Taking the above into account, then CMC is more than just one-to-one email, or computer conferencing or listservs; it also must include searching databases, the flourishing forms of ejournal and will increasingly need to include a mixture of text, audio and video.

The research literature on CMC shows few commonalities of definition or use of the term, in what it includes and doesn't, apart from referring almost exclusively (until very recently) to text-based communications. The term is used in different ways by different people; for example, some seem to use it synonymously with computer conferencing. The many different forms which CMC can take mean that Wittgenstein's ideas of family resemblances provide a useful framework within which to attempt to define it and to study it. ^

Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact