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Electronic emotion

Rice, Ronald L. and Gail Love. (1987). Electronic emotion: Socio-emotional content in a computer-mediated communication network. Communication Research, 14(1), 85-105.

The authors examine computer conferencing, a relatively new medium at the time of writing, in the context of (1) content and (2) structure. Specifically, how socioemotional content is exchanged among system users and their patterns. The authors are responding to assumptions that CMC is less able to accommodate “the natural richness and interaction of interpersonal communication than face-to-face interaction� (p. 87). Yet, at the time, few studies had explicitly measured the amount of socioemotional content in a CMC network. Here, the authors examine data from six weeks of transcriptions from a medical computer conference system.

Main findings included:
• Increased frequency of messaging is associated with increased duration of messaging
• More active users tend to send more SE content; however, users do not become more SE over time
• Despite the CMC system examined was professional in nature, nearly 30% of total message content was socioemotional, deemed a “generous amount� in light of the function of the network and assumptions against socioemotional content of CMC (p. 101).

Although the study found that CMC facilitated a moderate exchange of socioemotional content, the authors warn that such use may not be deemed appropriate if the medium is viewed by users as a way to mainly exchange task-oriented information (as a professional conference may be viewed). In this respect, the authors point out the importance of the norms, goals, and structure of the user community. Issues in analyzing content and networks are also addressed, including guidelines on using longitudinal data in CMC (pp. 102-3) and using structural equivalence approach in CMC analysis (p. 103).

Walther and Burgoon (1992) further examine the assumptions of CMC as an impersonal medium begun to be explored by Rice and Love here.