Communication Continuum

The communication Gdoc (Google document) was an interesting idea: to see what we could brainstorm about ways to communicate. It turned into a page of notes, which I’d love to make into a flashy info-graphic some time in the future. I’ve Googled ” “types of communication” infographic” “, but I haven’t found exactly what I was envisioning, breaking it into types and exploring its complexity.

I’d start dividing between syncronous ‘live’ types and asyncronous ones, along with the grey areas in-between:

  • Syncronous*: face-to-face(f2f), phone, skype, Google Hangout, live chat      *could have voice, audio or text only
  • Asyncronous: email, discussion board/forums, texting, voice mail
  • Response-optional asyncronous communication: blog comments, facebooking, letters to the editor

richard feynman playing bongosThe next way I think about them is, what is better? Is face to face the best? That’s what we did before there was any technology: speak or signal physically directly with one another. Ok, I do think f2f is the best, but let’s imagine that in our crazy busy world we have to do it all online, electronically mediated.  What’s best in that arena?

Many qualities cold be used to define better and best: effectiveness, time-sensitivity, most commonly used, easiest, most cost-effective…

The first distance communication was calling in the wind, the blast of faraway horns, smoke signals, sending a messenger who was doomed to die from the telling…now we mediate electronically in so many disparate ways. When I taught an online video course, my favorite times were live webinars with the students, where I could hear their voices. Nothing compared to the the human voice for feeling connection. Video was unnecessary for me: while I like doing that when possible, the voice conveys enough to get a wonderfully complete connection. For me, syncronous voices work best. Now, phone conferencing is a technology that was around pre-internet, but now it’s expanded on by technology to include screen sharing, for presenting and other live collaborating. That’s my best case online: what we know currently as a webinar.

Today tech provides so many ways to do asyncronous, so many many many that I don’t know where to begin sometimes. How can we communicate with students so it isn’t too personal, respecting everyone’s boundary and comfort level? Many people don’t want to Skype because it can seem quite close, especially with video, (and me still in my jammies in my messy house). And you have to be signed in and alert to your screen if you’re going to Skype. Text is popular because it goes to a person’s most direct line, and can be a way to have an immediate or asyncronous convo according to what’s convenient to each person. I realize I may have to wait for a response. That actually COULD be a polite, respectful use of each other’s time, despite the common detractors for texting: nagging, overcommunicating, distancing – not to mention texting while driving. And texting avoids having the run-on conversation with that certain someone… Facebook and twitter are IMHO fabulous communication channels but there is so much baggage and controversy around them, they can’t really be used for a diverse group. I really enjoy discussion boards, blog comments being a kind of subset of this, but there are good and bad (read: dry, boring, too open, clunky and complex) ways these can happen. I find Blackboard discussions to be on the dry scale, while facebook, disqus, and coursera forums, to be very engaging in thier ease of use and variety of sorting options, needed because reading 100’s of forum posts can be a real chore! All have their drawbacks, but one thing is sure: we have to eventually choose a set of protocols and stick with it.



1 Comment

January 26, 2014 · 11:04 pm

One response to “Communication Continuum

  1. My, my Thatcher – you do have a poet’s soul. Deep search for meaning, and a keen observers eye and heart!
    You pose no small question. In your essay you seem to favor synchronous communication while acknowledging the general preference many people have for asynchronous.
    As you have stated, the distance is an advantage – it is the space wherein we can prepare, craft and ponder what we are willing to leave on our immutable and permanent digital footprint.
    The digital space is so unforgiving. We can’t take it back, can’t pretend it didn’t happen and is foremost a means of communicating that is used far too easily as a tool for self-inflicted pain!
    The intimacy of in-person communication allows us the use of the 94% of means for effective communication. The digital footprint allow us only to save that often insignificant, often insincere and constantly inadequate 6% of communication that is our words.
    Ah, human evolution!

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