Sunday, October 01, 2006

Non-verbal component in text-based communication

In her post Everlasting Communication, Liz Strauss wonders about the non-verbal part in communicating through screen or paper.

Studies say that well over 50% of our communication is nonverbal – how the message is presented, body language. When communicating over the telephone, one researcher found that 84% of communication is vocal and 16% is verbal.
It makes me wonder how that all changes when we put our thoughts directly on screen or on paper.

Source: Letting me be . . . random wondering and philosophy

Non-verbal component remains an important part, although I'm not sure how researchers compute their percentages.

Let's examine two types of online text based communication, distinguished by the number of interactions per instance.

Chat or Instant Messaging

Frequency and use of smiley's

  1. An unexpected smiley makes one look for what isn't manifestly stated in words.
  2. A long period of smiley-less interaction is also subliminally noticed. (Not the usual self?)

Frequency of typos

  1. Unusually high rate may indicate tiredness, distraction, or a sudden rush of thoughts.
  2. Extended typo-free conversation could indicate unusual carefulness in choosing the words

Frequency and speed of response

  1. Slow, but rich and unexpected, responses. High degree of engagement in the conversation?
  2. Quick, but weak responses. Flagging of interest?
  3. Slow and weak responses. High level of distraction!

Other cues

  1. Typing for a long time, but small or no response. Hesitation? Change of mind? Too many disparate stimuli in the same conversation?
  2. Too long to respond. Cornered? Uncertain?

Email or Blogs

  1. Spelling and grammar errors may indicate same things as sloppy dress. (What's the excuse when a spell check takes just seconds?)
  2. Choice of fonts, pictures and colour. (Email stationery, anyone?)
  3. Lengthy or meandering text. Lack of skill or lack of consideration for the audience?
  4. Choice of username, domain name or service provider.
  5. Speed of response. (How many posts per week, depending upon blog content? How quick or slow to respond to an email, depending upon the person and accounting for any mitigating circumstances?
  6. Use of priority or other flags, polling buttons, cc addresses.

Of course, here I'm talking about information that passes without being deliberately conveyed .

Therefore, use of all caps to indicate shouting is excluded. Yes, a smiley is a shorthand for what could also be stated in words. But its frequency, placement and lack of appearance can convey additional information.

There could be cues that I missed. Or maybe other interpretations?

Do let me know! :-)


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