Computer-Mediated Communication: Definition, Types and Theories (Part 3)

Computer-Mediated Communication: Definition, Types and Theories (Part 3)
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 Computer mediated communication refers to any form of communication mediated by computational technology. It is not neutral; it affects the communication process.

One of the most important CMC theories is the social presence theory that was discussed preciously and that considers the phenomenon of salience a user feels with others.

Today, we’ll learn some new theories.

Lack Of Social Context Cues Theory

Lack Of Social Context Cues Theory

The Lack of Social Context Cues Theory was once one of the most utilized frameworks to analyze interpersonal and group communication mediated by computers. However, it has been used less often in recent years.

This theory focuses on the effects of the absence of nonverbal cues, present in faceto-face communication, on CMC. The theory assumes that communicators utilizing CMC systems have a diminished awareness of their self and others. Without those cues, communicators lose their connection to the individual characteristics of others implicated in the communication process. This leads to deindividuation.

As a result of deindividuation, the communicators lose their individuality. Without the cues, they cannot determine how they differ as individuals from the other communicators in the group. This process of deindividuation has strong negative effects on the communication process. The communicators become focused on themselves and are less capable of being influenced by others or reacting in an effectively warm manner to others.

Media Richness Theory

Media Richness Theory

Media Richness Theory is sometimes also known by the name Information Richness Theory. It has been used to examine several levels of communication which occur through a form of computer mediation including simple interpersonal communication during a Skype session or organizational communication in the form of a group work email thread. Its adaptability to various levels of communication has made it become one of the most utilized theories of CMC.

Media Richness Theory is a theoretical framework to evaluate the degree of richness of a medium utilized in communication. In turn the degree of richness of the medium should provide an estimation of the efficiency of that medium in reducing equivocality and misunderstanding from communication.

The concept of media richness is central to this theory. In simple terms, it refers to the multimodal qualities of the communication media. Four factors determine the media richness. They are:

  • Bandwidth. This refers to the number of cue systems a medium is able to support and transmit. For example, the telephone only handles paralinguistic cues while a video conferencing setup introduces nonverbal cues such as gestures and eye contact.


  • Feedback immediacy. Some media are able to provide feedback immediately from the receiver(s) to the sender(s). This happens in synchronous CMC technologies. Immediate feedback allows the communication process to remain dynamic and two-directional.


  • Natural language. Some media allow the reproduction of the type of language we utilize naturally during conversations. If a medium can allow this natural or conversational language to appear, it will have a positive effect on the communication. Natural language is sometimes reproduced in emails when a quick, near-immediate exchange of replies and answers takes place among communicators.


  • Personalization. It is important for the receiver(s) of a message to feel it is addressed to them. Some platforms might offer several degrees of message personalization. A user might post a piece of information on their personal page on Facebook while also sharing that same information via private message to his/her friends.


It is important to match the richness of communication media with the task at hand. The more complex the task, the richer the medium must be. Complexity can be determined in different ways. In the work environment, certain tasks are clearly more difficult and complex than others. In personal relationships, it is sometimes more difficult and complex to communicate certain personal messages.


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