Computer-Mediated Communication and Globalization: Considering Social, Academic, and Business Factors
IN THIS ARTICLE
“Most of us are surrounded by communication channels and tools that keep us constantly connected to sources of information and people in our communities” (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004, p.83). The current communication channel claiming responsibility for a large portion of this information and contact is computer-mediated. One of the most significant functions of computer-mediated communication (CMC) is its contribution to globalization. Over the past decade, the concepts of computer-mediated communication and globalization have become synonymous. This synergy has allowed Computer-mediated communication and globalization to thrive when applied to social, academic, and business-related situations.
Computer-Mediated Communication Defined
Computer-mediated communication is “communication that takes place between human beings via the instrumentality of computers” (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004, p.83). Computer-mediated communication is a widely accepted concept that has been appropriately applied to illustrate the communication process “occurring via a computer terminal and a communication network such as the Internet” (Alexander, Dawson, & Ichharam, 2006, p.241). As a result of the convenience and flexibility this channel provides, CMC can be effectively used to orchestrate a variety of communication situations. In addition to the ability to communicate on an international level, CMC has the ability to gather information and connect on an intercontinental level, a concept more specifically referred to as globalization.
The term globalization was coined in the 1980’s to encapsulate the occurrence of developing interconnectedness of world’s population (Cissna, 2009, p.257). This interconnectedness has led to an increased interest in globalization. Globalization is not a recently developed concept. However, the rapidly increasing access to the Internet has broadened its reach and intensified its pace. According to Friedman (2010) the first version of globalization, or globalization 1.0, started when Christopher Columbus discovered that the world was round. The second version of globalization or globalization 2.0 began during the industrial revolution, and the final version, globalization 3.0 started in early 2000. Globalization 3.0 coupled with computer-mediated communication established a concrete communication network devoted to advancing social connectedness, accessing academic information, and dominating the business world. In addition to these main functions of globalization and computer-mediated communication, Friedman (2010) has deduced that with each version of globalization, the world gets smaller and more connected (p.2).
Cissna (2009) continues to build upon Friedman’s theory of globalization by emphasizing the importance of developing and maintaining global relationships. Since the beginning of time people have continuously spread throughout the planet in an effort to build and strengthen relationships extending across the globe. The increasingly advanced technology has enabled people around the world to link up with superior speed and ease. One of the newly popular communication technologies spreading across the globe is wireless Internet. “Wireless technologies pumped up collaboration, making it mobile and personal” (Baltzan, 2009, p.4). One of the main reasons technology and wireless Internet has become a great success is because of the advanced level of convenience and personalization associated with the newly popular innovation. As a result of these innovations, social networking sites have grown in popularity.
Social networking sites such as Linkedin and Facebook have added to the development of global relationships. These social networking sites allow members to create a profile page for either a professional or more routine channel of communication. These sites encourage users to build a list of friends or contacts, allowing them to stay in touch with friends and family both across the country and across the globe. Over the past few years, social networking sites have grown in popularity and expanded their target market considerably. When these sites were first introduced, they were designed to draw in college students. However, the exclusivity of these sites did not last long, as high school, middle school, and elementary school students began to inundate these sites. Despite the original intentions of these networking sites, the profiles extended to students of all ages, their parents, and even their grandparents.
In addition to social networking sites that allow people of all ages to connect on a global level, there are also computer-mediated programs such as Skype that allow for face-to-face communication. Similar to that of social networking sites, this technological innovation has also reached a variety of generations. These technologies are no longer solely used by college students who want to keep in touch with their friends back home, now they are used by grandparents who want to keep in touch with their grandchildren, friends and family members who live hundreds or thousands of miles apart, and a variety of other computer-mediated situations that warrant face-to-face communication. Over the past decade these networking sites and other forms of communication technology have allowed users to build and preserve social relationships through computer-mediated communication.
In addition to developing and maintaining these intercontinental relationships, communication technologies allow an individual to further their academic career. As technology progresses, more students are deciding to take classes or entire degree programs online. Taking classes or receiving a degree online has allowed students to create their own schedules or work around an existing one. This has opened the door to further education for individuals who work full time or those who care for their children during the day, and especially for those individuals who are attempting to balance work, family, and their education. The previous illustration demonstrates how computer-mediated communication has evolved over the past decade. As a direct result of computer-mediated communications’ success, globalization has developed a broader meaning and usage.
The increasingly broad range of computer-mediated communication and globalization has made it possible to connect with people across the globe. The rapidly rising success of communication technology has made it easier to communicate socially and academically. However, this technology has also made it possible for businesses to communicate on an intercontinental level. According to Rud (2009) “Many companies are hiring top technical and business talent from around the globe equipping them to work virtually to save on travel” (p.47). Businesses and organizations are investing in different forms of communication technology in order to connect with coworkers and other organizations on an international and an intercontinental level. Two forms of communication technologies that a variety of businesses and organizations value are net conferences and teleconferences. Net conferences are business conferences that are mediated electronically via a network of computers and teleconferences allow business and organizations to connect and collaborate with video capabilities that allow for information and file sharing.
Businesses typically identify similar strengths when it comes to assessing teleconferences. These strengths include an excellent method for information sharing and routine meetings, the participants may pay more attention to what is being communicated, and this method is more cost effective than making travel arrangements for a face-to-face meeting. In addition to the many advantages of teleconferences, there are also some challenges. “The highly technical and global nature of business today presents specific communication challenges” (Rud, 2009, p.47). Perhaps the most overwhelming challenge associated with this technology is the increased difficulty reading and interpreting facial expressions and body language. This lack of non-verbal cues may limit communication and may make people uncomfortable. However, a well-trained moderator can greatly enhance the technological experience.
“We live in the information age, when infinite quantities of facts are widely available to anyone who can use a computer” (Baltzan, 2009, p.4). The majority of the people across the globe can be easily placed within these parameters, whether it is a mother and son keeping in touch, a college student trying to further their education, or a company attempting to expand their reach. Computer-mediated communication hosts a wide range of communication that passes through various channels in an effort to communicate on a global scale. In an effort to increase globalization through computer-mediated communication, individuals from across the globe are beginning to utilize communication technology. This technology serves a variety of purposes, three of which are especially pertinent. Social, academic, and business related computer-mediated communication has opened the door to globalization allowing a universal interconnectedness of the world’s population.
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Friedman, T. L. (2010, June). The world is flat. New York Times, pp.2
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