Instant Messaging and Texting

Instant Messaging and Texting

Gloria E. Jacobs
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8310-5.ch020
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This chapter contains an examination of the research into texting and instant messaging. Instant messaging and texting are shown to be powerful technologies for maintaining relationships, building identities, and functioning within an information based society. The author raises questions about the implications of these social practices for those individuals who remain on the digital margins. The chapter provides an overview of the research, including a brief history of the technology and a theoretical framing of the terms used to discuss the phenomenon. A discussion of who uses instant messaging and why, and what the research has found regarding the conventions of use associated with instant messaging and texting follows. The chapter ends with a discussion of the current issues in the field, locates gaps in the research, and identifies implications and recommendations for education, civic engagement, social practice, and policy.
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Overview Of The Research

In the late 1990s, when I first became interested in instant messaging practices among youth and what it means for literacy development, there were few studies on the phenomena. Most of the computer mediated communication (CMC) research was into chat (originally Internet Relay Chat or IRC), which became popular in the early 1990s when America Online was launched. Chat involved a group of individuals communicating simultaneously (synchronously) within “rooms” based around a specific topic. It was within the chat environment that many of the conventions now associated with instant messaging and texting were developed: abbreviations (cuz for because), initialisms (LOL), and short, rapid exchanges. Instant messaging and text messaging users adopted these conventions even though the functionalities and purposes differ. For example, instant messaging and texting were designed for one-to-one communication; however, multiple instant messaging and texting conversations can occur simultaneously and texts can be sent to groups of individuals. As such, social practices unique to each mode of communication also developed.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Disruptive Technologies: Innovations that challenge the status quo by introducing simpler, more convenient, more accessible, and more affordable ways of accomplishing goals ( Christensen, 1997 ).

Computer Mediated Communication (CMC): Human communication that occurs through the use of two or more electronic devices (Walther, 1996 AU74: The in-text citation "Walther, 1996" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Discourse 2.0: How the interactive Internet, in which individuals are content producers as well as consumers, affects how people use language and text ( Herring, 2013 ).

Media Convergence: The development of computer programs, mobile applications, and electronic devices that brings multiple functionalities into one device, program, or application. Smartphones exemplify media convergence in that within one device, an individual is able to communicate by voice, text, image, access the Internet, download and listen to music or podcasts, play games, read books, etc.

Instant Messaging: A form of CMC that uses a mobile application or computer program to send messages between one or more individuals. All conversational partners must be logged in to the same application or program.

Texting: Sending short messages between mobile devices using short messaging service (SMS). Unlike instant messaging, which requires users to be signed-in on the same application, any mobile device enabled with SMS can receive a text from any with a similarly enabled mobile device.

Predictive Typing/Texting: A functionality within mobile devices that provides the typist with a word based on the first letters entered by the user or words based on the context of the sentence.

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