Relationship Development and Maintenance in a Mediated World

Relationship Development and Maintenance in a Mediated World

Jessica L. Moore (North Carolina State University, USA) and Elizabeth A. Craig (North Carolina State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-827-2.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter presents a review of contemporary scholarship on relational communication, particularly as it relates to interpersonal relationship development and maintenance. Throughout the chapter, special attention is given to the role new technologies play in the communication process. This chapter draws together a wide array of communication research findings ranging from attraction and initial interactions to relational routines and social support. Consideration is also given to some of the methodological and conceptual issues that face contemporary communication researchers. Fundamentally, the function of this multifaceted chapter is to provide an accessible and informed introduction to relational communication and computer-mediated scholarship for both an academic and general audience. A list of recommended readings on communication scholarship concludes this chapter.
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Background

Many scholars argue that the evolution of media has decreased the significance of physical presence in the process of human symbolic exchange (Lin & Atkin, 2007; Meyerowitz, 1985; Shneiderman, 2003). That is, an increase in the availability, variety, and sophistication of communication media has progressively provided the opportunity for people to mediate their day-to-day interactions. For many individuals, it may be daunting to imagine living in a world without the Internet because it is now the central mechanism through which they most often work, relate, and play. According to a 2004 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 85% of Internet users believe that online interaction is a good way to communicate and 64% claim that their daily routines would be significantly affected if they no longer had access to the Internet. As technology continues to evolve, however, so do the notions of what it means to communicate and engage in computer-mediated communication (CMC). Thus, we will first offer a definition of communication, then note the subtle distinctions between the terms interpersonal and relational communication, and finally provide a frame for the use of the dynamic term CMC.

Communication is often regarded as the primary influence on our experience of developing and maintaining relationships (Knapp & Daly, 2002; Wood, 2000). In fact, most of us spend our lives attempting to communicate in significant ways with others. From the primitive expressions we communicate as infants to the complex behaviors we use to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings as adults, it is the process of communication that enables us to connect with other people and ultimately develop and maintain meaningful human relationships.

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