Title: The informal and formal dimensions of computer-mediated communication: a model

Authors: Stefan Hrastinski

Addresses: Computer and Systems Science, Department of Information Science, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract: It has been recognised for many years that informal communication is an important part of effective work and, thus, vitally important in organisations. However, research on the informal dimensions of information systems is rare. In this paper, Fish et al.|s (1990) model that distinguishes between the characteristics of the informal and formal dimensions of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is further developed. The enhanced model is exemplified and tested by analysing three applications of CMC, in which different media are used for different purposes. The applications illustrated that a medium may be more or less useful for supporting informal or formal communication. However, the most important influence on the degree of formality was the task and how the medium was used, rather than the medium itself. The model was useful for exploring the informal and formal dimensions of CMC. It is argued that even though the model proposed here needs to be further developed, it can be useful as support for researching, choosing and designing CMC media and applications of varying degrees of formality. Finally, future research challenges on the formal and informal dimensions of CMC are suggested.

Keywords: computer-mediated communication; CMC; social networks; media choice; media use; online communities; web-based communities; virtual communities.

DOI: 10.1504/IJNVO.2010.029869

International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, 2010 Vol.7 No.1, pp.23 - 38

Published online: 02 Dec 2009 *

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