This paper addresses the issue of communication activities, which in the late 20th and early 21st century has undergone a great change. In this context it is necessary to speak about the emergence of new means of communication, and the transition to a new type of interpersonal communication – technologically mediated communication, or virtual communication.Any communicative activities are carried out through various tools, and the most common tool is language. In fact, in the modern world communication is often carried out by means of logistic resources or communication channels, which are the lines of communication for messages from the communicant to the recipient and provide tools such as languages, codes, technical means. In the twentieth century, communication was enriched with new communication channels, primarily computer. New communication tools – telephone, telegraph, copier, film, television, video, etc. – allow exchange messages of various types rapidly and effectively, that greatly expands the scope of traditional communications.
The main difference between technologically mediated communication from interpersonal oral communication is the fact of transfer of information and establishing contact with the help of electronic means, which leads to a tendency for gradual replacement of documentary communication tools and even personal contacts with electronic tools. Electronic communication tools include first of all universal and global computer network Internet. Internet today is a worldwide association of computer networks that can share information and gain access to stored information from different sources. All Internet users are looking for communication and information exchange with different partners, as Internet provides a great opportunity to these people to communicate, share ideas, suggestions, arrange discussions. To date, the Internet contains a huge amount of information that encourages different kinds of communication.
If to speak about interpersonal communication, it is necessary to point that verbal communication, of course, has several advantages over other forms of communication, as it allows to establish eye contact and psychological interaction, sense of interpersonal space and to learn more about the interlocutor. Spiritual interpersonal communication with real individuals allows to express the emotional and intellectual connection between people and to satisfy our inner need of communication.In this paper it is necessary to consider the new type of communication, which is technologically mediated communication, or virtual communication, its main characteristics, positive and negative consequences.
Technologically mediated communication and “virtual” communication
Over the past few decades, new communication technologies have led to many changes in everyday life. Already since 1980 e-mail, video conferencing, voice messaging, voice mail and other modern communication technologies have become integral part of people’s lives. Since the 1990-s people all over the world experienced the impact of Internet, which provided us many new opportunities for communication. This new information society represents a new phase of human civilization, which is characterized, first of all, by high-speed communication processes, which is provided by knowledge-intensive, high-tech means – microprocessor technology and the Internet. New technologies have forced people to change the traditional idea of communication processes. First of all, new information technologies enable to store and quickly transfer large amounts of information, to involve audio and video channels of communication, to interact directly with a large number of participants from around the globe. Computers have transformed not only the nature of the process of information exchange, but our understanding of the communication process. (Thurlow et al., 2004)
Internet, in fact, is a set of technical, functional, informational, social, economic and legal components that ensure activities of individual and group users that make up the audience of the Internet. Internet provides numerous means of communication: video conferencing, ICQ, meta-search, online voting, forum, chat, and other types of Internet communication, which is held on-line. In therefore it is justified to distinguish such types of communication as a special type of communication – virtual communication.
Computer communication has put in extensive use the word
“virtual” (which means “possible”), that is a “virtual communication.” The emergence of new kind of communication, for example internet forums, suggests the formation of a special communication space, which has some specific (and not available in the current reality) conditions of communication. Virtual communication can be understood as a communicative interaction between individuals through the computer, which creates a particular model of reality that is characterized by the effect of human presence in it and allows interacting with imaginary and real objects. (Biocca & Levi, 1995)
Virtual communication, as mediated communication, is carried out with the use of computer via an electronic network (Internet). It seems reasonable to consider the following characteristics of technologically mediated communication: members of virtual communication, objectives of communication, environment, method and medium. Members of virtual communication can be individuals from any part of the globe who have computer skills. In virtual communication participants have different purposes: to maintain emotional contact, to share information, to express own opinion, to find a friend or associate. The function of self-expression is a major, regardless of whether it’s professional or personal communication, as in any case communication begins with the process of identification, develops in accordance with a particular behavioral strategy, and includes information and emotional exchange. (Biocca & Levi, 1995)
Depending on the objectives of communication (self-expression, information transmission, sharing experiences, etc.), the parties define the style of communication. In order to get the attention of the interlocutor and not leave him indifferent, Internet communicants want to make their message unique, eye-catching and conflict. In the case of self-presentation a person chooses a careless speech with lots of jargon, foreign words and expressions, foreign language abbreviations of all kinds. But in the case of business or professional communication a person uses only clear and syntactically verified phrases, book and vocabulary terms. As for the means of communication, they include first of all language in the diversity of generated texts, the tone of the dialogue and mode of communication. In the basis of communication in virtual environment lies written text with extensive inclusion of terms, special words, professional, jargon, vernacular expressions. Written speech is the dominant mean of communication, which includes, in addition to text messages, different metatext characters (for example, italic lettering). Written communication conveys information in the form of charts, diagrams, pictures and photographs of different types. It also includes a variety of secondary to the natural language systems: numbers, math, physical and chemical formulas, musical notes, geographical and astronomical signs.
Thus, in the virtual communication information circulates not only in the form of texts, but also in a variety of images. Thus, the virtual message is expressed verbally and iconically, and is presented as a combination of verbal and nonverbal (visual) means of information transmission. Such iconic elements have special significance and form a “visual, structural, semantic and functional unit.” (Biocca & Levi, 1995)Communication environment in virtual communication has a number of distinctive features. First of all, the parties have no direct contact with each other, which, on the one hand, leads to “masking” real personalities, concealing true information about the communicants, and on the other hand, gives opportunity to treat communication as a “game” that has its own rules and principles. Due to the fact that virtual interlocutors communicate with each other anonymously through a computer, ignoring the sexual, social, occupational inequality and various taboos and conventions, only the message forms the image of the communicator. The lack of direct contact between interlocutors allows communicators to provide false information about them. Anonymity is ensured, firstly, through the active use of aliases or nicknames, because in the virtual environment dialogue participants appear under fictitious names, which are called “nicks”. Virtual space provides communicants opportunity to exercise the roles, emotions, which are frustrated in real life. (Biocca & Levi, 1995)
So, the virtual communication, as a new form of communication, is characterized by the following features: unlimited number of participants, special purpose of communication (information exchange, maintaining emotional contact, self-expression), game character of interaction and originality of the genre of communication. (Biocca & Levi, 1995)
Finally, it is necessary to point some of the benefits of the Internet communication are:
- high-speed of data transmission
- a vast geographical penetration of the Internet and absence of territorial borders, which could prevent free communication,
- “free speech” – opportunity to freely express thoughts and ideas, the possibility of self-presentation and self-realization,
- practically unlimited access to the information stored in the Internet,
- constant growth of the Internet audience.
The negative consequences of the spread of “virtual” communication can include reduction of real social interaction and social contacts (up to the loneliness), formation of the inadequacy of social perception, etc.
It is possible to summarize that the virtual communication reflects the basic cognitive and mental models inherent in a person living in the new information age and is involved in Internet communication.
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