Thursday, September 30, 2004


College Students in Multimedia Relationships

Synopsis of Lauren Squires’ “College Students in Multimedia Relationships: Choosing, Using, and Fusing Communication Technologies”

This very interesting article explores the distinctions between online and offline relationships, as well as their impact once they are intertwined. In her piece, the author analyzed the role of communication technology in undergraduate relationships at American University in Washington, D.C. She looked at how students enter and develop personal relationships using such interactive media as email, mobile phones, instant and text messaging, and chat rooms as substitutes for face-to-face communication.

In conducting her research of these college students, Squires aimed to look at the extent of their multimedia relational maintenance, differences in the modes of interactive communication, and how those modes are integrated through both qualitative and quantitative methodology.

Among my critiques for this research paper:
1. Small sample size of focus groups and survey respondents.
(Although she incorporated a good deal of qualitative research from her focus group, I feel that a greater breadth of information could have been gathered if both groups of participants were larger.)

2. Ratio of participants by college year and gender
The majority of the focus group members were sophomores and the other years were barely well represented and as a result some of the participants’ responses were practically insignificant. Unless the ratio of the participants was similar to the school’s actual student, a significant majority of the participants among the survey respondents were freshmen and sophomores and there were too few junior and senior year participants. Despite the fact that these students are classified by year, there is no way to tell how old some of these students actually are or how long they have been in their class year. Such points are important to determining how their life situation pertains to their behavior and experience with regards to interactive media habits.

3. Time of conducted research When conducting research at an academic institution, the time of the school year is highly relevant. Feedback from freshman participants at the start of the academic year would be irrelevant because most of those relationships are not as fully as established within the school as the sophomore, junior, and senior participants. The freshman relationships may be better reflected upon in assessing how they interact with other students at American University and better grounded by late fall semester or by spring semester.

From her findings, the author concluded that many students use several of interactive media technologies simultaneously to communicate with others, even while situated in the same space.. Among these technologies, email was found to be the most popular and useful as a task-oriented tool while cellular and land line telephones were found to be more useful more for interpersonal interactions. Squires also found that different characteristics of the subjects were either downplayed or highlighted in using different interactive mediums. According to the author, changing technologies must be evaluated and incorporated in the research when pursuing further research into this topic. We live in a time when technology is converging and quickly changing.

As a possible research topic, Squires and her peers on this subject ought to explore how some interactive media are created to target [or appeal to] young people or what other uses these technologies serve outside of or beyond their personal relationships. I may opt to research the latter in terms of how they utilized in building and maintaining professional or romantic relationships.

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