Chapter 4: Social Interaction

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The main aims of this chapter are to:

  • Explain what is meant by social interaction.
  • Describe the social mechanisms that are used by people when communicating and collaborating.
  • Discuss how social media have changed the ways in which we keep in touch, make contact, and manage our social and work lives.
  • Explain what is meant by telepresence.
  • Give an overview of shareable technologies and some of the studies showing how they can facilitate collaboration and group participation.
  • Describe some of the new forms of social behavior that have emerged as a result of using new social media and communication technologies.


Imagine not having access to your cell phone or the Internet for a week. How would you cope? Would you get bored, start twitching, or even go stir crazy? Would you feel isolated and be constantly wondering what is happening in your online social network? Many people now cannot go for very long without checking the latest postings, emails, etc. on their Black- Berries, iPhones, or computers - even when on vacation. It has become a daily routine and an integral part of their social lives. This is not surprising given that humans are inherently social: they live together, work together, learn together, play together, interact and talk with each other, and socialize.

There are many kinds of sociality and many ways of studying it. In this chapter our focus is on how people communicate and collaborate in their social, work, and everyday lives. We examine how the emergence of a diversity of communication technologies has changed the way people live - the way they keep in touch, make friends, and coordinate their social networks. We look at the conversation mechanisms that have conventionally been used in face-to-face interactions and examine how these have changed for the various kinds of computer-based conversations that take place at a distance. We describe the idea of telepresence, where novel technologies have been designed to allow a person to feel as if they are present or to give the appearance of being present at another location. We also outline some technologies that have been developed to allow new forms of interaction, focusing on how shareable technologies can facilitate and support collocated collaboration. Finally, we describe some of the social phenomena that have emerged as a result of the use and appropriation of social media.