go to Reviewsgo to Servicesgo to Registered Usersgo to Resource Centrego to AbleStable: Helpgo to About Us
go to AbleStable: Home Articles
go to Search

go to Exhibitions Centre
  The Internet: exploring the world of creative professionals
go to Help
go to Resource Centre
go to Library
go to Articles
go to E-Books
go to Glossary
go to Reviews
go to Web Link
Library > Articles > The Internet > 004

E-mail this web page address to a friend or colleague
Enter their email address below (no record is kept of this action)

Service Without the Smile
Contributor: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®

Servicing the Internet is a remote activity and there's the rub. It's easy to forget a public without a physical presence. We explore the remote nature of the Internet and the differences between off-line and on-line communications. For now it is the exchange of text that fuels the progress of the Internet and this forms the focus of this article.

The rich man's context
Before we set off on this journey it's wise to remember how information exchange on the Internet is in general text based (this will change as technologies develop which effectively translate the written word into audible words). At present most of the worlds' population do not have access to a computer, are not literate, and are therefore largely excluded from the Internet.

More than meets the eye
For those who can read and write and have access to a computer connected to the Internet, the Internet is an inclusive communications medium. It's possible for an individual to establish a web presence for little or no money. The Internet has liberated thousands of people who have, for the first time, connected with others and expressed their feelings and circumstance to a wider public.

The ease with which someone can present themselves on the Internet however can lead to the mistaken impression developing a web site is a simple matter, and that once a site is up and running it's largely a lights-out affair as it runs itself. If you want to deliver a quality web site nothing could be further from the truth. A good site is like a well kept garden in a temperate climate. Leave it for a week and the weeds start to grow.

It's not what you say, its how you say
The Internet encourages a certain mindset. In some ways this mindset is aligned to our conversational behaviour, in others it establishes entirely new modes of operation.

The real-time signals we receive and interpret when we converse person to person (when both parties are in close physical proximity and not on a phone or remote device) forms a great part of our evolutionary heritage. We have at our disposal an arsenal of mechanisms that respond and manage the complexities of our day to day interpersonal exchanges. We respond differently in the way we speak to one another depending on whom we are speaking to (eg family, workmates) and in what context we find ourselves in (eg home, work).

Sometimes we're guilty of speaking inappropriately according to the context. Some people don't easily migrate from one context to the next, and despite the behavioural signals given to them they fail to moderate their language accordingly. When this occurs there's a breakdown in communications and often a dislocation of purpose. The mechanisms have failed. On most occasions however we manage to communicate enough to one another to maintain and progress society.

Are you remote?
As a remote communications medium, the Internet establishes a new set of human behaviours. Communicating by e-mail is a liberating experience. No longer do you have to react real-time to a person's mood, change of tone and behaviour. E-mailing allows you to be less personally involved as compared with real-world exchanges, and is such an important means of communication on the Internet I'll now devote considerable space in discussing the issues surrounding it.

The nature of e-mail
The strength of e-mail is that it allows a considered response and can be picked up as and when it's convenient. It's weakness is that because there is no 'interpersonal imperative' you are not required to respond immediately and become personally involved in the exchange. This is significant as the person receiving the e-mail has far more control than in a real-world conversational context. In a real-world conversation (again, when both parties are in close physical proximity and not on a phone or remote device) the exchange is more dynamic. Both parties respond and exchange ideas real-time as the path of conversation changes and develops depending on what is said.

The up side then of e-mailing is that those individuals who are generally less confident communicating person to person in the real world, or who are reporting or communicating in a subordinate context, significantly improve their chances of communicating their ideas if they effectively develop their written skills. The down side is that all the additional non-linguistic messages that complete a real-world exchange are absent, and those who are not as articulate cannot rely on additional non-linguistic signals to convey their message.

The dominant partner
When a web site corresponds by e-mail, usually in a support, informational, or marketing context, there is a temptation from the site issuing the e-mail to abuse the remote nature of the medium. As the sender is less concerned by interpersonal matters, the pressure to respond promptly and in a personal manner is reduced. As the sender is in the controlling position, there is also a tendency to assume the language of dominance rather than adopt a position of 'mutual correspondence'.

Dynamic and interactive
So called 'dynamic web sites' often promote themselves as interactive. Human interactivity however is far more complex than the composed interactivity that defines a web site. Web sites are not intelligent, they do not interact with you, the person. Web sites, no matter how sophisticated, simply respond to commands inputted by the user and spit out results according to a set of preconfigured algorithms. Although web sites may at times promote their status as a dynamic exchange, it is the lowly e-mail that more often fulfils the conversational model of communication.

The future of the Internet lies in the creation of effective on-line communities where people are encouraged to connect and share ideas and information in real-time. At present on-line communities are defined as forums, chat rooms, message boards and the like. The development of software and the roll out of higher bandwidth will see the web site become a meeting place like any other where people interact conversationally.

At present a significant difference between the Internet and the real-world is the fact we can easily turn away and switch off without difficulty. As the Internet matures and technologies allow us to interact in an increasingly more complex way, cutting off a conversation as and when we choose will begin to become as difficult as in our off-line real-life conversations. For some of course cutting off a conversation in mid flow will always remain a simple affair...

Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

If you observe inaccuracies in our in-house contributions or wish to contribute an article or review to be included at AbleStable® visit Feedback.

Copyright Notice
Although our contents are free to browse, copyright resides with the originators of all works accessed at AbleStable®, and unauthorised copying or publication of our site contents is strictly prohibited.

AbleStable © 2002-2007

 All Material: AbleStable © 2002-2007
go to Frequently Asked Questionsgo to Feedbackgo to Press Centrego to Privacy Statement