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About Face Threat: An Analysis of Negative Behaviors in Computer-mediated Communication Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Rutgers University.

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Presentation on theme: "About Face Threat: An Analysis of Negative Behaviors in Computer-mediated Communication Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Rutgers University."— Presentation transcript:

1 About Face Threat: An Analysis of Negative Behaviors in Computer-mediated Communication Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Rutgers University Jocelyn A. DeAngelis, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Rutgers University Gary P. Radford, Ph.D., Professor, Fairleigh Dickinson University Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, OCLC New York State Communication Association October 21-23, 2011

2 Virtual Reference (VR) o Web-based chat & instant messaging (IM) CMC reference services o VR encounters capture full transcript of interaction between reference librarian & user o VR interactions complex & fraught with possibility of misunderstandings & miscommunications

3 Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior Erving Goffman “On Face-Work: An analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction” (1967)

4 Face-Work “Much of the activity occurring during an encounter can be understood as an effort on everyone’s part to get through the occasion and all the unanticipated and unintentional events that can cast participants in an undesirable light, without disrupting the relationships of the participants” (Goffman, 1967, p. 41)

5 Face Defined Positive social value person claims Self-image in terms of approved social attributes

6 Face-Work in Encounters Face is located in flow of events o Feelings about face reinforced by encounters o If better face established – feel good o If expectations not fulfilled – feel bad or hurt o Neutral experience – expected, not memorable

7 Face-Work, continued Positive Face - Having and Maintaining Face o According to Goffman: “A person may be said to have, or be in, or maintain face when the line he effectively takes presents an image of him that is internally consistent…that is confirmed by evidence conveyed through interpersonal agencies in the situation” (p. 7). o Face is constructed both by ourselves and is also given to us by others in how one is treated. o When one is “in face” he/she responds with feelings of confidence, security, relief, and assurance, can hold his/her head up, and can openly present himself/herself to others.

8 Types of Positive Face-Work Face-work helps achieve success in interpersonal communication encounters o To “give face” is in the process of making someone look good, giving them a better line than they had previously established. o To “save face” one may use a sense of humor or otherwise defuse situations that threaten face. o Poise is described as being very important in face-work because, “through poise the person controls his embarrassment and hence the embarrassment that he and others might have over his embarrassment” (Goffman, p. 13). Face-saving practices vary within different cultures and subcultures and are chosen from a socially constructed and circumscribed “repertoire” of rituals (Goffman, 1967, p. 13).

9 Face Threat = Negative Face-work Face Threat o Communication threatens face of interactants Types o Losing Face Person caught in embarrassing or damaging position (e.g., in a lie or inappropriate behavior) o Wrong Face or Out of Face Experience shame Possible to maintain confidence, if others cover (e.g., one makes faux pas & others pretend not to notice) Poise is ability to conceal wrong face or out of face

10 Face-Work in VR Goffman provides powerful frame to analyze VR encounters Face & face-work appear in flow of transcript (event) Analysis identifies instances or lack of face- work

11 Methodology Data from Institute of Museum & Library Services Grant of $684,996 “Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference services from user, non-users, and librarian perspectives” o Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and OCLC, Online Computer Library Center, Inc. o Project duration: 2 ½ Years (10/05-3/08) o 4 phases including transcript analysis

12 Sample Selection 850 VR transcripts randomly selected from 479,673 transcripts (8/04-11/06) 746 usable transcripts qualitatively analyzed & coded 1 transcript selected to illustrate face-threats in VR “Physics” - “The Accelerating Bumper Car” Duration: 17 min., 8 sec.

13 Findings “Physics” 1U Physics 2L [Please hold for the next available librarian. If you would like a transcript of this session ed to you, please type your full address now.] 3L [24/7 Librarian [Name] - A librarian has joined the session.] 4U when you drive forward in a bumper car at high speed and then you slam into the car in front of you, you find yourself thrown forward in your car. Which way is ur car accelerating? 5L thank you for holding I was working with another patron. The “Physics” example, both the U and L symmetrically exclude a greeting ritual from the initial interaction. In line 1, the U launches into the topic of the query, without an opening salutation In examples that possess positive face-work, a salutation is customary in opening a query. In line 4, the U presents the full query, again without any form of greeting or polite request. Subsequent lines of interaction are open to the U and L to include additional information, such as a missed greeting, but this does not take place.

14 Findings “Physics” Line 5 is the first typed response from the L (line 2 is a script). o The L does show deference toward the U by saying “thank you for holding,” and also by providing an explanation of the wait time, “I was working with another patron.” The lack of face-work present on behalf of the L is evidenced by the omission of a greeting ritual for the U. The lack of the greeting ritual initiates a series of face threats that can be seen to hang as a cloud over the interaction to follow (Goffman, 1967). 5Lthank you for holding I was working with another patron.

15 Findings “Physics” Line 6: In Goffman’s (1967) terms this question can be interpreted as a direct face threat o the implication being that the U should not be seeking help with “homework, ” and that the U should feel shame at not being able to do his/her own work Line 7: L types, “I'm not an expert on driving so I really can't answer that” o a disclaimer and acts in the interaction as a type of negative face-work and a form of rebuff and refusal to offer to help find an answer to the Us query 6LIs this a homework question. 7LI'm not an expert on driving so I really can't answer that. 8Ucan u find a website or something 9LI'm not sure what you are asking. 10Uwhen you drive forward in a bumper car at high speed and then you slam into the car in front of you, you find yourself thrown forward in your car. Which way is car accelerating?

16 Findings “Physics” Line 13: L inquires to the U as to whether the question for homework and what the subject is. o This line indicates that the L is not fully engaged and is demonstrating a lack of attention since the first line of the transcript offers the subject of the question. Line 14: L comes back a second time with a disclaimer o This is an attempt to push the U away. Line 15: U acknowledges the L’s unwillingness or inability to help and requests “another librarian.” 13LIs this a homework a homework assignment. what subject is it. 14LI really don't understand how I can answer that for you. 15Ucan i hav another librarian 16LThe information you gave you me does not help me find any resources to help you. 17LWhat do you mean by which way is your car accerlaerating. Are you sure thats what your assignment asks. 18UYes

17 Findings “Physics” Line 17: L continues with more questions to the U, “Are you sure that’s what your assignment asks” o This question to the user’s interpretation of the assignment and the tone of which can be taken to be condescension Overall, a lack of face-work is evidenced on both the part of the librarian and the user o Face-saving techniques are not utilized Apologies are not present 16LThe information you gave you me does not help me find any resources to help you. 17LWhat do you mean by which way is your car accerlaerating. Are you sure thats what your assignment asks. 18UYes

18 Findings “Physics” Line 19: L demonstrates a lack of attention to the interaction by asking for the subject of the question once more. Line 21: L agrees to help the U and pushes a page to the U and in line 23. The initial request is not observed by the L, which leads to the librarian issuing a face threat to the U to reissue the initial query. o This shows that the L may not be taking the question or U seriously or perhaps not devoting time to the U, which acts to diminish the importance of the U’s query o In turn functions as a lack of concern for the U’s face. Furthermore, this particular line issued by the L diminishes his/her face in interaction by showing that the L is not attending to previously issued information. 19LWhat subject is this question from? 20UPhysics 21LOkay just one moment. 22L[Web Page sent] 23LThis is one site that may help.

19 Findings “Physics” Lines 30-32: the L continues pushing page after page without any direct interaction with the U whatsoever. Line 33: the U responds to the L with the statement, “this isn’t helpful,” which again is disconfirming to the L. 29LThis site looks to be very helpful L[Pages sent] 33Uthis isn't helpful

20 Findings “Physics” 34LWell I really don't have any other resources that can assit you. 35L[Page sent] 36LI cannot answer the question for you, I don't have the physics knowledge. 37LMaybe you will need to ask your instructor for a clear understanding. Line 34: L responds to the U’s dissatisfaction with the help he or she is receiving This a disclaimer, and with other disclaimers on the part of the L in the physics transcript, are failures to make an appropriate referral for the U Line 35: The L again returns to sending a web page to the U This acts as another barrier in that it demonstrates that the L is ignoring what the U said, in that the web pages are not helpful. Line 37: L retorts “Maybe you will need to ask your instructor for a clear understanding.” Chastising Reprimanding Shows poor attitude All are direct face threats

21 Conclusion Goffman offers powerful way to gain insights into VR practice & understanding of interpersonal dynamics in CMC Physics transcript analysis reveals, similar to the FtF environment, importance of face-work, e.g., politeness rituals Expressions of deference & demeanor (Goffman, 1956), are important to success of VR encounters

22 Future Research Many questions involving participant’s perception of these interactions remain unanswered New grant: “Cyber Synergy” (10/11-9/13) for $250K Next analyze 500+ transcripts from 2010 Developing theoretical model based on Goffman

23 End Notes This is one of the outcomes from the project Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, & Librarian Perspectives Funded by IMLS, Rutgers University, & OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Web site: activities/synchronicity/default.htm

24 Questions & Comments?


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