How digitalization changes the way we communicate – Part One

This post is the first of a series, which will concentrate on several cases and examples about changing communicational behavior as a result of digitization. I want to start with the observation I made during the panel discussion today.

Photo: Katrin Etzrodt

“What we do with digitization and what it does to us” Guido Westkamp, Sven Guckes, Wolfgang Donsbach, Thomas Wolf, Daniel Riebe (left to right)

But let me start with a short introduction of the discussion. Four people from very different backgrounds, namely Guido Westkamp (Professor for Intellectual Property and Comparative Law), Sven Guckes (arguing from the point of view of creative commons rights), Thomas Wolf (the chief of the online ressort of DD+V Mediagroup) and  Daniel Riebe (member of the german pirate party) where brought together to discuss the issue “What we do with digitization and what it does with us”. Moderated by Prof. Wolfgang Donsbach from the Institute of Media and Communication.

I will not summarize the content of the discussion in a way that you may expect at this very moment. Instead I will talk about a phenomenon that occurred during the real time event. So what I observed was a communication situation, which took place on three channels I noticed. Number one was the so called face-to-face communication. The four discussants as well as the moderator talked about phenomenons on different dimensions related to digitization. The audience – which mainly consisted of the summer school participants and some other interested people as well – was invited to ask questions and did used this opportunity. To this point you may say, this was a pretty usual event with a pretty usual way of conversation.

Parallel digital discussion on Twitter?

Panel Discussion – Digital Audience

But since we are all digital citicens – or at least most of us – of course we tweeted about main phrases and quoted interesting answers or questions. There is a list for the summer school, which contains mainly all tweeting participants. Although somehow there wasn’t going to be a discussion going beyond quotations and phrases from the podium on this medium – at least for this panel. Well, you may say, what’s the big deal with it? That’s old news for us! And you may be right.

So what was different?

At the beginning of the panel the organizers gave us another medium: a piratepad. At first I did not realize the purpose, but after a while I was enlightened: Another way of simultaneously communicating. I got curious and followed the link. And then a real constructive conversation – at least for me – arose. Four people were joining the pad. Did the others not recognize it? Was it too less understandable? Weren’t the curious? Whatever the answer may be, the result of the pad was a third channel where not only a discussion, but also a structuring and conservation of the thoughts and arguments of the other two channels. I will not analyze this phenomenon in detail now (I/we will come back on that in another post). instead of interpreting it for you I will give you the whole content, so you can see for yourself. (I did not leave out some text, just some empty lines).

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-01 um 21.28.08

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-01 um 21.28.12

What does this say?

At the moment it does tell me, that there are many different ways of communicating at an event like this. The usual assumption parallel conversation happens on social network sites may not always do justice to reality and mislead our research focus. Sometimes it may occur on social collaborating sites, too. And it made me wonder, if a medium to write or structure text collaboratively, which at the same time serves as a chat-like medium, suits better to situations such as this panel discussion.

It made me also wonder about the dominance we willingly give to social network sites as users, instead of benefitting from the variety and richness of the social media universe. And it makes me wonder to what extend and what impact we can alter the origin use of a social medium. If you, e.g., have a look at the piratepad pictures, you will soon recognize that we did not just note and structure important facts, arguments and thoughts of the panel, but also had our own conversations there, too.

To conclude this observation with a statement to the discussion’s topic:

Digitization enables us to find and create additional channels to a face-to-face event. At the same time we are altering these digitalized solutions to our own needs and purposes, in ways that might not have been the intention of the creator. Therefore the process of change can be – once again – seen as a reciprocal process.


2 thoughts on “How digitalization changes the way we communicate – Part One

  1. From my view, the pad was also a means of expressing those ideas, people would never express in the discussion for politeness reasons. It was a medium for critical and / or ironic comments. So I think it was good, that the people on the podium did not follow the discussions on the pad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>