The non-neutrality of technology: A theoretical analysis and empirical study of computer mediated communication technologies

Yong Zhao, María José Alvarez-Torres, Bryan Smith, Hueyshan Sophia Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Arguing against the common perception of technology as passive, neutral, and universal, this article presents a theoretical analysis of a commonly used and frequently studied technology - Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) - to illustrate how a technology that is often undistinguished in practice and research is indeed active, biased, and specific. We then report two exploratory studies that attempt to test the proposed framework with empirical evidence. The findings suggest that differences in the features of two CMC sub-technologies result in different effects on student-student interactions and vocabulary learning. We are able to both theoretically and empirically demonstrate that CMC technology can be realized in multiple forms and shapes, each of which has its own individual characteristics. These different characteristics are distributed across four different dimensions: temporality, spatiality, identity, and modality. Depending on their relative location on these dimensions, these characteristics have significant impact on student online behaviors in terms of social, linguistic, and psychological expressions. Although the two empirical studies were preliminary due to their sample size and quasi-experimental nature, they did positively confirm the view that each technology has unique features that actively shapes potential uses and users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-55
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Educational Computing Research
Volume30
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

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