Computer Mediated Communication _CMC_ - This essay will discuss by leeonw



NAME            : Siyabonga S. S. Manyanga

Student no.                 : 961536

Course          : ACS 502

Lecturer        : Professor G. M. Mersham

Due Date        : 25 June 1999

Essay Theme     : Computer mediated





               TABLE OF CONTENTS

 1. Introduction
 2. How does the Internet works
 3. The Internet and the African position
 4. The differences between dial up and network
 5. What is electronic mail (email)
 6. What is an attachment
 7. The advantages of email
 8. The disadvantages of email
 9. The search engines
 10. What is Bookmarking
 11. Web based communication for organisational use
 12. The types of computer mediated communications
 13. The impacts and potential of CMC
 13. The positive and negative aspects of CMC
 14. Conclusion
 15. Bibliography





1.      Introduction

This essay will discuss the concept of Computer Mediated Communication

(CMC). CMC is the interaction of people using the Internet as their medium

of communication either through computers, cellphones, fax machines, etc.

Internet is an international computer network through which computer users

all over the world can communicate and exchange information. The essay

will discuss the following:

    How does the Internet works?

    The Internet and the African position

    The differences between dial up connections and network connections

    What is email?

    What is an attachment?

    The advantages and disadvantages of email

    What are search engines and techniques applied for narrowing one's


    The purpose of bookmarks.

    Web based communication for organisational use


   The impact and potential of CMC

   The positive and negative aspects of CMC

2. How does the Internet works?

The latest developments in technology have brought about the concept of

the Internet. The Internet is accessible through various electronic devices

e.g. computers, cell-phones, fax, etc. The computer is a software that allows

a user to type, retrieve, send, receive etc any information on the Internet.

Mersham and Skinner (1999:2) explain that anyone with a personal

computer and a modem (a modem is the piece of technology attached to, or

inside a computer that links you to the telephone system) can get access to

the Internet. The modem encodes the information in digital form and sends

it through telephone lines and the satellites to another computer. On the

receiving end the modem decodes data and translates it to analogue so that

the recipient can read the message. Computers use the binary system in the

transmission of data from one computer to another. Mersham and Skinner

(1999:3) states that binary means having only two states. The binary system

uses 1 and 0 digits to present all information.

To access the Internet the user must subscribe to a certain Internet Service

Provider (ISP) e.g. Internet Africa. ISP is the organisation that the person

subscribes with to get the Internet access and services. The subscriber is due

to pay a monthly subscription fee so that he/she remains connected to the


net. The ISP supply necessary software to contact its computers, and from

there onto the Internet (Mersham & Skinner 1999:4).

The computer uses file servers and routers for the transmission of data from

one computer to another. The fileserver serves the user by connecting

his/her computer to the other computer that he/she wants to connect with

around the world. The Router directs data into its relevant destiny. The

Router basically reads the destination address on the pockets being sent by a

computer and then forwards the pocket to the appropriate destination (this

was extracted from yenza site: The

information travels through several routers before reaching its ultimate


Computers communicate or identify each other by an IP address that is

provider by an ISP where the user subscribes for the Internet services. There

are two types of IP addresses that are, static and a dynamic IP address.

Static address uses the same number each time you connect to the Internet.

Static IP address looks like this: Dynamic IP addresses

differ each time you connect to the Internet. Dynamic IP looks like this: Computers use also the DNS server search order, which

looks like this: Lastly the computer has the number, which

connect it to the gateway and it looks like this Computers

communicate through digital information.


People communicate with each other through email. Email identify both the

person    and     the   domain     type            People

communicate with each other through analogue information

People communicate with computers using Domain Name Systems (DNS).

DNS keeps track of addresses on the Internet, converting domain names

back     and    forth   from   the   IP       address.   DNS   looks   like     this: Http stands for “hypertext transfer protocol” this

helps computers talk with each other. WWW stands for World Wide Web.

The parts after these acronyms are collectively called the domain name. The

domain name reveals information about the name of the organization e.g.

polity, where it is situated e.g. za for South Africa, and in what sector of the

economy it falls under e.g. org.

Internet works through many features e.g. WWW, email, list servers and

news groups. In WWW there are sites that can facilitate learning, research,

marketing through the Universal Resources Locator. The URL looks like

this – Email is the device that allows its users to

compose and send messages or information from one computer to another.

Newsgroups are virtual discussion conducted entirely by email with

contributions called “postings" (Mersham and Skinner 1999:8)


3. The Internet and the African position

According to the Internet surveys there are 159.0 million users of Internet

worldwide and 1.14 million users in Africa alone (Taken from:

The most of these Internet users are in South Africa about (850 000-900

000). This works out at about one Internet user for every 5000 people

excluding South Africa and 1 per 9000 when North Africa is excluded.

While the world average is about one in every 4-6 people depending on the


The lack of telecommunication infrastructure contributes into the small

number of Internet users in Africa. Some countries have installed digital

switches with fibre optic intercity backbones and the newest cellular and

mobile technology e.g. South Africa, Botswana, as a means to improve the

telecommunication infrastructure and the level of communication in their


Kling ( argues that

the lack of national penetration and poor quality of the telecommunication

network still remains a basic impediment to rapid growth in Internet use in

Africa e.g. Somalia that is not even connected to the Internet. Internet

connection in Africa is mainly in towns or urban areas. This poses a

challenge for the installation of telecommunication infrastructure ranging

from telephones into the Internet all over the African countries. This will be


an advantage because African countries will install the latest advanced

technology that will be able to understand the latest versions of the Internet

and computers.

The tour of J Naidoo across Africa in for the installation of

telecommunications networks across Africa had earned itself recognition.

Nkrumah ( holds that "sponsored by

Germany engineering giants Siemens, South Africa's telecommunications

companies, Telkom and Vodacom, which specialise in mobile phones, as

well as other South African-transnational corporations and international

financial, institutions such as the World Bank. The rally will take Naidoo

and his team to some of the most remote corners of Africa where people

have never even seen a telephone." The African continent is greatly in need

of this technological assistance to advance their social and economic lives.

Telecommunication can link the African citizens ranging from the fighters in

Congo to the mediators in South Africa and all the enthusiasts around the


4. Differences          between           dial   up      and      network


The dial up connection is the type of the Internet connection that requires

the user to connects his/her modem into the telephone line and dial up a

number each time he/ she wants to access the Internet. The modem is

connected onto the telephone line each time the user wants to be connected


onto the Internet. This connection warrants that the user get the dialing

number from Telkom so that each time the person dials that number he/she

is connected into Telkom. From Telkom user of the dial up connection goes

to the user's Internet Service Provider wherein he/she subscribes and then

connects with his/her desired destiny through telephone lines and the

satellites. After use the modem is disconnected from the telephone line and

the phone is available for in and out going calls. The user of the dial up

connection pays a dial up fee to Telkom and also a subscription fee to the

Internet Service Provider.

The network connection differs from the dial up connection in that you do

not dial a number each and every time you want to access the Internet. The

computer automatically dials your ISP number and connects you to your ISP

from there to your desired destiny. It also differs in that the user does not pay

the dial up Telkom fee which c but only a subscription fee to the service


5. What is Electronic mail? (email)

Email is the ability to write a message to someone using email program, and

using the Internet as a means of delivering that message (Extracted from: Email works with addresses that

identify    the   computer   and   the       person   communicated   with    e.g.

( The part to the left of @is the user name.

The part to the right of @is the domain name. The domain name often tells


you who is running the server and the kind of the organization it is. Domain

names differs according to their undertakings for example academic

institutions use AC., Companies use CO. etc. Domain name also identify the

country in which the email is situated e.g. ZA for South Africa. But it is

worth acknowledging that the American email addresses does not have the

country identification because most of the Internet programmes are

developed in America. Email can routinely attach files, print messages, file

copies of inbound and outbound messages in special folders, send messages

to groups, and so on. Mantovani (1996:99) holds that, email permits people

to communicate with other people when they choose, leaving messages that

receivers can read when they open their email boxes, here participants needs

not to be present contemporarily.

When you send a message to someone it leaves your computer and travels

first to your Service Provider, from there your email may travel through

several other HOST computers until it reaches its final destination. The time

it takes to transit from one host to another varies depending upon how busy

the network is at the time you sent it (this has been extracted from Yenza site



An attachment is the file sent along with an email message, which can be a

text,    a     graphic,     or      even    an     application     (Extracted: It allows the user to copy and include other


documents that are already existing on the Internet on their email.

Attachments make the emailing system easy and they save time because

users only type the email address of the addressee, subject and an

introduction of the message and the rest is delivered by an attachment.


Email allows the transmission of short messages almost instantly to a

location thousand of kilometers away and also the transmission of entire

computer files containing other kinds of data in a minute time across the

world. Emails also significantly reduce telephone bills, the cost of postage

and secretarial costs (Mersham and Skinner 1999:7). When email is

compared to traditional communication artifacts e.g. snail mail, it appears

that email is time saving, ensured/guaranteed and cheap amongst all it is the

fastest of the other communication means. If the addressee is sitting on his

computer by the time the message arrives he/she will reply you in a matter of

5 minutes. Email allows its participants to go beyond space and time

(Mantovani 1996:89). This can help researchers to send questionnaires and

receive responses immediately. The email speeds up the communication and

goes beyond the geographical boundaries to connect people located on

different ends.

The information can be encrypted for private issues in the emailing system.

Email permits one to use his/her own coding of information to be kept or

delivered in private. This is what makes email outshines not only other


Internet features but other ways of communication e.g. mail from the post

office. The messages can also be saved in the folders for later reference or be

deleted and the email address stored in the address book without an effort of

storing letter addresses, time is saved through email system. Email

automatically inserts the date of the day it is sent and it also attaches the

email address of the sender. Emailing system is good because the user does

not buy papers, envelopes and you do not have to go to the post office.

Amongst all email addresses are available on the net which makes it easier to

use email because you do not have to search for addresses.


Mantovani (1996:89) argues that problems may arise, in particular as regards

turn taking which is not a feature of email advantages. He further argues that

in face-to-face communications, social norms and negotiation easily solve

these problems, in CMC they are more difficult. This argument leads us into

a social perspective of email because the unreciprocal presence of the actors

disseminate some information that can be observed or heard from the

person's tone or facial expressions. The accessibility of email is one of its

major disadvantages. Because email programs are available to people, who

have computers, are computer literate and are connected to the international

network. This poses a problem for the people who are computer illiterate not

only them but also those who are computer literate but financially

disadvantaged to subscribe to the Internet service provider


The problem of privacy in the usage of email system is common because of

the people called hackers. These people break into the private information of

the person or the organization maybe claiming to be the technicians whereas

aiming at ruining the privacy of that particular user. The other disadvantage

of email related to the above is computer virus. This is a problem when the

sender of the message intentional or unintentional sends the message with

the wrong email address. Then when the addressee opens his/her mailbox the

wrong address causes virus into the computer of the recipient. This can

destroy private stored documents in the mailbox. The other pressing factor of

privacy is also common in other communication tools e.g. letters from the

post office. Mantovani   (1996:103) argues that the mail from the post office

is more untrusted on the issues concerning privacy because senders not only

cannot know a priori who will open their envelopes. But generally do not

even know a posteriori either, unless a response comes in the form of an

order or a phone call asking for more information. But they do not know

that, the greater the number of special offers, the greater the risk that

receivers will a priori refuse even to examine them.

Therefore email is far better than post-mail though it has some drawbacks.

Amongst all the history of the future of email will be on the addressing of

computer illiteracy and financial problems leading to inaccessibility and

unavailability of network resources.



The search engine is the software that performs a search for any information

amounting to the user’s interest on a particular subject or topic and organizes

the results. Search engines links a user to different topics in the Internet

either for learning purposes, research or entertainment, etc. Search engines

depend on some factors for effective searching and precise results. Search

engines links various Internet files so that a user can access specific

information by means of a key word. This depends on how good the search

engine software is at locating what you need and present it in an effective

manner. Also it depends on how complete its database is and how it helps in

finding contemporary information. LYCOS search engine is known to be the

eldest search engine and in some cases it can not deliver contemporary

information   (this   has   been    extracted   from    the   following   site:

The search engines use different ways to retrieve the required data. To name

but a few phrasal searching, nesting, metadata, refined, mirrors and subject


   Phrasal searching uses inverted commas e.g. “Empangeni policing


   Nesting uses OR, NEAR operators.

   Refined uses FOLLOWED BY and other operators varying from the

    search engine used.


   Mirrors put a suffix at the end of the term or phrase to be searched e.g.

    mail AND guardian AND newspaper SA. SA tells the computer that mail

    and guardian is in South Africa. Subject searching uses the subject or

    topic to be searched.

This essay will discuss these methods by bringing to the fore the techniques

used to narrow one’s search. That is, the Boolean Logic Operators,

Proximity Text Operators, and the Prefixes.

Boolean logic operators are used to construct logical search statements using

logical operators to gather or separate things into neat piles depending on

how you use them (this has been extracted from the following site: There are three Boolean logic

operators, AND, OR, NOT. The Boolean operators are always typed in the

high order. AND is used to join the overlapping words so that results contain

both part to the left or right of AND e.g. computer AND communication.

The results here will be focused on both frogs and toads. The OR Boolean

operator is used in a manner that the resulting document could contain either

the term to the left or right of OR. In some instances both parts to the left or

right of OR can appear on the results e.g. computer OR communication. The

NOT logical operator excludes all indexes that are affiliated to the right of

NOT in a search e.g. computers NOT communication will display the results

affiliated to the left of NOT in this case computers. NOT Boolean logic

narrows, excludes and limits the search.


Proximity text operators put you close to the text you want to search by

using NEAR and FOLLOWED BY text operator. When two terms or

phrases are linked with the NEAR operator, the search engine finds

documents in which these terms or phrases occur within a few words of one

another somewhere in the text of the document returned either in the same

sentence or paragraph ( Unlike

AND Boolean operator which requires that two phrases or terms be present

together anywhere in a document the NEAR operator ensures that they are

close together in a text e.g. kwazulu-natal NEAR provinces. The results will

be on the same text of other provinces with the specific concern to KZN. The

FOLLOWED BY text operator assures that the two terms or phrases occur

within the same context within the document and the user can be sure that

they are also linked conceptually e.g. computers FOLLOWED BY

communication. The Boolean and proximity operators are always written in

capital words or high order of writing.

The prefixes + and – are used to include + and exclude- the information that

is not relevant to one’s search e.g. coporate +social +investments or coporate

–social +investments. The results for the first example will show both parts

to the left and right of + and the second one will not show any information

including social in the search.



   Altavista is one of the most powerful and flexible of the major global

    WWW search engines on the network today and its indexes are updated

    on a daily base. The frequencies and proximity of significant words are

    tallied and form the basis of the order of display in search results from

    the       engine       (Taken          from      the        ff.     site: Altavista permits the use of

    proximity operators as well as Boolean operators also nesting.

   Excite uses a web crawler to build its indexes to WWW sites. It uses

    artificial intelligence technology styled “ICE” (Intelligent Concept

    Extraction) to establish relations among the terms its web crawler finds

    on indexed pages. Search results in the output listing are sorted by

    relevance ( Excite has

    some matching techniques that narrows one’s search e.g. “MORE LIKE

    THIS” option. Excite supports standard Boolean operators, Nesting and

    Proximity text operators. Advanced search options in Excite allows the

    searchers to require or disallow terms using + and – prefixes

10.What is Bookmarking

Bookmarking is associated with search engines in that after searching the

results will give you the information you are looking for and also the


Uniform Resources Locator (URL) of that site. Then you can bookmark that

URL. The purpose of bookmarking is to allow the user to grab a copy of a

URL and store it so that he/she can easily go back to the site at a future time

if need arises. Therefore search engines helps a person access any site that

will satisfy the needs of a searcher and present him/her with relevant

information either for learning, teaching, research, entertainment, buying

and marketing.

11. Web based communication for organisational use

The nature of work environment is now changed                     because of

computerization across the board. The nets that the organizations are using

are divided into three, Internet web site, Intranet. Extranet. These nets serve

different purposes within a company. Mersham and Skinner (1999:13)

explain the use of these nets as follows:

      Internet web site is the public face of an organization presented to a

       broad, inclusive set of its present and future customers and


      Intranet facilitates communication within the internal structures of

       organisation, a kind of private network where the organization’s

       working information is shared among its management and



      Extranet set up communication channels between the organization

       and its customers and suppliers, usually on a more business to

       business communications and transactions than the Internet site.

These nets encourage the flow of information from the organisation to its

various publics and the enthusiasts. The Internet web site is where the

organization publicizes its dealings and its hierarchy of management and

employees to the network. Intranet tends to encourage communication to

flow in any direction not just up and down in the organisation. Extranet

enables the customers to access their suppliers to order goods, track their

delivery and pay for them electronically (Mersham and Skinner 1999:13).


There are two types of CMC that is asynchronous and synchronous CMC.

Asynchronous CMC, like email, fax machines, cell phone (vodamail -

message receiver) allows its participants to go beyond the barriers of both

space and time (Mantovani 1996:89). Within the work environment this

type of CMC permits people to communicate whenever they choose. Either

the recipient present or not but the sender can leave the message the

receiver can read anytime he/she opens the mailbox.

Synchronous CMC like teleconferences and videoconferences with or

without voices, with or without speaker’s images on the screen requires

interlocutors to be reciprocally present at the same moment during the


interaction (Mantovani 1996:89). These types of CMC are mostly used in

television and radio stations. Within the work environment this type of

CMC will permits workers to hold meetings with the management or other

outside workers etc in the near future. There are problems in utilizing this

type of CMC that are based on turn taking. Whereas in face to face

communication these problems are easily solved through by social norms

and negotiation in CMC they are more difficult to deal with. This is because

the participants are situated on opposite receiving ends.


If we consider the general impact of the CMC on organizations and

individuals, we see the decay of traditional communication models and the

emergence of new ones that are computer based. Mantovani holds that the

model of communication as the passage of information from one person to

another is becoming obsolete (1996:91). This is made easy by the potential

of CMC to promote equity among group members, not only acceding to the

network but also in making contributions to communication. The other

potential of CMC is that the company can create its web page and publish it

on the Internet.

During the last 25 years, most organisations have recognised that computer

based communication systems are more responsive and flexible and it

supports      the    richer     array        of   organisational   activities

( The computer


mediated communication revolution did not just change the nature of work

environment or office equipment. It also expanded the range of people who

use computers routinely to include a much larger fraction of professionals

of all kinds like architects, accountants, lawyers and so on. For example

many organisations are beginning to use computerized communication

systems like email to help managers and other employees keep in contact

when they are in or out of the office. The use of email and computerized

reporting systems has enabled the flattening of organisational hierarchies.

So the impact of CMC is to reduce barriers to communication between

people    at   different    levels   in      an   organisational   hierarchy

(http://www.december, com/cmc/mag/1996/aug/kling.html).

Kling further states that he suspects that electronic communication system

are most likely to facilitate the formation of groups that upper managers

deem to be safe except in those special organisations-like universities where

there are strong norms against censorship.

CMC have created the new forms of work environment in many

organisations. For example Teleworking, which means working at a

distance from the traditional or scheduled work environment. Nowadays

organisations are computerizing their work to allow their workers to work

on the street or at home etc yet connected to the traditional work

environment.                                                           Kling

(        holds that the


adoption of electronic mail to facilitate communication between people who

work in different time zones and the acquisition of compact portable

computers to facilitate working on the road are two routine illustrations of

the changed traditional work environment


Telework keep the remote employer and employee in contact with each

other. Therefore Teleworking reduces the cost of travelling to the work

place, cost of accommodation and decreases the probability of absenteeism.


CMC allows all members of the organisation equal access and participation

in communication, thus favoring low-status employees who are finally free

to express themselves without being penalized (Mantovani 1996:96). CMC

increases rather than reducing status differences in most organisational

contexts because it decentralises communication in the organisation. But

there are two problems against these arguments that are usability and

accessibility. It is not all the employees that are computer literate and have

access to computers either because of physical or cultural, technical and

economical reasons. In short CMC represents another potential social


The other negative aspects of CMC are privacy and security issues. These

tend to be a problem because there are people who are called hackers.

Hackers are people who break into the computer systems of the company


and are called crackers if they have malicious objectives (Mersham and

Skinner 1999:9). Although there are safety measures e.g. passwords,

encryption, etc the hackers manage to break into secured networks.

CMC takes into account the cooperative component of communication that

stimulates reciprocal responsibility for successful interaction and a series of

subtle adaptations among the participants than the traditional model of

communication. Thus allowing the user to feel equally responsible and at

the same time of the same standard to that of the receiver. In electronic

communication, with respect to similar face-to-face communications, higher

status members reduce their interventions while lower status members

increase them (Mantovani 1996:97). CMC reduces the waiting time

between the generation and expression of ideas and thus to minimize the

effects of the production block which in ordinary face to face conversations

deters participants from expressing their ideas immediately as soon as they

come into mind in order to avoid interrupting the speaker. It is true that in

face to face communication a person can loses his/her ideas whilst waiting

for his turn whereas CMC make people feel less inhibited by other people

around them because they sit alone on a computer.

In concluding we have seen that computer mediated communication means

the interaction of people using the Internet. This type of communication has

brought itself the qualities of cooperation and equality of roles in the


communication process. The future of this communication medium is bright

because there is a growing recognition that computerisation facilitates the

development of the socio-economic problems and increases the standards of

communication around the world. Above all it is important for countries

worldwide to install telecommunication infrastructure so that the world can

be a global village accessible to anyone who has the computer and the

necessary equipment to access the Internet.



Mersham, G. M. and Skinner, C. 1999. New approaches to communication

and public relations. Cape Town: Heinemann Publishers

Mantovanni, G. 1996. New communication environments. Great Britain:

Taylor and Francis












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