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Mediated communication or mediated interaction (less often, mediated discourse) refers to communication carried out by the use of information communication technology, and can be contrasted to face-to-face communication.[1][2] While nowadays the technology we use is often related to computers, giving rise to the popular term computer-mediated communication, mediated technology need not be computerized: writing a letter using a pen and a piece of paper is also using mediated communication.[3] Thus Davies defines mediated communication as the use of any technical medium for transmission across time and space.[3]

Compared to face-to-face communication, mediated communication engages fewer senses, transmitting fewer symbolic cues (for example, most mediated communication does not transmit facial expressions) and is seen as more private.[4][5] Parties usually require some technical expertise to operate the mediating technologies.[2] New computerized media, such as mobile telephones or instant messaging, allow mediated communication to transmit more oral and nonverbal symbols than the older generation tools.[2]

Because of those problems, as noted by Nardi and Whittaker (2002), "many theorists imply that face-to-face communication is the gold standard of communication",[6] Mediated communication has been, however, described as more preferable in some situations, particularly where time and geographical distance are an issue.[6] For example, in maintaining long-distance friendship, face-to-face communication was only the fourth most common way of maintaining ties, after mediated communication tools of telephone, email and instant messaging.[7]

Historically, mediated communication was much rarer than the face-to-face method.[8] Even though humans possessed the technology to communicate in space and time for millennia, the majority of world's population lacked skills such as literacy to use them.[8] This begun to change in Europe with the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg that led to the spread of printed texts and rising literacy from the 15th century.[8] Separately, the first print culture was Chinese in origin,[9] with woodblock printing known from the 9th century, widespread adoption of paper-money, playing cards, and other printed goods far earlier than the West. Whatever the tradition, face-to-face interaction has begun to steadily lose ground to mediated communication.[8]

The type of mediated technology used can also influence its meaning.[2] This is most famously rendered in Marshall McLuhan's maxim the medium is the message".[10]

Lundby (2009) distinguished between three forms of mediated communication: mediated interpersonal communication, interactive communication, and mass communication.[11] Thompson (1995), however, treated mass communication not as a part of mediated communication, but on par with mediated and face-to-face communication, terming it "mediated quasi-interaction".[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. (1994) Communication Theory Today, Stanford University Press. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 (1 January 2012) Business and Professional Communication in a Digital Age, Cengage Learning. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Joseph E. Davis (2000). Identity and Social Change, Transaction Publishers. URL accessed 5 June 2013.
  4. (1 January 1993) Between Communication and Information, Transaction Publishers. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 John B. Thompson (1995). The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media, 83-84, Stanford University Press. URL accessed 5 June 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 (2002) "The Place of Face-to-Face Communication in Distributed Work" Distributed Work, MIT Press. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
  7. (2011) Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships, Peter Lang. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 (2011) The Collective Memory Reader, Oxford University Press. URL accessed 5 June 2013.
  9. A Hyatt Mayor, Prints and People, Metropolitan Museum of Art/Princeton, 1971, nos 1-4. ISBN 0-691-00326-2
  10. Paul Grosswiler (2010). Transforming McLuhan: Cultural, Critical, and Postmodern Perspectives, Peter Lang. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
  11. Knut Lundby (2009). Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences, 24–, Peter Lang. URL accessed 4 June 2013.
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