The communication of influence through technology-enabled media
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Theory and research regarding interpersonal influence and communication media have conceptualized both in terms of contextual or a priori factors, situated action and interaction, or behavioral outcomes. Given the primacy of influence in collective action and the increasingly pervasive role communication technologies play in organizational settings, the goal of this study was to examine the relationships between influence and media from all three perspectives. Perceptions of the context of media use in collaborative settings were described using self-guided focus groups and survey response data. A series of structured group experiences was then administered to create a collaborative problem-solving environment using one of three media capabilities: face-to-face, voice conference, and chat. Behavioral indices of influence were recorded during the structured group experiences to explore effects attributable to media. Finally, in-depth perceptual data was collected through semi-structured interviews to determine how media in use during the structured group experiences impacted interpersonal influence and the context in which that influence was expressed. viii Results indicate that common experiences and perceptions of communication media were situated within a larger context of use, one in which media affect and are affected by relevant aspects of that context. Ten such contextual factors and the relationships between them were described and illustrated. Media were not found to account for any meaningful differences in behavioral indices of influence; the nature of those indices suggests that informational influence was independent of the medium through which it was expressed. However, media differences were responsible for pronounced effects on perceptions of influence when conceptualized beyond behavioral measures, as well as on perceptions and experiences of various elements of the context of media use and the environment in which influence was expressed and exchanged. In general, variations in non-verbal sensory and feedback cues accounted for most of the perceptual findings. However, the nature of the effects, as well as other factors unrelated to non-verbal cues, suggested a functional perspective that was more informative for meaningfully discriminating between media and their effects: interactivity, social awareness, and propinquity. Practical and theoretical considerations are discussed in light of the obtained results.