08 Aprile 2008

ON-LINE FRIENDSHIP. Three questions to Irina Shklovski (Univ. California Irvine)

Imagine you have to move to a distant city. What would happen to the relationships you have with your friends? Which telecommunication tools would you use to try to maintain friendship? A research collaboration among three universities in the US (California Irvine, Carnegie Mellon e Duke) has followed 900 persons who moved to another cities and the results will be presented today at CHI 2008 in the late afternoon. I’ve briefly discussed with a member of the group (Irina Shklovski) and she tells us about the “major take-away” from the presentation in the following:

Based on your research, is it possible to maintain a friendship without ever meeting face-to-face?
”While there is certainly research that illustrates that it is indeed possible to maintain friendships without ever meeting face-to-face, my own research does not ask this question. The people I studied had moved away from their friends, but that does not mean they do not or will not see them in person again.”

What are the pros and cons of the different communication technologies with respect to maintaining a friendship?
”The major take-away from this paper is that communicating in any way will maintain a friendship. In fact, email is really important for people that move away and can be successfully used for maintaining long distance friendships. However, our results suggest that people who communicate a lot via email may have a harder time achieving further growth in closeness and increases in exchanges of support via email. So it's a useful practical tool for maintaining what was there before the move, but not a very good method for growing closer.”

How did you study users to understand the effects of technology-mediated communication on friendship?  Did you find any surprising behaviors?
”The data was collected via self-report surveys. We asked people to tells us about their experience moving and the friends they left behind. We were surprised to see that over 70% of our respondents did not use instant messaging for interacting with their friends. However, our sample was somewhat older and preferred more traditional communication modalities.”

© 2008, Il Sole 24 Ore. Web report from CHI 2008.