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

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.