Video Calling in Long-Distance Relationships: The Opportunistic use of Audio/Video Distortions as a Relational Resource

Update: Now free and open access! The online version is the definitive version as it has embedded video examples.

Video calling couple | Author

Video calling couple | |Source: Author

Rintel, S. (2013). Video Calling in Long-Distance Relationships: The Opportunistic use of Audio/Video Distortions as a Relational Resource. The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronic de Communication (EJC/REC) Special issue on Videoconferencing in Practice: 21st Century Challenges, 23 (1&2) [Format: Local PDF of pre-publication version].

Abstract:

Video calling is now a realistic option for couples in distance relationships. This paper explores whether audio/video distortions block intimate relational talk. From a naturalistic two-month trial of couples trying video calling to maintain their distance relationships, it is found that couples can opportunistically use audio/video distortions as a relational resource rather than simply treating them as a blocking or outside of relational talk. First, technological mediation can be treated as relevant to disambiguating whether the repair involves simple content repetition or a more complex relational issue. Second, distortions can be treated as resources for relational parody and teasing. It is argued that the opportunistic use of distortions as a relational resource extends Hutchby’s (2001b) notion of technologized interaction, in which technology frames but does not determine social action. Rather than proposing yet another model of communication that includes more detail about noise as deviance that must be remedied, or taking an undifferentiated approach to distortion as “trouble,” the technologized interaction approach broadens our conceptions of online relationships as involving the use of technological features to a more holistic sense of technological mediation being part and parcel of maintaining online relationships.

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