Persistent Conversation Minitrack

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A significant consequence of communication technologies is that conversations are no longer ephemeral and volatile. Most conversations mediated by technology leave a persistent record and become persistent conversations. This persistence transforms the essence of conversation, and it is the focus of extensive academic and applied research. The persistent conversation minitrack is the home of this research at HICSS.

Persistent conversations are being created using text, audio, images, and video, and they are a part of every aspect of life: From the Cluetrain Manifesto's "markets are conversations", through Robin Dunbar's conversations as devices for social grooming, conversations are at the heart of every human activity. Accordingly, the minitrack is open to research on persistent conversation from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including communication, management, education, computer science, sociology, political science, psychology, linguistics, law, and the like.

As noted by Tom Erickson and Susan Herring, who established the Persistent Conversation minitrack at HICSS in 1999, the persistent trace frees conversations from the lock-step synchrony of face-to-face talk. It allows to dramatically scale the number of participants within a single discussion and to distribute an interaction over geographies, time zones, and cultures. Human and machine access to those digital traces enables a wide set of prisms and analyses, leading to novel insights into the numerous forms of human activity.

At the same time, the persistence of human communication imposes a new set of challenges. For example, what mechanisms perform the role of the ephemeral social cues of face-to-face conversation? What are the ethical consequences of the creation of potentially permanent records in terms of privacy, accountability, and the right to be forgotten? In addition, claims have been made about the loss of intimacy, depth, and quality of human communication when it is carried out digitally, especially in the case of massive open communication.

The aim of this minitrack is to bring together researchers and innovators to explore digitally persistent conversation and its implications for learning, commercial transactions, entertainment, news, politics, and other forms of human interaction; to raise new socio-technical, ethical, pedagogical, linguistic and social questions; and to suggest new methods, perspectives, and design approaches.

Examples of appropriate topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Innovation in digital conversational practice: turn-taking, threading, and other structural features of CMC
  • The dynamics and analysis of large scale conversation systems (e.g., MOOCs and big data applications)
  • Methods for analyzing persistent conversation
  • Studies of virtual communities or other sites of digital conversation
  • The role of persistent conversation in knowledge management
  • The role of persistent conversation in organizational dynamics
  • Domain specific applications, opportunities and challenges of persistent conversations (e.g., in education, healthcare, social movements, government, citizen participation)
  • Conversation visualization, and visual cues
  • The role of listeners, lurkers, and silent interactions
  • Social presence and the persistence of an attributed user's identity

Minitrack Co-Chairs:

Sheizaf Rafaeli (Primary Contact)
University of Haifa

Yoram M Kalman
The Open University of Israel

Carmel Kent
University of Haifa


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
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    Politician's Strategic Impression Management on Instagram
    ( 2017-01-04) Jung, Younbo ; Tay, Ashley ; Hong, Terence ; Ho, Judith ; Goh, Yan Hui
    With the growing trend of Instagram usage among politicians, this study investigates the effects of two self-presentation styles of personalization (i.e. presenting the private over the public life of a politician) and interactivity (i.e. presenting the active versus passive voice of a politician) on voters’ perception of politicians and their voting intention in the context of Instagram. The results of an experiment (n = 120) showed that presenting the public life of a politician had a more positive effect on perception of character, compared to the private life. Using a highly interactive style on Instagram had a more positive effect on perception of character, compared to a lack of interactivity. Finally, character perception was found to be a mediator for the effects of personalization and interactivity on voting intention. Theoretical implications with respect to impression management on social media, as well as practical implications for political engagement, are discussed.
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    “Nice Picture Comment!” Graphicons in Facebook Comment Threads
    ( 2017-01-04) Herring, Susan ; Dainas, Ashley
    Facebook has increasingly incorporated graphical means of communication such as emoticons, emoji, stickers, GIFs, images, and videos (‘graphicons’) into comment threads. Adapting methods of computer‐ mediated discourse analysis, we analyze the frequency and pragmatic functions of each graphicon type in threads sampled from public graphicon-focused Facebook groups. Six main functions emerged from the data: mention, reaction, tone modification, riffing, action, and narrative sequence. Reaction was most common, and emoji expressed the widest array of functions. We propose structural, social, and technical explanations for variation in graphicon use, and suggest improvements for the design of conversational graphical elements in social media systems.
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    Meetings as Persistent Conversations that use ICTs and Face-to-Face to Build Social Capital
    ( 2017-01-04) Stephens, Keri ; Cruz, Ignacio ; Waters, Eric ; Zhu, Yaguang
    Attending meetings is a common activity where people accomplish tasks and extend their relationships. But what happens when a meeting is over? Is that the end of the meeting conversation? This study empirically demonstrates that meetings are not discrete events; rather they are a form of persistent conversation processes, involving combinations of ICTs and face-to-face communication. Conversations between meetings contribute to a meeting process-perspective and link to the development of bonding and bridging social capital. The findings suggest that the frequency of face-to-face conversations and text messaging between meetings, positively impact bonding social capital. Peoples’ attitudes toward continuing conversations between meetings positively impacts bridging social capital. The frequency of using many contemporary ICTs—e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and GroupMe—between meetings was not a significant predictor in developing social capital, even in a sample of young adults.
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    Is Aggression Contagious Online? A Case of Swearing on Donald Trump’s Campaign Videos on YouTube
    ( 2017-01-04) Kwon, K. Hazel ; Gruzd, Anatoliy
    This study explores whether aggressive text-based interactions in social media are contagious. In particular, we examine swearing behaviour of YouTube commentators in response to videos and comments posted on the official Donald Trump’s campaign channel. Our analysis reveals the presence of mimicry of verbal aggression. Specifically, swearing in a parent comment is significantly and positively associated with the likelihood and intensity of swearing in subsequent ‘children’ comments. The study also confirms that swearing is not solely a product of an individual speech habit but also a spreadable social practice. Based on the findings, we conclude that aggressive emotional state can be contagious through textual mimicry. \
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    Introduction to Persistent Conversation Minitrack
    ( 2017-01-04) Rafaeli, Sheizaf ; Kalman, Yoram ; Kent, Carmel