Potentials and Limitations of Computer-Mediated Communication Theories for Online Incivility Research: A Focus on Bystander Dynamics

Kim, Yeweon
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This paper provides a comprehensive review of the five major theories of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in order to explore how each theory can illuminate the processes and effects of contemporary online incivility phenomena on bystanders. These theories include: social presence theory, reduced social cues perspective, social identity model of deindividuation effects, social information processing theory, and hyperpersonal model of CMC. Of these five, this paper gives the most discussion to the first three theories that offer relatively more useful explanations of uncivil and antisocial behaviors in CMC, in terms of contributions of limited nonverbal social cues, and then explicates them with respect to the dynamics of online bystanders witnessing those problematic behaviors. This paper also examines, albeit relatively briefly, why the other theories are less useful but still have potentials for researching online bystanders. Further considerations needed to develop each theory and future research are discussed in the conclusion.
Dark Sides of Information Technology Use, bystander, computer-mediated communication, cyberbullying, online hate, theoretical review
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