Emotions and the spatialization of social relations in text-based computer-mediated communication

Baralou, Evangelia and Mcinnes, Peter (2013) Emotions and the spatialization of social relations in text-based computer-mediated communication. New Technology, Work and Employment, 28 (2). 160–175. ISSN 0268-1072

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Abstract

This paper advances our knowledge of emotions in virtual teams using text-based computer mediated communication (TB-CMC). The literature’s preoccupation with the absence of physical cues of emotion has meant we lack both an understanding of how emotions are co-constructed through interaction, and an explanation of their role in the social relations of virtual teams. Adopting a communicative view of emotion, we present the findings of a longitudinal study of a virtual team within a trans-national collaborative project. We present three aspects of interaction that demonstrate how team members’ experience and understanding of the emotions expressed through, and suppressed from, text-based messages are influenced by the styles and patterns of interaction enabled by technology. Where our three aspects tend towards stasis, we argue that emotion provides a temporal dimension to a process of ‘spatializing’ social relations by connoting what should change, or what should endure, between people.