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39 J. Broad & Elec. Media 517 (1995)
Illusions and Ambiguities in the Telemedia Environment: An Exploration of the Transformation of Social Roles

handle is hein.journals/jbem39 and id is 527 raw text is: jora o     a     i
Illusions and Ambiguities in the Telemedia
Environment: An Exploration of the
Transformation of Social Roles
Dineh M. Davis
Ambiguities and illusions have always been an inherent part of human communi-
cation, used both to increase our pleasures and to add uncertainties to our already
complex lives. Opportunities for creating such ambiguities increase in mediated
domains and reach their peak in the new telemedia environment. This study focuses
on the ambiguities embedded in the fluid human-telemedia infrastructure. It sug-
gests the need for new signposts to guide our understanding of this environment and
the changes it will bring to social roles.
From the first moment, human communication occurred with its own built-in capacity
for creating illusions and confusions, and it has been fraught with ambiguities ever since.
Telemediated modes of communication have added their own layers of ambiguity to the
process. Each time a new opportunity for communication is created, imaginative humans
have found ways to use its capabilities beyond the inventor's dreams. The most recent
developments in digital technology, emphasizing media convergence and interactivity,
have created what may be called the telemedia environment. As traditional mass media
continue their path toward full integration with digital computer-based systems, we will
have a powerful new medium bringing myriad possibilities for experimentation, cre-
ativity, and unimagined social influence. Examining some nuances inherent in the
technologies that will support our public communication fora will enhance the quality
of our future research and our ability to reap the greatest benefits from these media.
Before undertaking an analysis of illusions and ambiguities in the new electronic
media, my first task is to identify the specific limits of the domain under consideration.
This delineation is critical in the larger context of historical and contemporary research
in the areas of meaning construction and the study of ambiguities and illusions. Many
scholars interested in the fundamental concepts of communication have focused on the
construction of meaning in general, the application of those theories to mass media mes-
sages, and the social and political ramifications of the institutionalized transmission of
such messages (see, for examples that cover this broad range, Giddens' series on
Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences and McQuail's (1994) comprehensive cri-
tique of such theories as they apply to mass communication). Meanwhile, the
Dineh M. Davis (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1974) is Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Chair of the
Department of Communication, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her research interests include social aspects of
telecommunication technologies and their gendered applications. This manuscript was accepted for publication
in July 1995.
01995 Broadcast Education Association  Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 39, 1995, pp. 517-554.

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