Over the past week Google has been rolling out the first invitations to its latest service, a complex « real-time communication and collaboration » system dubbed Google Wave.Instead of sending messages back and forth, users create web-page-like documents called waves that others can modify or comment on, using a combination of features more usually seen separately in email, wikis, instant messaging and social networking (see a video introducing Wave). (…)
« We need to ask what opportunity Wave allows people to express themselves and to understand what other people mean when they contribute a message to a conversation, » explains psychologist Leon Watts, who researches communication via computer at the University of Bath, UK.
Two of the features of Wave that are likely to alter how people communicate are related to time: it allows users to see others typing live, even if they later delete that text; and a « replay » function plays back the complex tangle of interactions that produced a wave.(…)
Seeing live typing may accentuate that effect, but Wave can also be asynchronous, like email. « We won’t see the difference between the two types of communication disappear, » says Herring. « More elaborate messages are still possible, but when the other person is online you will be drawn to a more informal style. » The pace and style of communicating with Wave will be more varied than with email. (…)
That may also help reduce the misunderstandings that can blight email communication, says Herring: when people don’t pick up that a comment is meant as a joke, for instance. « You have a multiplicity of channels to repair the conversation. » (…)
To be followed…