The Social Information Processing Theory (SIP)

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The Social Information Processing theory (SIP) is the one of the most modern communication theory. It talks about how in the modern world communication has changed with advancement of technology. It comes out with a very different aspect of communication i.e. a way of communication in which there is only verbal communication. This is one theory that brings challenges the fundamental thought of communication comprising of verbal and non-verbal cues, with the latter holding much more importance in the initial stages.
One of the major forms of communication that SIP concentrates on is Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). CMC was considered for task oriented purposes such as information processing, news dissemination, and long distance conferencing.
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Media richness theory: Assigns limited bandwidth to CMC than face-to-face due absence of nonverbal cues.
3. Lack of social context: People are more self-absorbed and less inhibited in CMC resulting in flaming.
Joe Walther came up with this theory strongly advocating that CMC users could develop close relationships using this medium.
CMC versus face-to-face communication: A SIP instead of GULP:
Walther named this theory as signal processing theory because he believed that in relationships parties gain information about each other, to form an image or impression of who they are. Based on this image the two parties draw closer to each other and further relationship development takes place.
All the non-verbal cues like facial expression, body position, touch, smell, appearance and tone of voice are missing. But, these missing features are countered by two features of CMC:
1. Verbal Cues: Motivation to form impressions and to develop relationships compels the communicator to employ any cue system that is available to do the needful.
2. Extended time: The exchange of information is much slower in CMC than face-to-face. But, this does not mean that impression formation will not be there. Also, the relationships built on CMC could not be said to be weaker or
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This is very different in case of CMC. According to Walther, online conversations lead to over attribution of the meager information that we have. Hence, the relationship built on only verbal cues is a hyperpersonal one. For example during social movements when people come together on social networks, they have a positive image of the people they interact in that particular internet group. The sharing of a common interest with so many other people gives a strong sense of belonging to the particular person. Also, this makes CMC much more attractive than face-to-face communication.
Channel: Communicating on your own time
The biggest demand of face-to-face communication is the presence of the two parties at that particular point of time. This maybe be comfortable for one, but not for the other. In contrast, CMC is mediated through a channel that allows partners to interact without the constraint of both attending each other at the same time. You could send an email to your partner at your convenient time and he can reply back according to his convenience. This attribute helps in building a healthy relationship as appointments are not frequently canceled or
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