Media Appropriateness

Using Social Presence Theory to Compare Traditional and New Organizational Media



    1. Ronald E. Rice is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers.
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  • For each of the following sites, I would like to thank those who helped make this study possible, for allowing me to work with them, and/or for sharing the data: for R&D1, Drs. Bob Kraut and Rob Fish of Bell Communications Research Labs; for GOVT, Dr. Jack Torobin; for R&D2, Dr. Lynne Markus and Gail Love; for AERO, Dr. Doug Shook; for CHEM, Joyce Tyler; and for INS, Drs. Doug Shook and Bonnie Johnson. I also thank two anonymous reviewers and Editor Howard Giles for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.


This study assesses a scale measuring appropriateness of media for a variety of organizational communication activities and then compares seven media across six organizational sites. The ranking of media were face-to-face, telephone, meetings, desktop video and videoconferencing, voice mail, text, and electronic mail. Although information exchange and socioemotional relations dimensions emerged, the first provided a parsimonious solution. Multidimensional scaling placed traditional media in separate clusters, and new media together with some instances of text and phone, along interpersonal-mediated and synchronous-asynchronous axes. The appropriateness of face-to-face and meetings did not change over time, whereas ratings of phone and text (to some extent) and new media did. Appropriateness of new media was weakly associated with use. finally, there was very little evidence of social information processing influence on appropriateness, except for organizational newcomers’ratings of the newest medium, desktop video.