Syntegration Topic (Return to List of Topics)


Topic ICTs, Context and Face-to-Face Communiction
Participants | Ian Perry | Pete Barnsley | David Best | Raul Espejo | John Mingers |
Critics | Consuelo Davila | Chris Atkinson | Roger Harnden | Keith Pheby | Clas-Otto Wene |

Meeting 1 Notes

Meeting 2 Notes

Meeting 3 NotesOutcome Resolve

Co-ordinator = John Mingers

Date: 9 July  Time: 16:40 to 17:55  Facilitators: Delia & Hector


  • We have to be careful about using concepts like "lock-in".
  • We can see a variety of reasons for the purposes of communication and a variety of mechanisms for communication. Face-to-face is a special case of communication. Here it seems important the context and the physicality (i.e., the physical touching).
  • Some members of the group think that ICT has nothing to do with face-to-face; ICT is about doing things at a distance. In this sense, how can we put context in ICT?
  • How can we extract the meaning of "somebody" or "something"? For that we need to explain what does it mean "to know someone": what has to be included in the rich picture?
  • Knowing can be seen from the operational domain. We make models of persons but these models are not fixed. We have to be concerned with the evolution of the person, because the traditional concept of construction of a model to be used by others doesn't represent the reality.
  • ICT can codify the person but it lacks different senses of 'knowing'.
  • Any communication presupposes a response. Communication has a relation with channel capacity, but many communications are done without channel capacity, for example the culture permits to trigger responses impossible to be done without it.


  • Is co-ordination of action communication?
  • How does face-to-face impact on behaviour (as opposed to new ICT impact on behaviour), which gives a better co-ordination of actions?
  • Is the significance of communication the pattern?
  • Face-to-face doesn't imply transparency in a communication. Maybe we need to question the privileged of the face-to-face relationship.
  • Maybe ICT filters out what is pathological in face-to-face encounters.
  • Not always face-to-face is the best medium of communication.
  • Can you make better communications with ICT? Does distance help to improve the quality of communications?


  • What is the role of 'intuition' in the face-to-face context?
  • What do we mean when we say that the face-to-face expression is 'better'? Better doesn't to be seen in technical terms. 
  • We can distinguish among mediated communications, face-to-face communications and contextual communications; which are required to co-ordinate actions?
  • Is it 'better' related to norms? Is it 'better'related to 'authenticity'? It seems that we need to problematise the concept of 'better' in this context.
  • Does communication presuppose knowledge from previous interactions? And is recurrent co-ordination of actions the proof of communication? Do we even have a topic here?


  • What does it mean authenticity in the 'virtual world'? Where is the legitimacy aspect?
  • Will ICTs reduce richness of experience or not? What about the rapid advance of technology? Will ICT give rise to new to new levels of richness? Will our horizons of how we interact with ICT be enlarged?
  • It seems that we need to increase certain domains of communication like with politicians. In a way we need to widen the 'here and now'; we need to get a concern of the short and the long-term consequences of communication.


  • Perhaps we need to restate our issue in the following way: What is the role of face-to-face communication and ICT in the recurrence of co-ordination of actions?
  • Do we have a framework to study any communication?
  • We need to investigate the concepts of 'richer' or 'variety' in this context. What is the difference between them? Is it physical or emotional? Maybe efficiency is the difference.
  • Current ICTs at the moment have a lower richness (i.e., variety).
  • The original mode of communication is the face-to-face, so it is, in a way, the primary one. The other modes can be compared with this primary mode. From this we can envisage modes of communication with less face-to-face communication 'richness'.
  • ICTs co-evolve with and affect the world we inhabit. From this co-evolution context emerges which implies certain communication requirements that ICT and face-to-face communications may never supply.
  • Virtuality has limits that need to be explored.
  • Communication is not information transmission.
  • We need to develop a framework about desirability, efficiency, etc.


This group has a discussion that can be summarised as follows:

  1. We have identified that there are aspects of human communications by which the current variety of ICTs are inadequate to support. The elaboration of these ideas will provide areas of research for innovation in ICTs
  2. Because of the non-functional information nature of the communication that occurs among actors, we need to explore which framework can be developed to explore soft aspects such as: desirability, sufficiency, widening, etc. Extrapolation of whether recurrence of the occurrence of co-ordination of actions and whether communication presupposes knowledge from previous interactions are two areas that we may wish to consider.
  3. We note the immense richness of human communication regarding purposes, modes and presuppositions. Different media enable/disable particular aspects of communication; so far ICTs tend to disable embodied dimensions of communication and cognition. Therefore the need to research the effect of this and how ITCs can be enhanced to overcome it.
  4. How ICTs affect the co-evolution of the world we inhabit? From this co-evolution multiple contexts emerge, which imply that communications, as recurrent co-ordination of actions, may have requirements that ICTs and face-to-face communication may never supply, and therefore it seems that virtuality and face-to-face communications have limits that need to be explored.