internal internships

Video-mediated communication vs. face-to-face communication: are emotional interactions fundamentally different online than offline?

Organisation

Universiteit Twente

Location

Enschede

Preferred starting date of the internship

In consultation; starting on short term is possible.

The assignment

The last decades witnessed the rise of a digital revolution. This digital revolution ignited a myriad of social and cultural changes in Western societies. One example of these changes is that it has become increasingly easy for individuals to communicate with each other over great distances, via freely available software such as Skype or FaceTime. It is unclear however, in what manner video-mediated interaction differs from more ‘traditional’ forms of communication, such as face-to-face communication and letter writing. One question that has not been answered as of yet is whether the awareness, expression, and sharing of emotions differs significantly for video-mediated communication in comparison to face-to-face contact. Do groups exchange ideas and cooperate more efficiently if communication is computer-mediated?

Making these types of comparisons are important because increasingly, individuals make use of these types of software in a variety of domains, such as in the professional sphere, in personal affairs and in health-related domains. For victim-offender mediation specifically, video-mediated communication might offer a promising alternative. “Victim-offender mediation is a process that provides interested victims of primarily property crimes and minor assaults the opportunity to meet the juvenile or adult offender, in a safe and structured setting, with the goal of holding the offender directly accountable for his or her behaviour while providing important assistance and compensation to the victim” (Umbreit, 2001 in: Umbreit, Coates & Vos, 2004). The mediator facilitates contact between victim and offender and can act as a go-between if necessary. In the preparatory phase, the mediator meets with both parties separately in order to help them prepare for the exchange. Depending upon the needs, wants and availability of victim and offender, they can either meet face-to-face or opt for a letter exchange.

The question remains whether the use of computer-mediated communication in victim-offender mediation will be effective in increasing its positive impact for victims and offenders. How will digitalized victim-offender mediation sessions differ from face-to-face sessions? Which characteristics of computer-mediated communication will contribute to a positive outcome of victim-offender mediation? And which risks are involved if victim-offender mediation is offered via a digital route? The internship will revolve around these questions.

The goal of the internship is to develop a research design and collect data which will focus on measuring the difference between face-to-face and computer-mediated communication in a setting that emulates a victim-offender mediation setting. The BMS lab which is part of the UT offers an ideal environment for this type of research. At the end of your internship, you should be able to draw scientifically valid conclusions about the differences in flow of communication (e.g. turn-taking) and the type of communication (e.g. emotional richness) between computer-mediated and face-to-face exchanges.

This internship is part of the ongoing research project ‘Design and implementation of ICT-based communication systems for victim-offender mediation’ conducted by Lisanne van den Berg under supervision of Dr. Sven Zebel, Dr. Mariëlle Stoelinga, Prof. dr. ir. Boudewijn Haverkort, and Prof. dr. Ellen Giebels. The focus in the research project is two-fold. On the one hand, it focuses on the design and development of a digital system for victim-offender mediation. On the other hand, it aims to implement this system and evaluate its effectiveness as a tool to be used during victim-offender mediation. This research project is developed and conducted in cooperation with Slachtoffer in Beeld (Victim in Focus, www.slachtofferinbeeld.nl).

Contact info:

This internship is intended for students following the Mastertrack PCRS. Do you want to apply for this internship? Please send a short statement of purpose (max. 200 words) to theme coordinator Sven Zebel (s.zebel@utwente.nl). You can also contact Sven Zebel if you have questions about this internship. 

References

Umbreit, M. S., Coates, R. B. & Vos, B. (2004). Three decades of practice and research.