ACM Phatic 01

Sarjanoja, Ari-Heikki; Minna Isomursu and Jonna Häkkilä 2013. Small Talk with Facebook: Phatic Communication in Social Media. AcademicMindTrek '13: Proceedings of International Conference on Making Sense of Converging Media. New York: ACM, 118-121.

In this paper, we analyzed a data set of 484 unique communication events taking place in Facebook. The key contribution of this paper is the content based analysis showing that people mostly share events from their everyday lives, even if the information is repetitious or does not have any informational meaning, this practice prevailing even though most such updates were regarded as uninteresting ones. Moreover, a considerable amount of status updates was seen to fall into category of 'small talk'. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 118)

One of the interesting possibilities about reading all of these "computer machinery" related papers at once is seeing how IT-researcher reformulate (transform) the stale phatic tropes. Ideally, since it's somewhat removed from anthropology and linguistics and focused on new technology, this is where the most up-to-date correspondences should hide.

Here, "events from their everyday lives" refers to the fact that people "post what they know", but the outcome is tantamount to the "primitive"-s situation of talking about what's in the immediate surrounding environment. That this information is "repetitious", i.e. reduntant, likens it to the "noise" in the channel. There are statements by linguists about how every person's everyday speech is tinted with repetitious linguistic material, lines of thought, etc. brought about by people being fixated with their mundane issues and using conversation, in a way, to cope and overcome them.

The results show that the communication through Facebook has strong element of phatic communion, i.e. it serves the purpose of maintaining and defining social relationships and enacts social cohesiveness. Our results reveal an interesting contradiction between uninteresting content and (obviously) interesting service; and suggests that small talk type entries can be seen as a tool for increasing one's social capital by being active. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 118)

While "maintaining" is a fairly common median term (between approach/establish and terminate/close, for example), "defining social relationships" takes us into the ballpark of Gregory Bateson's mu-function, i.e. communication about relationship. It is curious how often and easily people jump intuitively to some conceptualization of this type of metacommunication when discussing phatics.

Enacting social cohesiveness (for the latter there are numerous synonyms, i.e. unity, congruence, conformity, etc. not to mention the sociological staples of assimilation and integration in the social process) is nearly the point of the original formulation, i.e. the sharing of moral sentiments through social communion. Though here it is probably meant in a more lax sense, i.e. the sense of togetherness.

The issue of social capital is somewhat problematic since I'm not sure how Bourdieu's theory would actually intermesh with phatics. On the surface it seems intuitive enough, but I'm sure there are caveats to this connection that currently elude me. What is social capital even in the internet age?

Nadkarni and Hofmann suggest that the primary motivations behind using Facebook are two social needs - the need to belong, and the need for self-presentation. Joinson has investigated the motives and uses of Facebook, and reports on seven different categories found. Here, keeping in touch was the most frequently mentioned use case by the users, followed by passive contact ('virtual people-watching').s (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 118)

The need to belong (or the longer version, belongingness) are fairly common but "the need for self-presentation" is especially interesting because this mirrors Malinowski's passing remark about "ambition", meaning something to the effect that some people engage in phatic communion to, well, increase their social capital, so to say.

"Keeping in touch" is the natural conclusion from the contact trope, followed up by the likes of Licoppe and Smoreda, for example. Now, passive contact or virtual people-watching would match with all the discourse about ambient presence, but essentially it is more closer to "lurking". It presents some theoretical interestibila in terms of information-orientation (equally in the case of people joining the casual conversation just to hear what other people are talking about - our new technologies allow for more such possibilities).

In [12], Miller argues that phatic communication is increasingly dominating the online media culture and states that the maintenance of network itself has become the primary focus rather than exchanging substantive content. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 118)

Just like I sometimes still discover something very obvious in Jakobson by how other people mediate him, this is the first time I've noticed that Miller has effectively performed a very significant act of generalization: whereas Jakobson meant the ongoing interaction (the physical channel and psychological connection of the moment), concepts like phatic media culture focus on the maintenance of the network of communication rather than a single instance of communication. This could be related to the progressive "continuation" effect of modern communications - i.e. the fact that e-mail exchanges are seen rather like a continuous conversation rather than a series of discrete messages. There was a Facebook funny pic about this circulating today - that we don't say "brb" anymore because we don't leave anymore, we live here now.

Next, the participants were asked to open their Facebook accounts by using a computer which was equipped with Mozilla Firefox, Greasemonkey extension and a script that added the rating scale below each of the status updates. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 119)

Huh, that's a really neat solution to gathering data from social media. It does require some technical know-how other researchers studying similar phenomena may not have.

Our observations indicate, that the choice of the subjective evaluation parameter emphasized the information content value, i.e. how informative or activating the users found the status updates. Therefore, the updates that included little or no information value were mostly rated not interesting. However, this might have some other, less obvious signaling value for the users, and serve the role of "social grooming" or a signal of availability through a specific channel. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 119)

What is meant by "activating"? This sounds like some cognitive-catalytic criteria, but such mentalistic stuff is obviously difficult to treat. The signalling of availability is something quite frequent in this kind of literature (especially in terms of allowances such as "X has seen your message") but here a source is given. Obviously the next step would be to start tracking the bibliography and really getting into this research (can't stay in the narrow "phatic" lane forever).

We can only estimate which kind of status updates are found most interesting, because for example tie strength have an effect to the rating. However, the rating contributes to the analysis of the role of phatic communion in SNS, especially Facebook. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 119)

I know Malinowski uses the archaic phrase "ties of fellowship" but is it ever odd to see "relationship" in terms of "tie strength". It's probably on point, though, because social ties have varying degrees of strength, much like the "circles" in Google Plus.

The largest category was clearly the everyday routines and observations. This category included status updates which told mostly about obvious or repeated events, like "Monday, Monday...", or trivial information, like "Going to sleep". The number of these non informational messages supports the theory about the significant role of phatic communication in online media culture. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 120)

I see that this paper follows the interpretation germane to corpus linguistics, which views phaticity in a pejorative sense as meaningless communication, rather than "social communion" pure and simple. In effect, the emphasis on desemantization and the like have shifted the original point of "language used for social purposes" to "empty use of language", as if they were the same thing. Effectively, nearly all the categories listed in a table are social, because it's on social media.

Although most of the content was found uninteresting, it is obviously not a critical factor in the use of the service. The status update creation culture indicates that people may have a strong need to maintain their alleged social capital. On the other hand, they might just have exhibitionistic needs. In both cases, some of the status updates have more meaning for the writer itself than to the people who read them. People have a need to express themselves or signal their existence in the service even when they really do not have anything to say. (Sarjano, Isomuru & Häkkilä 2013: 120)

This alleged social capital has a bibliographical reference which I need to follow up (Burke et al. 2010) but I think this passage is hitting the nail on the head as it comes to the difference between face-to-face interaction for which the concept was originally formulated and the abstract phatic systems (Wang et al. 2016) of modern society. Namely, we are engaging in sociality via the intermediary of screens and could have much different motivations than we do face-to-face.

Kirk, David S.; David Chatting, Paulina Yurman and Jo-Anne Bichard 2016. Ritual Machines I & II: Making Technology at Home. CHI '16: Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York: ACM, 2474-2486.

Changing patterns of both work-related mobility and domestic arrangements mean that 'mobile workers' face challenges to support and engage in family life whilst travelling for work. Phatic devices offer some potential to provide connection at a distance alongside existing communications infrastructure. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2474)

This is the point of many recent studies of new technologies; e.g. Licoppe and Smoreda and nearly all of the phatic technologies crowd. Family life can stand for any (primary) group. (Note, should read that old paper on primary groups.) "Devices" is synonymous with technologies, and possibly even "solutions". Connection at what distance, though? Cross-national, geological, or across the livingroom?

The kinds of telecommunications infrastructure we have in place in industrialized nations offers intriguing support to the distance imposing patterns of mobile work. Consequently, visions of the network society and our living digitally are very much coming to fruition. Networked technologies such as video communication, much vaunted as a panacea to our communication problems, have a long history of critical scrutiny within the HCI community. But our research concerns have had little impact on the mass adoption of video-based services such as Skype. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2474)

Both of these sources originate from the turn of the century. Indeed, much has changed in the last 17-18 years. It might be interesting to read these sources to compare our modern digital lives to millenial visioneers in greater detail. Are there postulated ways of progress that haven't come to fruition (yet)?

In thinking through the haecceities of remate workers' lives, we became interested in the patterns, rhythms and rituals of family life. Whilst we might commonly think of 'ritual' in broadly anthropological terms we can also think of it in more prosaic, quotidian ways. For example Wolin and Bennett define family ritual as "a symbolic form of communication that, owing to the satisfaction that family members experience through its repetition, is acted out in a systematic fashion over time". Arguably, the work of being a family comes from an engagement in just these prosaic ritual activities. We demonstrate love for one another through shared engagement in routine domestic tasks. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2474)

The source given for rituals of family life is new but the conjunction between phaticity and rituals stems from Malinowski's original essay and possibly the elaborations of his studens (such as Firth) so that sometimes phatic routines are included amongst interaction rituals, for example, or social communion is itself studied as if it were ritualistic (James Slotta's 2015 paper about the ritual communication between the government and its subjects immediately comes to mind). The semiotic contention here is that verbal etiquette is ritualistic, in such expressions as "Hello" and "Goodbye" the referential function lapses and instead their accomplishment or consummation, as a mode of action, becomes highilighted.

It is our contention that when away from home it is these rituals, these routine activities, providing moments of prosaic familial interaction that we miss. And it might therefore be ritual activities that offer a hook through which we might re-engage mobile workers with matters of family life, when far from home. We wished to speculate on how phatic technologies might be a resource for re-engagement with these activities when travelling for work, and to further understand the contingencies of living and reconciling a life as both a mobile worker and a family member. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2474)

The underlying emphasis seems to be habit and perhaps normalization, and heading towards online ambient co-presence in rituals of family life. The recurring term re-engagement is interesting and telling: interesting because it's a contact trope specific to mobile workers and telling because of its belonging into the vocabulary of marriage rituals (i.e. marital engagement).

Equally, within the HCI community there is a large body of research that has sought to understand how we can design technologies for domestic spaces and situate them within the home often entangled with, legacy infrastructure. Our concern for phatic technologies connecting mobile workers back to family life, within the home, clearly speaks to such research agendas. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2475)

The sources refer to smart house and connected home books but this made me think of the speculative possibility that something like Malinowski's "survivals" may become a greater problem when technologies continue their fast-paced development and social relations begin to pick up; the online platform a person was socialized with may become a relevant factor. That is, not connected vs unconnected peoples, but between differentially connected people.

Connecting Through Phatics - Phatic technologies are devices that serve to express the non-verbal emphatic, emotive and paralinguistic elements of communication. There have been a variety of studies of phatic technologies (although not all would perhaps use that term), which construct points of communication and connection between people (and places) through a diverse set of technical and sensory arrangements. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2475)

Gibbs, Vetere et al. has a list comparable to La Barre's broad definition, and the last entry reads "Express emotion, not necessarily with words or text, but also in 'unspoken' ways" (p. 4). Here these 'unspaken' ways have become "non-verbal emphatic", which pretty much goes to the heart of Tylor's "natural language". Phatic technology studies seem to concul with La Barre, to a large extent, and go implicitly against Malinowski with his de-emphasized role of "feelings", and Jakobson with his all too linguistic take on intonation and the interrogative/imperative inflections that require the communication chain to continue.

These pieces eloquently demonstrate the importance of a nuanced socio-technical understanding of the context of use when developing technologies that work specifically with and for families. A more comprehensive review and critique of the broad range of phatic technologies can be found in [25]. Perhaps important to take from such discussions though is an understanding that whilst the phatics themselves are obviously designed with separated individuals (or groups) in mind they often fail to critically consider the placing of technology within the 'home' as a mobile and contingent locale and there is less emphasis on understanding the specific contingencies of the mobile worker and family-person. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2475)

I just recently recalled how my fascination with Malinowski began with Ray Birdwhistell's attribution of his own emphasis on context (e.g. Kinesics and Context) on the former's context of the situation. So it may very well be that Malinowski was among those who first pointed out the importance of nonverbal communication.

Phatics is here clearly a synonym for phatic technologies (why not phatechs?) but I'll retain my plural use on the theoretical level, referring to the different interpretations (communion, communication, function) of phaticity. In that sense, these authors use the words phatic communication very symptomatically (La Barrean, emotive line; as oppsed to J.-s conative and M.-s referential).

My home is where my equipment is. It is contingent only on my free access to a connection.

Of significant importance though is the characterization given to research in this space by Crabtree et al. (2012), who argue that our interests should lie not in designing technologies that are easier to manage but in designing technologies that allow us to better manage everyday life. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2475)

Perhaps those are converging design principles? Intuitive design patterns should lead to a greater automatization of everyday life, both figurative (e.g. the psychological habituation of William James) and literal (technological) sense.

With this concept of generating 'tactical understanding' in mind we have been drawn to the design and deployment of 'provotypes', a deployed design, an explicitly provocative prototype, which is provisional, open and possibly incomplete although allowing for the language of consumer products to be utilised. The aim of such designs is to perturb space and social dynamics to foreground implicit assumptions and concerns within a research population. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2476)

Openness, great. Perturbing space and social dynamics, great. The language of consumer products, naah.

We quite quickly focused on their reported simple shared pleasure of having a drink together at the end of the day, when Sam is finally asleep and they have done "all the serious stuff". So we began to sketch, prototype and refine designs that would allow the couple to drink together whilst apart. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2477-2478)

Another drop in the bucket titled "the role of alcohol in sociability". In this case, couples enjoy drinking by themselves for relaxation.

Jesper's Diary of a Mobile Worker gave us further insights into professional travel and accommodation in the high-end hospitality industry. Our visits and their photographs highlighted to us how carefully their home was curated. This was especially true of the living room, where choices were made exclusively by Hywell with close attention to colour and materials. While their working lives were both very busy with regular periods of sometimes-sustained separation, they told us of their frequent holidays or weekends away together, which were carefully planned and anticipated keenly. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2478)

Living room is the foremost "phatic space" in the domicile, at least the mainstream Western cultures. And planning and anticipating time spent together extends this metaphor into time (Licoppe and Smoreda were once again on point with the time-aspect, Kunreuther's radio-calls also come to mind).

While the interface could be used remotely, we became interested in how we could structure ritual acts around the achine when both were present. Using Apple's iBeacon proximity technology we were able to estimate the display between each phone and the display, this allowed us to prototype a series of proximate interactions. We enjoyed the Cold War film language of double locks and secure systems that require two people to initiate a sequence. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2479)

What a random tidbit on personal interestibilia. I like that the installation behaves differently when a pair of persons is physically present. It is likely that in the presumably coming age of wall-screens, every public space could host personalised ads for people passing by.

Our devices, Machine I and II, were both engineered to create moments of synchrony and connectedness, in parallel with (rather than replacement of) extant communications infrastructure (e.g. mobile phones, Skype etc.). The two devices leveraged notions of ritual but to varying success. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2481)

Varying success indeed. What the interview statements in this paper bare witness to is a desire for physical closeness with partner, not moments of synchrony. Everyone's already synchronous via phone calls and instant chats. It does seem that the couple testing the smart wine-pouring machine were hung up about giving off the impression of alcoholics, and probably felt that drinking via online co-presence is still "drinking alone". The other family didn't seem to be physically present for the cumbersome ticking machine, having found no need for a technologically mediated moment of synchrony.

Celebrate reunion and anticipate togetherness rather than just connection - Evidently for Holly and Craig there was value in the shared drink ritual but for them its true value was in marking that work was done and that the 'mobility' had come to an end. Machine II was already responding to this notion and worked immediately with a sense of reunion and orientation towards the future of being together, potentially having more success for that. Systems such as Rendezvous work around the remote working pattern and worry less about live connection focusing on creating shared connections - even if this might be in the future. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2482)

Evidently, indeed, as the abstention from use seems to have ostensively communicated normative behaviour towards recreational drugs. It is okay to drink when celebrating the end of a job but inappriate to relax with a bottle of wine when connected online. It may be that the traditional filter was called up be the implications of a wine dispenser (the subjects discussed it more with acquaintances than actually used it, making it a talking piece, and, in a sense a "bad object" - something to unite against, rather than with and through) or by the experimental procedure (being a subject in a "scientific experiment"), or something else. It does point to the role of traditional norms in new technology prototyping.

Our bespoke design process was a dialogic interaction between the designers and the family. They were aware that the machine we had built encoded elements of their characters and values within. The machine was presented as if a personal gift, albeit one that was to be returned to us. As such this machine would never be the result of a mass-production industrial process or be chosen by that family in a commercial context to meet a perceived need. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2482)

So, not a gift. More like a burden. This dissonance is evident in the interview section, where the family representative comes off as ambiguous and not having anything relevant to say: "I think, the project, well not the actual machine, but convrsations like this probably have done [make him reflect on work life balance], so yeah, I guess in a way, whether it has been [the machine] or conversations like this, probably yes." The amount of filler and ambiguity here is truly impressive. It is the most (Jakobsonian) phatic utterance I've ever met: not only does it prolong the communication for no good reason but it also says very little and refers to the very same instance of communication in order to prolong it. It's a lengthy equivalent of "It's been nice talking to you," when you'er actually attempting to end the conversation without hurting the conversation partner's feelings.

It exists within the home only to create moments of reflection amongst the family about their values and attitudes to separation. In this way, and akin to a provotyping strategy, each machine may be seen in part as both a sensitizing tool (as per cultural probes) and a breaching experiment seeking to provoke reflection. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2482)

This paper itself, and by proxy all kinds of theoretical discussions (even, speculative, in the scholastic sense) can be viewed a kind of reflection on the medium itself. Like how (scientific) communication becomes a marginal topic in various messages: footnotes about who helped with the writing and publishing of the article, overviews of how a piece of academic writing evolved. For example, the author of Semiotranslating Peirce wrote a very thorough overview of how a book review grew itself into a book, how various pieces of source material (e.g. translations of Peirce and Wittgenstein) were retrieved, and what conversation it tapped into, e.g. the debate held about Finnish equivalents for rare and obscure philosophical terminology. It was reminiscent of the afterword to Ender's Game where the author recounts everywhere he went and everyone he spoke with, and about what, during the period he was writing this one famous book among his many publications, about which he also went on for extra details. But there are also smaller linguistic units - Christiane Nord (2007) focused on the phatic margins in middle school textbooks in different languages.

In order to create these real moments and experiences for the families these machines had to work. Work not only technically, but also within a family's specific home environments and the space and infrastructures they move through when traveling and over a prolonged period without our maintenance. There is an inherent complexity and risk in negotiating these practical, social and technological constraints that we could only provisionally anticipate. (Kirk et al. 2016: 2482)

Where the experimental procedure was lackluster, this paper shines in provocative ideation. While it comes across as trying to market needless smart machinery to successful and suspicious white people, its implications can become very relevant for whole masses of people in the future when china has built a highway to Turkey and Turkey has finished building its air travel hub, and mobility the likes of which it is now difficult to appreciate, takes place. Digitalization is key here and it does seem that familial separation will be a major theme in a world where any of your kin could be dispersed in any location around the globe. Likewise, civil conduct in future multicultural metropoli may very well depend on the technical support for everyday munities like internet access.

Oh damn, "munity" is an obsolete word, a privilege that is granted. I thought of munipically "granted", and figured out that community is literally co-munity, i.e. granting a privilege of freedom (to members of a community). This is a kind of "false friend" etymology, stemming from my inability to grapple with the religious and historical "substance" of communion/community.

Chatting, David; David S. Kirk, Paulina Yurman and Jo-Anne Bichard 2015. Designing for family phatic communication: a design critique approach. British HCI '15: Proceedings of the 2015 British HCI Conference. New York: ACM, 175-183.

Changing patterns of domestic life mean that it is increasingly common for people to work away from home for extended periods. Communications technologies are arguably positioned to help repair ensuing emotional disconnects. We are exploring the use of technology to support re-engagement in a quotidian rituals of family life to foster emotional connectedness whilst away from home. (Chatting et al. 2015: 175)

Thus far the vast majority of phatic technology studies (or "demos") have to do with emotional connection within the family. Whereas most anthropological studies amalgamate Malinowski with Jakobson, phatic technologies thus most frequently do so with La Barre and Jakobson, stemming from Vetere et al.'s first iteration, which paraphrased Jakobson very liberally.

Increasingly therefore, life is marked by significant periods of absence from home and family, and increasingly we may turn to digital technologies to help us mediate that absence. Perhaps in response, we have seen a rise in the number of 'phatic' technologies, which offer intimate emotive communication, being presented at research conferences. (Chatting et al. 2015: 175)

I doubt in this causal explanation. Does it mean that the increase of phatic studies in other fields is instigated by a similar rise in "discennectedness"?

The designs are a combination of commercial devices, research projects, concept designs, cultural artefacts and artistic pieces. We make no attempt to argue that the collection is exhaustive, but have sampled broadly from research and artistic literature, selecting artefacts that work in different ways, engage different sensory qualities and offer various different design inspirations. (Chatting et al. 2015: 176)

A list of what can be found in ACM publications.

Many designs in the collection could be explicitly described as 'phatic' technologies, although perhaps only a few of their designers would identify them as such. Phatic technologies serve to foster intimate communication between people, are usually non-verbal in nature and support more visceral and lower bandwidth communication. To date there has been little systematic review of what constitutes a phatic device. (Chatting et al. 2015: 176)

I suspect that they are usually oriented towards the nonverbal spectrum of communication because verbal communication has already been firmly established: phatic technologies capture what is left after texting or calling. It may also be the case that so many orient towards "visceral" communication because they confuse "phatic" with "haptic".

We feel that most designs have potential circumstantial utility. By this we mean that any design, be it good or bad, critical or non-critical, might have an inspirational quality, along some dimension, that serves our current design intent and the over codification of approaches to reading the 'critical' value of a design can stifle this. (Chatting et al. 2015: 176)

This is how I feel about my readings (and music). One can find something interesting in the worst or most irrelevant publications just like one can find a few seconds of bliss on an otherwise unremarkable album.

Portholes was a platform for sharing snapshot images of office and public spaces across a geographically distributed work group. Its intention was to generate a greater sense of awareness between colleagues, facilitating further communication and collaboration. (Chatting et al. 2015: 177)

The facilitation of further communication is equally a phaticism (or "contact trope") and a colloquialism to the effect of "at least it sparked discussion", which is usually said of some failed endeavour when nothing else positive is left to say.

Placing a tagged mug on on the table causes an image of that mug to be displayed on the remote table. Acculumaltions of objects are displayed as more are used on the surface. After an object is removed the image fades away over time by first de-saturating the colour and then reducing its size. Habitat seeks to create an awareness and intuition of a remote partner's rhythmic activity articulating feelings of togetherness and being "in tune". It demonstrates communication technology integrating into the practice of daily-life. The act of placing a book on the table may or may not be deliberate. The displayed image of the object on the table, closely maps to the appearance of that object. The information exchanged is an assumption of intent tied to a reciprocally observable material practice. (Chatting et al. 2015: 177)

By what I've see thus far, designers seem to approach feelings of togetherness in mighty awkward ways. Seeing a trace of an object on the coffee table might remind you that it's connected to your partner's table, but how exactly does it articulate any feelings?

It is clear that ritualistic communication designs can exist across both low and high bandwidth networks, with a variety of delays. It is worth noting that many of the early systems described were developed at a time when network infrastructure was inferior to that common today. However, the heterogeneity of networks and the finite speed of a message travelling a physical distance will necessitate some delay, increasing as the distance increases. (Chatting et al. 2015: 179)

Should general AI come into existence, all of our previous "human" designs will probably appear inferior and become unused. This might even go for our current centralizers like Facebook and Google, to be replaced by distributed, AI-designed communication systems. We must regard to technology of the present as a finality.

Over a period of use we might expect that there would be some negotiated arrangement of peeping and being peeped at, but without an indication within the home that the system is being operated this would need to happen in parallel communication channels. (Chatting et al. 2015: 180)

This would go for nearly all of these designs - they'd be much more fun to operate over the phone. They could act as play-things alongside a phonecall, rather than a replacement for it.

A radio may be typically left on in the background whilst the household move about the space, in and out of audibility. (Chatting et al. 2015: 181)

Phraseological finding equal to the "earshot" one found elsewhere (Niðurhal 03?). General topic: phatic spaces and social proximity zone.

Baharin, Hanif and Nadiah Zin 2015. Rhythmic Persuasion Model: Shifting from Phatic to Persuasion. AM '15: Proceedings of the Audio Mostly 2015 on Interaction With Sound. New York: ACM, Article No. 1.

We argue that, as an aspect of phatic communication, rhythm entrainment may be used to enhance persuasive technology through inducing mimicry of desired behaviours. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 1)

define:entrainment - "Entrainment in the biomusicological sense refers to the synchronization of organisms (only humans as a whole, with some particular instances of a particular animal) to an external perceived rhythm, such as human music and dance such as foot tapping." (Wikipedia)

Rhythm entrainment is an important aspect of human interaction. Closely tied with behavioural mimicry, it helps to establish social bonds among interlocutors - serving the phatic function of communication. Phatic function has not been widely researched in Interaction Design, however, the conative function of communication, which deals with the use of language as commands to affect the actions of the addressee, has been partly addressed by persuasive technology research. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 1)

Sounds like interaction synchronicity (a la Umiker-Sebeok 1980). Here, the authors seem to subscribe to both Malinowski and Jakobson in a way that holds true to both.

The model claims that people are more likely to comply to a behavioural request if the source is perceived as having authority, is friendly, and has similarities with the receiver, which includes similarity in behaviour, or mimicry. Mimicry and friendliness are actually intertwined. People unintentionally mimic others and those who mimicked are considered friendly. For example, people's perception of a chat robot is positively influenced if the robot mimics the typing speed of human interlocutor. Repetition of the request from the source will also increases compliance. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

Something to this effect has often been claimed throughout the 20th century with regard to linguistic similarities in phatic communion, especially by Basil Bernstein and other sociolinguists (i.e. people who speak the same slang, jargon, etc. interact more freely).

The term is constructed from the Greek 'phatos' meaning 'spoken' (and the related 'phatikos' meaning 'affirming') and 'communion' from the Latin 'communis', the secular meaning of which is 'fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing.'. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

define:communion - "the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level." But what did H.S. mean by "social communion"?

The language of purposeful activity - work, religion, education etc. - is high in informational content and directly connected to the current activity. But the "free aimless social intercourse' characterizing the chat accompanying but not relevant to work, or engaged in while resting, eating, passing time etc. is low in informational content and disconnected with the current activity. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

These authors choose to emphasize the purposeful/purposeless distinction, which is rather infrequent in phatic studies literature. With regard to "information content", I've moled over, since reading up on the concept of information, that it's rather symptomatic that Malinowski used the words "to inform" in an interesting way that should be analyzed separately. It might also be nice to take a look at R. Hartley's 1928. "Transmission of information", the forerunner to Shannon (and Shannon and Weaver) at Bell Systems.

Jakobson proposed a model of communication with six functional aspects: the referential, emotive, poetic, conative, metalingual and phatic functions. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

The list is in near-perfect chronological order. Only poetic and conative are switched. Or... I may actually be wrong, given the possibility that the poetic function may have first been articulated by Aristotle before the conative. So, for all intents and purposes, this is surprisingly, even exceedingly, exact.

Jakobson added to Malinowski's concept by specifying more clearly how language of low referential relevance might come to have the function of relational maintenance: phatic communication, as Jakobson styled it, is "channel-oriented in that it contributes to the establishment and maintenance of communicative contact" (Lyons 1977: 53-54) (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

Aaand... it's gone. Jakobson "styled" the phatic function. Phatic communication was "styled" by Weston La Barre some half a decade before Jakobson.

Based on the characteristics listed in the persuasive ambient intelligence model, we argue that, for persuasive technology to be effective in influencing change, phaticity has to be established between persuasive technology and its users. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

Oh wow, and it's back. This appears to be a novel use for the noun form first proposed, to my knowledge, by Coupland, Coupland and Robinson (1992).

Rhythm entrainment may be used to establish phatic function, which will then increase compliance to a request from a persuasive technology. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 2)

Aaand... We mess up again. The correct term here would be "phatic communion". The phatic function of language establishes contact, it isn't something that is itself established.

According to Knight (2009), entrainment is human tendency to synchronise to events that occur on at fixed interval. Knight gives example of studies that shows entrainment can be induced by rhythm, which in turn create a sense of communion. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 3)

I'll have to verify this for myself: Hove & Risen 2009; Hove 2008; and Wiltermuth & Heath 2009.

In speech, Knight (2009) postulates that entrainment may be induced by increasing periodicity to create rhythm, for example, prosody may be used for persuasion in political speech. This argument was made based on the premise that behavioural mimicry and synchrony are functions of phatic communion. Entrainment can extend the duration of behavioural synchrony and mimicry and therefore serves to create a sense of affiliation. (Baharin & Zin 2015: 3)

The premise itself seems fine enough. But it would be nice to dwell more on the mechanisms behind this premise. There are several conditionals (i.e. "Rhythm may cause entrainment. Rhythm entrainment may result in mimicry or synchronised behaviours [and] persuasive technology may be designed to induce entrainment which may result in the mimicry of desired behaviours." (ibid.)

McNely, Brian J. 2010. Exploring a sustainable and public information ecology. SIGDOC '10: Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication. New York: ACM, 103-108.

This article explores the design and execution of an intentionally public information ecology by focusing on three of the primary communication activities (blogging, videos, and microblogging) taking place immediately before, during, and after a small international conference of digital media professionals. (McNely 2010: 103)

The "General Terms" below this abstract made me realize that Documentation is a whole category in the ACM library. This fares well for my plans to specialize in documentation, as well as my plan to build something that would let me search this blog for relevant quotes more effectively (than just Google searching in it - the corporation has removed many entries from search results, most likely due to copyright claims, and I don't know how to go about insisting on my Fair Use rights). As a sidenote, this blog is also an intentionally public information "ecosystem".

Participants in this information ecology - many of whom did not know one another prior to the conference - created organization-sponsored public blog posts, individual public blog posts, promotional materials, a public website, photographs, and videos; a subset of participants also produced over 500 public updates via the microblogging service Twitter during the conference. These communication activities - encouraged and promoted by leaders within the organization - were designed specifically to establish and then extend a public information ecology among local participants and broader publics. (McNely 2010: 103)

The phaticism of establishing contact here takes on the more abstract character of establishing a public information ecology. This should be included in the "extended" interpretation of phaticisms in library science, for example, where one can find "acquiring, maintaining, and providing access to information" (Church 2009; in Pai 2016: 116).

While Nardi and O'Day were exploring information ecologies before the proliferation of social networking applications and widespread blogging practices, their work was nonetheless prescient for considering how web-based interactions might "serve as connective tissue between and within local information ecologies" (Nardy & O'Day 1999: 185). "There is no single Internet information ecology," they argue, suggesting instead that "information ecologies are local habitations with recognizable participants and practices" (ibid., 185). And yet the enabling technologies of social networks and low barrier digital publishing potentially afford broader social interaction, such that the notion of local can be realized in terms that allow individuals to come together around ideas and activities that may "span traditional geographic or social boundaries" (ibid., 185). (McNely 2010: 103)

This is the stuff of diffusion in my vocabulary - the fact that "digital publishing" can enable interested parties from all across the world to find each other, easily get into contact, collaborate, etc. In Jakobson's terms, this concerns the explosive expansion of the radius of communication brought about by the digital age.

They argue that "people communicating their own thoughts to other people [online] is heartening," and that "not every human interaction has to meet a high intellectual standard" (Nardy & O'Day 1999: 194). In fact, findings from this study indicate that mundane and seemingly ephemeral online communication practices may actually strengthen connections within an information ecology while simultaneously evoking interest and interaction from individuals outside of that information ecology. (McNely 2010: 103-104)

This would actually serve as a perfect response to the early commentators on Malinowski's concept of phatic communion who said something to the effect that primitive men are not the best metaphysicians (implying that Malinowski's Trabrianders had no communications of "a higher intellectual standard", and that such communication is the ideal).

Of particular importance for this study is the fact that these kinds of interactions are increasingly actualized as digital (often backchannel) writing work. As such, the persistence and durability of social ties are fortuitous outcomes of many contemporary public writing practices within a given information ecology. (McNely 2010: 104)

Is... Is this what I'm doing right now? Sources invoked: McNely 2009; Zhao & Rosson 2009; Honeycutt & Herring 2009; Kellog et al. 2006; McCarthy & boyd 2005; and Swarts 2010.

One significant way that activities within an information ecology can be traced is through organizational writing work, especially writing that doesn't result in what might normally be seen as documentation - writing as manifest in microblogging updates, for example. By considering such writing work, activity theory may be productively articulated with knowledge work, where interactions are at once reflective of practices embedded within a "rich social matrix" (Kaptelinin & Nardi 2006: 9). Spinuzzi defines knowledge work as "work in which the primary product is knowledge, information that is continually interpreted and circulated across organizational boundaries" (2006: 1). (McNely 2010: 105)

Some fine day everything humans do, even leisure and entertainment, will be formulated as a type of work, because some energy is expended. The physical definition will overcome the social one.

A code particularly prevalent in conference-sponsored blog posts and videos was termed informing/selling. In these instances, the content could be seen as primarily informative, but the information provided seemed to be deployed in a way that "sold" the dominant organizational identity narrative. In other words, where the live-blogging posts contained virtually no editorializing, the informing/selling posts deployed organizational information within a frame that advertised or reinforced the merits of the information ecology. These posts and videos were explicitly designed to appeal to broader publics in ways that drew upon the strengths of the organization. (McNely 2010: 106)

This selling of "the dominant organizational identity narrative" can also be viewed in non-economic terms, such as Lotman's self-description: the members of the organization are in a way conceptualizing their own activity within the organization by reinforcing the merits of said organization. Curiously, there is no linguistic function explicitly ascribed to this kind of languaging. Actually there might be but I'm not aware of what it could be.

In direct contrast to the informing/selling blog posts and videos, 29% of conference Twitter updates were coded tummeling (whereas only 2 blog posts and no videos were coded in this way). Marks notes that the Yiddish word "tummler" is used to describe someone who is particularly adept at facilitating conversation and engagement within online communities - someone who often curates ideas and content while connecting previously unaffiliated individuals from overlapping networks. Tummeling, therefore, denotes activities sparked by a "conversational catalyst within a group, [someone] to welcome newcomers, rein in old hands and set the tone of the conversation" within a given online community (Marks 2008: 1). [...] Twitter's built-in addressivity (the hailing of another user enabled by the "@" sign) also facilitates tummeling moves. (McNely 2010: 106)

For this category I actually know of a precedent, i.e. what Lemon (2013) calls "phatic experts".

Digital phatic gestures were exclusive to microblogging updates (27% of all updates), and are closely correlated with tummeling activities. Phatic gestures in online communities such as Twitter are designed not to be informative, but to express social connections and understanding - even feelings of solidarity or connectedness. For example, the last conference Twitter update collected for this project is explicitly phatic, lamenting the return to normalcy and everyday academic life that must occur after the euphoria of engaging with colleagues and friends at the conference. (McNely 2010: 106)

Odd use of "designed". Likewise, how does one "express social connections"? More so, "understanding"? In greeting or taking leave, do we express social understanding?

Such updates are not particularly informative - at least not in any way similar to informing posts and videos - and they often express emotion and feelings of dis/connectedness to or from fellow conference attendees. And while phatic gestures do not demand a response, interactions around phatic posts are fairly common since they may inspire similar reactions from others in the information ecology. Phatic gestures, in fact, were often correlated with tummeling activities, since tummeling involves the kinds of direct user-to-user connections also prevalent in phatic interaction. (McNely 2010: 106)

Also odd. "Feelings of dis/connectedness" I get - sometimes phrased as feelings of belongingness or togetherness. But not demanding a response and inspiring similar reactions from others brings up a curious caveat in Jakobson's phatic function: on the one hand it is expressly formulated as a means of continuation (of the interaction) and often invoke a similar reaction because the linguistic convention requires it (i.e. "hey, how are you?" and the mandatory response "good, how are you?") and on the other hand the initiation of this ritual sometimes makes the interaction clumsy because a "false start ritual" (i.e. beginning the "finishing move" out of place, out of sync) invokes this mandatory response but may be in conflict with the natural trajectory of the interaction. This is the case, for example, of awkwardly inching towards the door when you've said your goodbyes but the other person is still going on.

Having a single conference hashtag helps establish organizational identity and makes aggregating, sharing, and finding messages much easier. (McNely 2010: 107)

define:aggregate - "a whole formed by combining several separate elements." What I need for this blog - a widget that would aggregate information from hundreds of posts.

At least four of the conference participants observed in this study may be seen as tummlers - active indiiduals who curate and share interesting ideas, who interact phatically and frequently with other members of the information ecology, and most importantly, whose influence brings outside participants into conversation with current members of the information ecology. (McNely 2010: 107)

Phatically meandering.

Baharin, Hanif and Salman Khalidi 2015. Fyro: A Symbolic-Based Phatic Technology. OzCHI '15: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Australian Special Interest Group for Computer Human Interaction. New York: ACM, 304-308.

This paper presents a symbolic-based phatic technology system. In contrast to previous work, which explored phatic technology as abstract-, object-, and behavior-based system, we designed Fyro as a symbolic-based system inspired by the symbolic use of fire in the ritual of lighting up a candle when thinking of loved ones. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 304)

An amalgamation of "phatic techonologies" and "phatic systems". Are there phatic aspects to all listed "-based" systems?

Data were analysed using affinity diagram. Although previous research indicates that users project their own context to create meanings in phatic interactions, our results show that symbolic universal traditions may be innovated to extend its meaning into such interactions. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 304)

The semiotic question between meaning-making and meaning-loaning. This is a relatively frequent thread in phatic studies, though not all that visible since the general consensus apears to veer towards "symbolic universal traditions" pn phatics due to the ritualistic character of phatic expressions. The other side is represented by the pragmatic relevance approach, and of course in La Barrean phatics and phatic technology studies, where private emotional connotations are emphasized.

Strong and Gaver (1996) suggested design opportunities for expressive, minimal communication, in contrast to the practical, informative communication systems researched in CSCW. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 304)

The reference is a two-page technology piece but somehow the authors manage to reconstruct the formalist view of language functions: practical and poetic.

The use of text messages to send frequent trivial messages between lovels is a form of phatic appropriation of technology (Vetere, Smith and Gibbs 2009). Phatic use of technology is also evidenced in the repetitive use of social media to share mundane, everyday activities (Vetere et al. 2009). (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 304)

Wait, did Vetere discuss "appropriation"? I must go over Vetere's writings and make a more thorough comparison between Franks' ideas and those of V. Wang, who drew many fascinating avenues of research from the concept of "habituation"..

Rituals and routines are sometimes confused with one another. One primary characteristic that distinguishes rituals from routines is the present [sic] of emotions in the former. Routines are emotionless actions that do not require full attention, whereas rituals are actions that result in emotions and feelings, thus repetitive rituals may gradually become routines as they lose the emotions conveyed (Payr 2010). (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 305)

This sounds extremely insightful but also somewhat troubling, because it may turn out to be an "auxiliary hypothesis" that doesn't hold up with every use of these terms (ritual and routine). In any case I downloaded the cited paper into extra readings folder. The central issue is very similar to the diachronic dispute between Spencer and Malinowksi on the topic of feelings or sentiments.

Inspired by the ritualised aspect of phatic function of communication, we focused our design ideas on the theme of emergence of meaning through rituals by exploring the gestures of lighting up a candle in remembrance of loved ones. Symbolic use of fire was chosen because it was universal and the tradition had transmuted into different rituals throughout the ages as manifestations of varied emotional expressions. The use of fire changed humanity profoundly. It affects human emotions because it provides warmth, safety, and satiety. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is used symbolically almost universally; in religious context, to mark the celebration of public events, such as the Olympics to domestic private events of birthdays, and to make visible our thoughts and longings for lost loved ones. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 305)

How difficult it is to tap into the role of the figure of fire in phatic discourse. Two connection points that immediately come to mind are the epigraph opening The Meaning of Meaning, and the possibly etymological import of phatikos, having to do with bringing light. These may be connected to the representative anecdote of leisurely conversation around a campfire. In personal experience, it is present in Estonian mundane mythology in the form of a belief that one can garner higher truths simply by staring off into a blazing fire (cf. Jaanipäev, e.g. St. John's Day celebrations).

The three major themes, which emerged from our affinity diagram were feelings, gift-giving, and emergengy/safety. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 306)

Lexical finding: emergency and safety are useful synonyms for the two psychological states involed with the "stranger" in the aforementioned representative anecdote: a strange (unknown) man approaching a campfire of already on speaking terms people (having established a phatic communion) can view the stranger as either causing an emergency or staying within the limits of safety. The interaction contours are consequently either shaken up or remain near constant.

Most responses from the participants fall under the 'feelings' header. The gesture of lighting up a candle for symbolic meanings is a form of ritual. In Fyro, this gesture sits comfortably in the ritual of phatic communion, i.e. ritualised interactions that create social bond. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 306)

Ritualised interactions. It is still unclear whence ritualism originates or how it entered among phaticisms. Was it Firth's work, which was quoted by John Laver? Or did it come about from expanding upon Malinowski's phrase "formulae of greeting or approach"? The intuitivist explanation would be that many people view phatic exchanges as a sort of ritualistic behaviour. It may also stem from Malinowski discussing language used in ritual in the same essay. In any case, Interaction Ritual is the title of E. Goffman's 1967 book.

Creating social bonds. Here the "bond" is ambiguous, as always, because Malinowski uses it interchangeably with "ties", both descriptive of "fellowship". Note that both communion and fellowship belong to Christian terminology, which is why I've prepared a folder with some readings on communion and community.

Our results show that universal traditions laden with meanings can be used for expressive phatic interaction. This is because the participants equated Fyro usage to expression of feelings. The participants acknowledged that Fyro is a messaging system, but the message sent is the feeling of longings. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 306)

Another common but not frequently articulated undertone in phatic discourse. "Feelings of longing" are exactly what Jakobson's phatic function have to do with in the realm of poetic analysis. Notably, Jakobson did not himself employ the term "phatic function" anywhere in explicitly but did sprinkle undertones here and there. This is the case for his Polish illustrations to the use of his scheme, performed entirely upon poetic (rather than communicative) material. The phatic function was touched on at least two instances, one having to do with aesthetic attention and the other with personal sound-symbolism, which may be termed very clumsily emotive phono-semantic knots. This is the case of a poetic sound or a melody reminding you of a loved one, invoking a feeling of longingness, which is also the stuff of his "Notes on the Contours of an Ancient Japanese Poem" (1981a).

Instead of augmenting everyday objects used in daily routine with minimal communication capabilities, we have chosen to augment objects used in rituals, which stemmed from a universal tradition of symbolic use of fire. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 307)

They are, to put it bluntly, constructing phatic objects with the understanding that phaticity pertains to interaction rituals, interchanging the formulae of greeting and approach with the interactions around rituals, with man made fire at the center of its artifactual scheme. There is indeed palpable emotional symbolism in live fire but the safety concern (flammability of the prototype) beat the purpose of feeling at ease. While the person who used "phatic objects" as a name for objects constructed with a 3D printer in the process of demonstrating the machine at work viewed the outcome, the physical object, as a meaningless, perfunctiory object in the literal sense, here the sense of phaticity invoked is that pertaining to feelings and/of reciprocal expressiveness.

In retrofit phase, the participants were asked about current technologies they would use to fulfil Fyro's functions. The answers given were mobile phones and social networks. Thus, the participants viewed Fyro as belonging to the same group as these communication technologies. Perhaps this was why some participnats stated that they would use Furo during emergency or for safety, although this was not how we intended it to be used:
  • [Fyro] can be used during emergency.
  • As emergency alert or message to inform friends on Twitter.
  • To be used by older people living alone to send a message during emergency.
The participants' responses are valuable for improving Fyro design in the next iteration. (Baharin & Khalidi 2015: 306-307)

These responses are valuable indeed because they point to more intuitive and practical uses for Fyro than the very abstract feeling of longingness or sense of connection or whatever. For a future vision it even seems probable that a City and the Stars kind of A.I. would have a subroutine for automatically connecting friends and family in case of an emergency or collective threat, i.e. to let each other know that they are fine and safe, perhaps even for the very practical purpose of finding out whom the occurrence affected and how to proceed with helping the friends and family deal with it (maybe a higher dose of soma?). Yet again it feels like these people are designing technologies that may be feasible and desired in a far future. In any case, I should look into what else Hanif Baharin has published, these two papers by him here have been very insightful. // Holy shit, his Research Output is a goldmine.

Makice, Kevin 2009. Phatics and the design of community. CHI EA '09: CHI '09 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York: ACM, 3133-3136.

Proposed thesis research uses Twitter - a young channel for phatics communication - as a catalyst to promote community awareness and strengthen connections between members. This paper examines the phatic function, or messages about the communication channel, and its growing interest in HCI research. Examples of projects are described in the context of better understanding the role phatics play in community development (Makice 2009: 3133)

One frequent problem with phatic technology studies is that their talk doesn't match their walk: the theoretical, epistemological, abstract part of the papers are all too grandiose (more general functionality that can be found or perceived in the design object is imputed onto it) and the actualy technology constructed in the empirical, ontological, concrete portion of the paper comes across as not really all that impressive. The role phatics play in the community development doesn't seem like an attainable goal when "phatics" themselves are not well defined. And vagueness, generality, and grandiosity is an inherent problem with the definitions employed in phatic technology studies, making their discussion about bettering our understanding seem much too out of place. Ritual Machines (above) is a perfect illustration: the theoretical discussion is beautifully executed but the actual performance of the experiment a clear failure. So, how should one overcome this disconnect?

Using the microblogging service Twitter as an exemplar, this research seeks to show that awareness within a community is positively associated with use of the phatic function of communication - a sort of linguistic ping that serves to maintain connection to others. Leveraging phatics in the design of physical spaces and online resources can strengthen communities. (Makice 2009: 3133)

Awareness of what? The community's self-awareness about itself? What aspect of itself? "Pinging" usually (in network terms) checks the connection, whether data can be sent and retrieved. So these are still channel operations - checking and maintaining the channel, here replaced with connection, presumably of some psychological variety. So, still, awareness of what? Awareness of whether messages can be transmitted? Whether it is possible to communicate? The bare bones of contact?

The earliest wave of research on Internet community not only distinguished between strong and weak ties but also made the latter subordinate. Relationships mediated through a computer were presumed to be inherently limited and could never gain the intimacy or value of face-to-face connection. (Makice 2009: 3134)

The implications of "intimacy" and "value" are interesting. They're very sophisticated synonyms for "expressive" and "practical". Almost as if they're the female and male orientations, aesthetic and ethical, emotive and conative. But when attempting to collapse referential and conative both under "value", it strikes immediately that intimacy also has value or is a value.

Mediated relationships are indeed inherently limited due to channel reduction but I guess it can have other "affordances". In this light the Malinowskian negation of feelings comes across as especially conflicting because of the pejorative use of "phatic" - it is both defined and understood as "limited" in some sense or other (most often in terms of "information content").

Because of their disposable nature, Twitter messages continually re-establish weak-tie connections without a commitment to a deeper interaction. This increases opportunity for a wider network of strong-tie connections to grow. (Makice 2009: 3134)

Here I would gather that there are two types of commitments: disposable and deeper. The interesting part is that in the energetic perspective some see "exchanging information" as a commitment because it may fatigue and others see "small talk" as a commitment because it is perfunctory. The weak and strong tie connection reminds me of the idea to incorporate Ruesch's discussion of popularity vs friendship systems more heavily in the future in relation with the nature of the relationship, particularly psychological connection and pseudo-phatic goals, which may involve persuasion, marketing or violence in the conative dimension, affiliation, sociability, and belongingness in the emotive dimension, and empistemological emotions, altruistic informing, and news exchange in the referential dimension.

Public display of this kind of communication further lowers barriers to individual engagement by allowing community members to understand the current state of others. Installation of public Twitter display shave shown positive effects on community awareness, leading to greater participation and empathy. (Makice 2009: 3134)

This kind of gauging the social milieu can actually serve a political or ethical subfunction: using small talk to figure out how people lean politically, what do they think of the state of affairs, what attitudes do they foster towards the social state, etc. These would be the so-called "moral sentiments".

In 1960, linguist Roman Jakobson derived six functions of language from how the message operates on each aspect of communication: context, sender, receiver, channel, common code, and the message itself. Much of the emphasis in ICT development is placed on the quality of the information (referential and metalingual functions) or identity (emotive, conative, and poetic functions). (Makice 2009: 3134)

This insightful in two regards. First, it is indeed the case that the metalingual function is a variant of referential function, i.e. referring to elements of the code. But so is poetic and phatic, in case of one the message refers to elements of the code but not in order to inform the receiver of the intended meaning of said element but in an "unsaying" or not-so-explicit way inform the receiver that the construction of the message itself is the relevant factor, and is thus meant for aesthetic enjoyment, and in the case of the other the message refers to the fact of communication (the "bare bones", the existence and working condition of communication infrastructure) in order to accomplish some communicative goal, either to "establish, extend or terminate" (ibid.) contact. And secondly, the "identity" is insightful because the first three functions indeed refer, according to Bühler's organon-model, and possibly Aristotle, to first, second, and third persons, specifying the identity or addressivity of the receiver. There is only the slight error in the poetic function included in this set, as it should be it, the third person or external object referred to, that fulfils the third, transactional, aspect of identity.

Often considered by developers to be noise, disposable or even unnecessary, phatics are about seeking connection with another person, either by requesting interaction or confirming active presence. Phatics are known to act ceremoniously, build solidarity, and convey a willingness to engage. Engagement is important when fostering community awareness because active learners are more accepting of new information than passive ones. If the goal of a community developer is to increase local awareness, then phatic functions must be part of the dynamic. (Makice 2009: 3134)

Psychological connection once again left undefined, or defined by association with synonyms (e.g. solidarity). Engagement here once again calls Spencer's social progress to mind. His point about activity was wholly different, though, because he had his own theory of mental energy, and thus viewed it in a wholly different perspective. Whereas here emotions are conceptualized positively, as something that unite people, foster feelings of togetherness, etc. Spencer viewed emotions in terms of impulsiveness, and was rather concerned with the possibility of social union to impose checks on impulsiveness, especially such basic stuff as hysteria and violence, which appeared to be more common problems a century and a half ago but are still known in the modern world. I think a short history of the change of attitudes towards emotions as such could be written on this topic alone, though much more historical context would be necessary.

As a channel for communicating the important, disposable information about individuals in a group, Twitter is inherently phatic in nature. At the heart of any post is the Are-you-there Here-I-am mission of the phatic function. My initial investigations revolve around two main endeavors involving Twitter as a platform: Twitterspaces, and stream analysis. (Makice 2009: 315)

Giving the impression that the phatic function is that of geolocation. I'm most sure I've seen this phraseology before in a textbook of some sort but can't put my finger on it. Effectively, this is "pinging", figuring out the system of communication. Feedback? In any case, this is pretty much at the core of Vincent Miller's critique of "phatic social media": it's all about letting people that you exist (look at how sads I am). The original Mowrer situation doesn't really apply very well, because you can't say "Don't go" via social media - people live there, there's nowhere to go, only temporal away periods.

One of the main characteristics of the Twitter system is the ability for each individual to craft a personal information stream (PInS) composed of self-selected content published by other authors. Current tools make use of available data to describe individuals or derive trends from collective content, but rarely do they describe the compiled stream - the best reflection of an individual user experience with the system. (Makice 2009: 3135)

This blog is also a personal information stream composed of selected quotes from others. The problem I have with collective content of this kind on social media is that the individual bits of information are not indexed or fixed. You can't cite a tweet like you can a page in a book and I'm not even sure if tweets have stable URLs. It makes navigating the twittersphere difficult if your intentions are information oriented.

Human-computer interaction continues to move from a context of individuals and objects into a space of sociability and system complexity. (Makice 2009: 3135)

Phraseological gem. Phatic space + phatic systems. Also manifest in the aspect of diffusion: the indirect radius of communication has broadened from the physical travel of a material text to the global dissemination and constricted temporally to near instantaneousness. The nature of sociability is changing as the campfire tradition recedes and alters its functions.

People crave connection. We are hard-wired for it. (Makice 2009: 3136)

[citation needed] - this is actually the troubling portion of Malinowski's allusions to sociology. I can't shake the feeling that he relegates "the herd-instinct" to a footnote because he's negating Durkheim, Simmel, and possibly others who may have something relevant to say about the topic and could give broader context to how we are hard-wired for craving connection.

In the same way early HCI research leveraged what we knew about cognitive processes to design interaction in ICT, so too can we learn from our understanding of the continuous cycle of disconnection and reconnection that characterizes human interaction. Failure to recognize the role phatic communication plays in this dance leads to user frustration and incomplete tools. (Makice 2009: 3136)

Does one a play role in a dance? A lexical oddity and a phraseological gem: the continuous cycle of disconnection and reconnection draws out the contours of human interaction and reveal the necessity of the psychological margins of interaction. This may sound poetic but I've yet to figure out how to leverage John Laver's unique maljak-ian and Goffmanian take against the more poetic Jakobsonian communication radius and varieties of contours. What is really the beauty in running away from your fiancee at the altar? - "[a] message of the variety I will not see you again" (Jakobson 1964e: 14).

Using Twitter as an exemplar, my research will continue to examine phatics in the context of strengthening community. Outcomes will be directed toward the general application of relational-cultural theory, to critique the interface design of sociable features in systems. (Makice 2009: 3136)

More on phatic systems, which basically are the sociable features of systems. But this broad of a definition can cover everything from the green-or-red light on a medical cabinet door to the role of the person greeting, checking passes or handling clothes in the entrance of an event or establishment to the human-computer interaction affordances of a digital society.

"Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) is rooted in the groundbreaking work of Jean Baker Miller ["a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, social activist, feminist, and author"], who proposed a new understanding of human development in her book Toward a New Psychology of Women (Miller, 1976). In 1978, Jean Baker Miller, a psychoanalyst [...] began meeting informally to re-examine developmental psychology and clinical practice [...] Their twice-a-month meetings were the beginning of a collaborative theory-building group that led to the birth of a revolutionary approach to understanding psychological development." - If it's a feminist social activist re-examination of psychology then you can bet that it's revolutionary.

Wadley, Greg; Frank Vetere, Lars Kulik, Liza Hopkins and Julie Green 2013. Mobile ambient presence. OzCHI '13: Proceedings of the 25th Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference: Augmentation, Application, Innovation, Collaboration. New York: ACM, 167-170.

A number of ambient technologies have been devised which convey social presence by transmitting awareness cues about the distant other. For example Gaver (2002) designed awareness technologies that used 'poetic' hardware design and the senses of touch and smell, and Dey and de Guzman (2006) augmented household objects to respond to the activity of remote family members. Related to this approach is 'phatic' technology, which is intended not to transfer information but to establish and maintain human relationships (Vetere et al., 2009). (Wadley et al. 2013: 167)

There's a major contradiction here. If phatic technologies are intended not to transfer information then transmitting cue, a signal, isn't phatic because it still transmits some information. This is the epistemological consequence of dismissing the etymology of phatic and instead of viewing it as linguistic communion you take it to mean communion by any means other than linguistic.

Technologies such as the 'Virtual Intimate Object' (Kaye 2006) support non-intrusive social connection through the exchange of low-bandwidth messages which convey simply that one user is thinking of another. (Wadley et al. 2013: 167)

In the meantime I have invented a new term, symphatic, which, unlike emphatic messages, convey a message and in a metacommunicative sense "instruct" the receiver about its importance, perform a "low-bandwith" operation of reminding of presence. I have a real-life example to boot. Imagine yourself typing away at your laptop when you suddenly feel some fingers on your side. Unbeknownst to you, your significant one has crept up to you and tickled you. When realizing this, you ask: "What are you doing?" and the answer is, of course, "Nothing," uttered in a sweet and clever tone. It is not emphatic because it does not make a point, and it is also not stricty phatic because it doesn't perform the social and channel operations commonly ascribed to phatic communion and function. It's not even phatic communication sensu La Barre because it's not vocal. Instead, it is symphatic, which I take as descriptive of this narrow, unique sense in which phaticity is meant in these phatic technology studies.

Thus we propose that a phone or tablet can be a personal ambient display that supports social connection by transmitting cues about activity and enabling lightweight phatic communication. Our formulation of 'mobile ambient presence' (MAP) is similar in spirit to the wearable presence devices of Williams et al. (2006), but implemented on standard consumer hardware, which is more likely to yield a widely accessible technology. (Wadley et al. 2013: 167)

It is a curious shift from speech as a mode of action to technologies that transmit cues about activity. And phatic communion is "lightweight" (in Malinowski's terms, "aimless") by definition.

However parents, while they initially expressed interest in the technology, turned out to have different requirements. They were under stress, needing to manage the child's stay in hospital on top of existing commitments. Short bursts of information-rich communication were better suited to them, with voice the preferred modality. It was in the classroom and the hospital that ambient presence was perceived as most useful in this trial. (Wadley et al. 2013: 169)

My use of "emphatic" above pertains equally to the level of intent (the importance of the message) as well as information content. Being emphatic in this sense amounts to emphatically insisting on the importance of a specific point of information.

Few technologies embodying ambient presence principles have become mass-market technologies. Traditional consumer ICTs such as the desktop PC have typically been designed for focal use and have not offered sufficiently rich I/O to detect and convey ambient presence. (Wadley et al. 2013: 169)

I guessed as much from not being able to name any on the market and from the quite frankly outlandishly "first world" feel to some new designs.

Cui, Yanqing; Jari Kangas, Jukka Holm and Guido Grassel 2013. Front-camera video recordings as emotion responses to mobile photos shared within close-knit groups. CHI '13: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York: ACM, 981-990.

The study's results support the value of using front-camera video recordings to glean emotion response. It supports lightweight phatic social interactions not possible with comments and "Like" buttons. Most users kept sharing emotion responses throughout the study. They typically shared the responses right after they saw a just-taken photo received from a remote partner. (Cui et al. 2013: 981)

Adding to the necessity for a term like "symphatic" - there are more "lighweight" form of communization than most means of communication technologies allow for. Though on the latter point I'm not sure how more lightweight interactions are "not possible" on technologies with more affordances.

Video is a good medium for delivery of emotion responses. Some previous studies position video as a means to convey rich information. Peole use them mainly for communicating within strong-tie relationships on special occasions. Departing from previous work, we designed emotion response for phatic communications. Its purpose is to reach a social goal, rather than convey information as seen in previous work to do with video communications. (Cui et al. 2013: 981)

Unlike some dystopian movies, which imagine the future as a constant barrage of video calls, presently it is indeed more reserved for very personal interactions and sees infrequent use. It might be because the technology is not yet as ubiquitous as it might seem (setting up a webcam is somewhat tedious, internet connection might be sub par, etc.) and it might also be because people aren't always willing to "put on a face" just to have a casual chat.

Users had limited options for framing, because of the narrow view of the front camera. This explains why the user's face occupies large parts of the frame in a typical recording. While most users managed well with this, three were not comfortable in showing their "big face." One user (Jari) always avoided sharing videos featuring his face, and two other users (Mia and Alex) seldom shared emotion responses in the study. (Cui et al. 2013: 986)

Yup. It might be Estonian/Finnish aloofness, but I, too, seldom photograph my own face. Some people are not photogenic and know it.

G2 [Group 2] consisted of loosely connected friends. The members met each other at various parties and game sessions. They did not yet desire a sense of constantly being together. Emotion responses had potential to bring the group closer over time. (Cui et al. 2013: 988)

Yet. Are friends supposed to desire constant togetherness?

Emotion response, as in this study, is aimed at lightweight phatic social interaction similar to everyday greetings and small talk that include but do not focus on information exchange. (Cui et al. 2013: 989)

These guys get it! Information content is not an absolute or ultimate condition for phatic communion.

Kim, Chang Won and Tek-Jin Nam 2009. Talkative cushion: a phatic audio device to support family communication. CHI EA '09: CHI '09 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York: ACM, 2631-2634.

The 'Talkative Cushion' is a novel audio recorder which transforms recorded voices into humorous and ludicrous sounds. It is proposed as a phatic device for homes. It is designed to make people playful and funny when communicating in homes because a delightful situation makes people active to talk. In this paper, we describe why and how a cushion is selected as our target object and how the concept of phatic technologies applied to the cushion. (Kim & Nam 2009: 2631)

"Ludicrous" contains the stem ludus, making it "playful". The phraseology about delightfulness and talkativeness is formulated as clumsily as the "creates a space for violence to happen" parodied on The Simpsons but the point is valid. People are more gregarious when they feel at ease. The concept of phatic technologies is what I'm reviewing.

This project aims to improve intimacy and social bonds for families by designig of a new phatic product in domestic environments. (Kim & Nam 2009: 2632)

This usage sounds very much like the pejorative one by Stenström, who mentions a "phatic microphone" by which she meant a microphone that would go unnoticed, as her conception of phaticity was that of meaningless parts of speech.

Usage Scenario: There is an idle 'Talkative Cushion' on the sofa in the empty living room. Tom is coming home after school and sitting on the sofa. He leans back in the 'Talkative Cushion' and then some funny sounds come out. The recorded sounds are greetings from his father who is too busy to see his son often. After listening to the sounds over and over again by pressing the cushion, Tom speaks about his recent school life and worries to all family members. His father goes to the 'Talkative Cushion' to listen to the reply from his son. (Kim & Nam 2009: 2633)

This is what I meant by some of these designs being painfully "first world" objects: you have to be pretty bored and comfortable to come up with sound-recording cushions. Also, isn't talking about "school life and worries" the exact thing children detest about parents because they always keep asking?


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