Small talk in the Digital Age: Making Sense of Phatic Posts

Danica Radovanovic, Massimo Ragnedda, Small Talk in the Digital Age: Making Sense of Phatic Posts, in Matthew Rowe; Milan Stankovic; Aba-Sah Dadzie (eds). Making Sense of Microposts, 2012, p. 10-13.

The paper will be presented at the World Wide Web Conference, Lyon 16-20 April. 

Abstract. This paper presents some practical implications of a theoretical web desktop analysis and addresses microposts in the Social Web contextual sense and their role contributing diverse information to the Web as part of informal and semi-formal communication and social activities on Social Networking Sites (SNS).  We reflect upon and present the most pervasive and relevant sociocommunication function of an online presence on microposts and social networks: the phatic communication function. Although some theorists such as Malinowski say these microposts have no practical information value, we argue that they have semantic and social value for the interlocutors, determined by sociotechnological and cultural factors such as online presence and social awareness. We investigate and offer new implications for emerging social and communication dynamics formed around microposts, what we call here “phatic posts”. We suggest that apparently trivial uses and features of SNS actually play an important role in setting the social and informational context of the rest of the conversation – a “phatic” function – and thus that these phatic posts are key to the success of SNS.


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