Face-to-face interaction

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In sociology, linguistics, media studies and communication studies, face-to-face interaction (less often, face-to-face communication or face-to-face discourse) is social interaction carried out without any mediating technology.[1] Face-to-face interaction is defined as the mutual influence of individuals’ direct physical presence with his/her body language.[2][3] Face-to-face interaction is one of the basic elements of the social system, forming a significant part of individual socialization and experience gaining throughout one's lifetime.[4] Similarly it is also central to the development of various groups and organizations composed of those individuals.[4]

Studying history[edit]

Study of face-to-face interaction is defined as the process of recording and analyzing the reactive pattern of individuals when they are involved in a face-to-face interaction.[5] It is concerned with issues such as its organization, rules, and strategy. The concept of face-to-face interaction has been of interest to scholars since at least the early 20th century.[6] One of the earliest social science scholars to analyze this type of interaction was sociologist Georg Simmel, who in his 1908 book observed that sensory organs play an important role in interaction, discussing examples of human behavior such as eye contact.[6] His insights were soon developed by others, including Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead.[7] Their theories became known as symbolic interactionism.[8] By the mid-20th century, there was already a sizable scholarly literature on various aspects of face-to-face interaction.[7] Works on this topic have been published by scholars such as Erving Goffman[9] and Eliot Chapple.[7]

Advent of mediated communication[edit]

Historically, mediated communication was much rarer than face-to-face.[10] Even though humans have possessed the technology to communicate in space and time (e.g. writing) for millennia, the majority of the world's population lacked the necessary skills, such as literacy, to use them.[10] This began to change with the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg that led to the spread of printed texts and rising literacy in Europe from the 15th century.[10] Since then, face-to-face interaction has begun to steadily lose ground to mediated communication.[10]

Compared with mediated communication[edit]

Face-to-face communication has been however described as less preferable to mediated communication in some situations, particularly where time and geographical distance are an issue.[11] For example, in maintaining a long-distance friendship, face-to-face communication was only the fourth most common way of maintaining ties, after telephone, email, and instant messaging.[12]

What's more, face-to-face communication could easily be interrupted or avoided by just pulling out a cell phone or electronic device. When it comes to communication and understanding one another fully 93% is non-verbal, and body language and 7% is written. (Tardanico) According to research studies show that there is an estimated total of over 300 million cell phones users in the United States. (Lopez-Rosenfeld) Owning a cell phone becomes a distraction in everyday life whether if you get a phone call, text message, e-mail, etc. Any alert, in general, is a distraction because of the settings that you can customize.[5]

Despite the advent of many new information and communication technologies, face-to-face interaction is still widespread and popular and has a better performance in many different areas. Nardi and Whittaker (2002) pointed that face-to-face communication is still the golden standard among the mediated technologies based on many theorists,[11] particularly in the context of the media richness theory where face-to-face communication is described as the most efficient and informational one.[13][14] This is explained because face-to-face communication engages more human senses than mediated communication.[15] Face-to-face interaction is also a useful way for people when they want to win over others based on verbal communication,[16] or when they try to settle disagreements.[17] Besides, it does help a lot for teachers as one effective teaching method.[18] It is also easier to keep a stronger and more active political connection with others by face-to-face interaction.[19]

Cross multicultures[edit]

So far, the effect of face-to-face interaction across different cultures has not been discussed. Although there are increasingly virtual communications in large transnational companies with the development of Internet, face-to-face interaction is still a crucial tool for employees to cooperate or negotiate with each other.

Cooperation in a multicultural team requires knowledge sharing. Ambiguous knowledge which arises frequently in a multicultural team is inevitable because of the different language habits. Face-to-face communication is better than other virtual communications for the ambiguous information. The reason is that face-to-face communication can provide non-verbal messages including gestures, eye contact, touch, and body movement. However, the virtual communications, such as email, only have verbal information which will make team members more misunderstanding of the knowledge due to their different comprehension of the same words. On the other hand, the understanding of professional standards shows no difference between face-to-face interaction and virtual communications.[20]

What's more, van der Zwaard and Bannink (2014) examined the effect of video call compared with face-to-face communication on the negotiation of meaning between native speakers and non-native speakers of English.[21] Face-to-face communication can provide individuals who use English as the second language both intentional and unintentional actions which could enhance the comprehension of the chat in English.[21] Besides, individuals are more honest in understanding when they are in face-to-face interaction than in video call due to the potential loss of face issues for the non-native language speakers during the video call. So as a result, face-to-face interaction has a more positive influence on the negotiation of meaning than virtual communications such as the video call.[21]


  1. ^ D. David J. Crowley; David Mitchell (prof.) (1994). Communication Theory Today. Stanford University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-8047-2347-3. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  2. ^ Goffman, Erving (1980) [1959]. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books: A Division of Random House, Inc. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-385-094023. [(]face-to-face interaction) may be roughly defined as the reciprocal influence of individuals upon one another’s actions when in one another’s immediate physical presence
  3. ^ Janet Sternberg (2012). Misbehavior in Cyber Places: The Regulation of Online Conduct in Virtual Communities on the Internet. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7618-6011-2. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Adam Kendon; Richard Mark Harris; Mary Ritchie Key (1 January 1975). Organization of Behavior in Face-To-Face Interaction. Walter de Gruyter. p. 357. ISBN 978-90-279-7569-0. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b Mary Ritchie Key (1 January 1980). The Relationship of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication. Walter de Gruyter. p. 129. ISBN 978-90-279-7637-6. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b Adam Kendon; Richard Mark Harris; Mary Ritchie Key (1 January 1975). Organization of Behavior in Face-To-Face Interaction. Walter de Gruyter. p. 1. ISBN 978-90-279-7569-0. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Adam Kendon; Richard Mark Harris; Mary Ritchie Key (1 January 1975). Organization of Behavior in Face-To-Face Interaction. Walter de Gruyter. p. 2. ISBN 978-90-279-7569-0. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  8. ^ Pierre Demeulenaere (24 March 2011). Analytical Sociology and Social Mechanisms. Cambridge University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-139-49796-1. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  9. ^ Marjorie Harness Goodwin (1990). He-Said-She-Said: Talk As Social Organization Among Black Children. Indiana University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-253-20618-3. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d Jeffrey K. Olick; Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi; Daniel Levy (2011). The Collective Memory Reader. Oxford University Press. p. 349. ISBN 978-0-19-533741-9. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  11. ^ a b Bonnie A. Nardi; Steve Whittaker (2002). "The Place of Face-to-Face Communication in Distributed Work". In Pamela J. Hinds; Sara B Kiesler (eds.). Distributed Work. MIT Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-262-08305-8. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  12. ^ Kevin B. Wright; Lynne M. Webb (2011). Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships. Peter Lang. p. 236. ISBN 978-1-4331-1081-8. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  13. ^ Kevin B. Wright; Lynne M. Webb (2011). Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships. Peter Lang. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-4331-1081-8. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  14. ^ Bernard Perron; Mark J.P. Wolf (12 November 2008). The Video Game Theory Reader 2. Taylor & Francis. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-203-88766-0. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  15. ^ Jorge Reina Schement; Brent D. Ruben (1 January 1993). Between Communication and Information. Transaction Publishers. p. 436. ISBN 978-1-4128-1799-8. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  16. ^ Jean C. Helms Mills; John Bratton; Carolyn Forshaw (2006). Organizational Behaviour in a Global Context. University of Toronto Press. p. 369. ISBN 978-1-55193-057-2. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  17. ^ Stephen Emmitt; Christopher Gorse (7 September 2006). Communication in Construction Teams. Taylor & Francis. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-203-01879-8. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  18. ^ Trevor Kerry (26 August 2010). Meeting the Challenges of Change in Postgraduate Education. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4411-8469-6. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  19. ^ Peter J. Burnell (2011). Promoting Democracy Abroad: Policy and Performance. Transaction Publishers. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-4128-1842-1. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  20. ^ Klitmøller, Anders; Lauring, Jakob (2013). "When global virtual teams share knowledge: Media richness, cultural difference and language commonality" (PDF). Journal of World Business. 48 (3): 398–406. doi:10.1016/j.jwb.2012.07.023. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-05-27. Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  21. ^ a b c van der Zwaard, Rose; Bannink, Anne (2014). "Video call or chat? Negotiation of meaning and issues of face in telecollaboration". System. 44: 137–148. doi:10.1016/j.system.2014.03.007.

Further reading[edit]

  • M. Storper and A.J. Venables (2004), "Buzz: Face-To-Face Contact and the Urban Economy", Journal of Economic Geography, vol. 4, nº 4, pp. 351–370.