Pauses and Response Latencies: A Chronemic Analysis of Asynchronous CMC

December 12, 2006


    This study examines the chronemics of response latencies in asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) by analyzing three datasets comprising a total of more than 150,000 responses: email responses created by corporate employees, responses created by university students in course discussion groups, and responses to questions posted in a public, commercial online information market. Mathematical analysis of response latencies reveals a normative pattern common to all three datasets: The response latencies yielded a power-law distribution, such that most of the responses (at least 70%) were created within the average response latency of the responders, while very few (at most 4%) of the responses were created after a period longer than 10 times the average response latency. These patterns persist across diverse user populations, contexts, technologies, and average response latencies. Moreover, it is shown that the same pattern appears in traditional, spoken communication and in other forms of online media such as online surveys. The implications of this uniformity are discussed, and three normative chronemic zones are identified.

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