One-to-one vs. one-to-many communication




 Mailing list
Usenet group,
CB radio
2 people
2 people
 Group Meeting Meeting,
Bulk mailing




Electronic media has the ability to alter the identity and size of an audience. The printing press, the radio, and the television allowed for messages to reach large numbers of people. The medium was, however, primarily a one-way interaction.[3]

The CB radio was slightly different from this. It is a "mediated form of interpersonal communication allowing strangers to become involved in an electronic community with no personal commiment". [1] One could communicate with one other person or to many people. The price of entry to this medium was moderate.

Computer mediated communication allows for more flexibility in access levels as well as audience size. Email for example can be sent to one person or to many. One can list each recipient individually or create a mailing list of many names for periodic mailings. In this case, the senders intent determines who receives the message.

With usenet, one can also send a message to a large forum of people. The architecture of usenet, however, changes the interaction pattern within the group. One sends a message to the group. If there is a moderator to the group, they may decide if the message is appropriate or not. Assuming the message is accepted, that message is read by the users who choose to read that message.

The usenet community is large and dynamic. Just because one person reads a message in one day does not mean they will do so tomorrow. Also, it is a very public forum. One can listen in or read most usenet groups with little or no level of commitment to post a reply. The homogeneity of the readers of a particular group, the frequency at which they post, reply, and read email, the number of participants, the thread length, and the turn-over rate of participants are just some of the parameters that could be used to determine the level of group interactivity. [4]

What is interesting with usenet is that with 22Gig of messages going through a day in a public self governed arena, one would expect some level of anarchy. This is not the case. What makes it even more of a marvel is that it is not just one specific person sending messages to many at a time, but any involved person can send a message. It is very easy for anyone to post to a group. A moderator my sometimes be involved, however, most groups are not moderated. One does not always receive a reply, however, if certain forms of etiquette are followed, the barriers to entry into a community can be lowered. This depends on the individual group. Some groups post rules periodically, some post messages once something inappropriate is sent. Others have moderators.

The audiences to usenet can further increase when people begin to cross-post. That is send the same message to more than one group. For some, this is considered bad etiquette to post to too many outside groups. Those messages may be advertisements or mass-junk-mail.

What sets usenet and large-scale chat systems apart from current mass communication systems is that they have the ability to reach a large number of people and allow for multiple channels of interaction. What is currently needed are new interfaces to better understand the culture of systems and research into new forms of mass multiple channel interaction electronic communication.



[1] B. Cowlan. A Revolution in Personal Communications: The Explosive Growth of Citizens Band Radio. Inter/Media Interpersonal Communication in a Media World. Oxford University Press.1979. pp. 116-121.

[2]J. Donath, K. Karahalios, and F. Viegas. Visualizing Conversations. Proceedings of HICSS-32, Maui, HI, January 1999.

[3] D. Horton and R. Wohl. Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observation on Intimacy and Distance. Inter/Media Interpersonal Communication in a Media World. NY:Oxford University Press.1979. pp. 32-55.

[4] S. Whittaker, L.Terveen, W. Hill, and L.Cherny. The Dynamics of Mass Interaction. Proceedings of CSCW '98. 1998. pp.257-264.