Understanding communicative preferences: The expedience of media choices

Christoffer Schultz

Student thesis: Master thesis


The thesis you are about to read is a study of a group of unrelated Danish business professionals, how they perceive and experience different communication media, and their arguments for using one medium over another. The purpose of this is to make an attempt at gaining a better understanding of these choices, because achieving such might assist in making more qualified and more expedient media choices. Of these media, the e-mail is considered the primary topic with the telephone and face-to-face conversation serving as secondary contextual additions. These three forms of communication often interchange between each other, which makes a study of e-mail impoverished without the consideration of its chief alternatives. Motivation for exploring the e-mail in particular stems from the fact that the spread of this medium has grown into enormous proportions. Society is at a point now where it is an entirely socially acceptable and reasonable assumption that almost any one person has at least a single e-mail account (only barring the very young and very old) – just as we would assume that most people have mobile telephones. In business settings the e-mail has likewise been adopted to great lengths, but no form of communication is perfect. While some consider the e-mail an invaluable tool, others use it sparingly. Understanding the perceptions and motivations for choosing specific media is a key aspect of this thesis. Gaining knowledge of both why some communicators revere the e-mail and others detest it – why it works for some purposes and not for others - will assist in the general understanding of a medium that is undeniably entrenched in modern society. In the attempt to achieve this greater understanding of media choices - with emphasis on the e-mail - this thesis first constructs a framework. It details various features or characteristics that tangibly describe the e-mail and seeks to objectively isolate it from telephonic and faceto- face conversation. Such a framework provides points of reference which assists both the analysis of research data and the general understanding of communication media. Secondly, this thesis describes and examines data on media choice and application collected from personal ethnographical interviews. A total of seven interviewees provide the data set for this thesis, representing six different companies of various sizes ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups, to major international companies. Interviewees differ in terms of age, gender, education and expertise, but share commonalities such as Danish serving as their 3 predominant language of communication as well as heavy individual daily usage of e-mail. Interview data is transcribed and analyzed for recurring trends or topics which may be argued to influence media choices – trends which are in turn considered with regards to the framework. Of most immediate relevance, the research data reveals trends such as a general want for choosing the media considered most useful or expedient; that prior experiences shape future media decisions; that in many situations, one medium is insufficient on its own; that 3rd parties possibly becoming privy to information is influential on communication between 1st and 2nd parties, and that communicating in non-native languages deters many from personal communication media. These trends each showcase different arguments which communicators may consider defining for their choice of media, and some of them are more relatable to the framework than others. Some concern internal media characteristics, while others are more entrenched with external factors. The trends uncovered in this data set may thus assist in the greater understanding of media choices, by highlighting something which conflicts with a recurring theme of this thesis; that subjective and objective factors and considerations are inextricably interwoven and truly wise and expedient media choices cannot be made on the grounds of subjective or objective considerations alone. This thesis initially operated with an assumption that subjective considerations of expediency often overrule objective recommendations of expediency, which is true to an extent. The data reveals however, that what are considered purely subjective considerations are realistically affected by objective constructs. An interviewee describing preference for the telephone because it is quick, displays a subjective preference for an objective characteristic. Ultimately, the chief contribution of this thesis is thus the raised awareness that communicators risk making impoverished media decisions if they focus on only either subjective or objective considerations, rather than both. The truly expedient media choice may thus be as difficult to make as it may be satisfyingly effective.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages128