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Emilee Rader

Associate Professor @ the University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Mediated Communication Between Extended Family and Friends: A Case Study

by: Emilee (Rader) Patrick and Crysta Metcalf


The social science literature describes in detail communication among nuclear family members within a single household; however, there is a surprising lack of information available about how people use communication media to keep in touch with extended family members and friends living outside their household. This paper describes a field study that was conducted to identify communication breakdowns between people who maintain relationships without seeing each other on a daily basis. “Rapid ethnography” methods were used to collect data from six households who participated in the month-long study. Findings describe the use of media from greeting cards to instant messaging, and underscore the impact of face-to-face contact on the frequency and intimacy of communication events. Implications for designing communication technology for the home are discussed.


Emilee (Rader) Patrick and Crysta Metcalf. “Mediated Communication Between Extended Family and Friends: A Case Study.”Motorola Labs Technical Report. Schaumburg, IL. September 2001.

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