The case for 'face-time' in a multi-cultural, computer-mediated global economy

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Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research

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University of Cape Town

The advent of computer-mediated communications has put traditional interpersonal communications such as face-to-face (F†F) communication under scrutiny. Are these traditional channels becoming obsolete and, if so, are we, as communication teachers and practitioners, teaching our students appropriate and relevant communication skills for the global economy? A communication needs analysis in business, conducted at the University of Cape Town (UCT) during 2001/02, found that the underlying assumption regarding obsolescence of traditional communication channels was, for the most part, unfounded. Although written business communications have changed dramatically with the advent of e-mail, F†F oral communication is still prefered by student, staff and professional respondents overall. Reasons for the popularity of ‘face-time’ as espoused in the literature were confirmed in this study. Although respondents urged teachers to ‘stick to the basics’, most acknowledged the role and impact of electronic and cellular communication in modern-day communications. Rather than advocating an either-or scenario, respondents recommended a complementary high- and low-technology approach to communicative competence, especially in South Africa with its First and Third-World characteristics.