Asynchronous vs. Real Time Communication

Asynchronous = “Next Best Thing to Being There” — or Is It Better?

asynchronous communication

real-time vs. asynchronous communication

The Center for Academic Technology of the University of the District of Columbia provided the above image in a blog post, Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication. They outline advantages and disadvantages of either. Below are my thoughts about the pros and cons.

Advantages of Real Time Communication

The big advantage of a phone call versus a letter (remember postal letters?) is that the conversation is two-directional in brief components with immediate response. The communication goes back and forth like a Ping Pong game — or at least it SHOULD. (You know how boring a verbose monologue is, especially when you are the on the receiving end 😉 Twitter has introduced a hybrid with near real-time brief micro-messages, which could be exchanged either in real-time — or not. Believe it or not, (patient) people used to play chess by post cards — no kidding!

Non-Verbal Communication

As I pointed out in a previous post,

Social Psychologists generally subscribe to the theory that “93% of interpersonal communication is non-verbal, and only 7 % is content.” Almost every facet of our personality is revealed through our appearance, our body language, our gestures, our facial expressions, our overall demeanor, and our posture and movements.  Interpersonal perception and “chemistry” are mostly unconscious and based on subtle natural cues, like tone and “warmth” of voice, a real handshake, pupil dilation, and even biological hormonal fragrances called pheramones. No matter how hard the perfume manufacturers try, it is hard to fake interpersonal chemistry. We unconsciously form a persistent “first impression” during the first few minutes of meeting a new person.

These nonverbal factors present a big challenge for those of us who want to use social media to communicate. Not to mention the phenomenon of computers “talking” to each other with automated “social” media! The question is, “How can we send and receive nonverbal messages in a verbal environment?” Videos and webinars may help.

Sherry Turkle wrote an interesting article (4/21/12) in the New York Times, called The Flight From Conversation. She writes:

WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. 

Asynchronous Communication Has Advantages As Well

In my opinion the biggest advantage is the avoidance of interruptions in the middle of a project or another call. A hybrid solution would be to use asynchronous communication, such as email or voice mail, to arrange an appointment for a live conversation in real time — maybe even in person.

Terry Jones (@terrycjones) wrote an interesting article on 9/26/10 on O’Reilly Radar called, Dancing out of time: Thoughts on asynchronous communication. He discusses why asynchronous communication is far more scalable and thus more powerful. He says (actually writes 😉

It’s difficult to overstate the impact of technology on our ability to communicate asynchronously. Modern digital systems provide us with virtually unlimited amounts of cheap storage, along with the means to efficiently deposit/retrieve information into/from this storage. Consider Slideshare as an example. You can post presentation slides and have them read asynchronously by thousands or even millions, rather than just seen by the dozens who might attend a presentation in person.

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