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Conversational Structure in Email and Face-to-face Communication


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Christoph H. Loch, Joshua R. Tyler, and Rajan Lukose
Information Dynamics Laboratory, HP Labs

Draft, submitted to Organization Science.

Abstract
We examine email conversations in relation to human speech patterns. Our study makes two contributions. We offer the first (to our knowledge) quantitative model of conversation patterns. By parameterizing the model with an egalitarian bias parameter, we are able to explain a substantial part of the conversation structure both for email and face-to-face conversations. Second, we make observations that are relevant for the use of email in organizations: while email can be used as a "megaphone" to broadcast information, we find that it does not support larger interactive conversations than human speech. However, we also find that participation in email conversations is more egalitarian than in face-to-face conversations.

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