Nick Carbone

Nick begins his response by addressing one of Patty’s sentences.


"You write of your story, ‘It’s about family connections in the digital world—connections that I know are important.’ Yes. That is exactly what the story was about at its heart. Not the technology--Skype chat, Skype phone, email–but family. Love connects, not technology. Technology helps you communicate and share pictures, maybe, but that is not the same thing as loving one another.


In another age, the 1940s maybe, your story might have been about finding a stack of letters postmarked from Washington, Germany, and Australia, perhaps with a few photos still in the envelops.


That for a moment your family happened to be all online at the same time... well, that was serendipity. Not technology. The miracle, really, in this age of dysfunctional families, is that everyone wanted to talk to one another. Even your children-in-law feel part of your family. Sure, the technology made the serendipitous moment possible and that moment was neat and it was fun. And so those feelings we graft onto the technology, as we are trained to do. But the technology is just fiberoptics and radio signals strung together by code and protocols. It makes such serendipitous convergence of those you love possible. But the technology could just as easily sit there unused.


The technology myth you describe in that moment, it’s the stuff that ads are made of. In fact, it descends directly from technology marketing campaigns: cell phone commercials about family plans and circles and Fave Fives; business software ads about discovering and growing your idea, or about keeping the team in touch and being productive; long-distance phone commercials where families connect and father and daughter reconcile in forgiving tears all because of a call made. The ads say the technology makes these things happen. But not really." 



Blending claims by three different communication scholars helps in understanding how digital communication technologies work for families—especially transnational ones. Researcher Steven Vertovec (2004) argued that "The communications allowed by cheap telephone calls serve as a kind of social glue connecting small-scale social formations across the globe" (p. 220). This argument can be extended to IMing and other digital communication technologies.


Castells, Fernandez-Ardevol, Qiu, and Sey (2007) claimed that mobile technologies "strengthen networks of interaction, whether among families, peer groups, friends, or selective personal relationships" (p. 97). This strengthening is especially important for transnational families who need to construct a "connected relationship" that enables "them to overlook their physical separation by time and space—even it only temporarily" (Wilding, 2006, p. 132). 



Even though Nick (like Captain and Tennille) believes that "love will keep us together,” we have come to believe that there’s more to the family/love/technology equation. This love relationship is grounded in the family socio-biological unit, but communication holds that unit together and keeps families functioning. As families become more mobile, the challenges of keeping connected are multiple. We believe, like Vertovec, Castells et al., and Wilding, that digital technologies have made those challenges less daunting—at least for some families. We also believe there’s more for scholars and teachers to consider.


Clusters of digital technologies concretize around, and with, family communication practices. Some families text or IM each other to keep their days organized. Parents and children use digital technologies to keep track of each others' whereabouts. Families who live hundreds or even thousands of miles apart use Skype or other VOIP technologies to keep in touch. Families use email. The convergences of these communications vary from family to family with each family creating its own (constantly changing) cluster of technologies.


In their uses of these technologies, families extend their unique rhetorical styles into new media. The technologies of Skype, texting, emailing, Facebooking, and many more have become part of family decorums. Techno-rhetorical styles are modified as communication shifts from one family member to the next. What is acceptable when texting a brother is not acceptable for texting Mom or Dad. Perhaps Mom does text, but Dad may still need a phone call and has not yet figured out how to retrieve voicemail. Styles change, allusions change, tone changes (Day). Family digital communications have rich possibilities as a rhetorical classroom, but only if we become aware of them.