Media richness theory

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Abstract

Media richness theory (MRT) has sparked volumes of research on media, mediated communication, and their effects. The three implied theoretical assumptions/conditions consist of individuals’ task-driven motivation, rational evaluation of media, and the capability to use available media. Media richness, the main construct, entails four dimensions: feedback immediacy, multiplicity of cues, language variety, and personal focus—the first two are the more essential aspects. The central proposition stipulates that an appropriate match of task equivocality and media richness leads to efficiency in task accomplishment. That “task-medium match” proposition has received empirical support only in studies that largely met the implied theoretical conditions. The theoretical utility is low because very few real-life media use situations meet those conditions. The greatest contribution of MRT stems from the construct of media richness, which has gained its own life separate from MRT’s theoretical proposition. Media richness has been adopted as a predictor of many media-related cognitions and behaviors including media use satisfaction, online consumer behavior and interpersonal interaction, and distance learning. Although media richness is still capable of describing information and symbol carrying capacity of media (albeit largely single media), richness is inadequate for explaining the interface functionalities of multimedia. More advanced, versatile multimedia communication technologies such as social media demand theories and constructs to supplement MRT. This chapter covers several topics including MRT’s origin and evolution, criticisms, empirical treatments of media richness, theoretical validity, competing predictors of media use, and media richness in applied contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Media Psychology
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Pages1-14
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781119011071
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2020

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