A medium's ability to communicate effectively, determined by four factors: its capacity for immediate feedback, the number of cues and channels it utilizes, the degree of personalization it affords, and its ability to communicate using natural language. The American organizational theorists Richard Daft and Robert Lengel postulated that the purpose of effective communication is to resolve either uncertainty (where there is a lack of data) or ambiguity (where there is contradictory data). Rich media can overcome different frames of reference, clarify ambiguous issues, and change understanding in a timely manner whereas non-rich media require a long time to achieve the same ends, or are incapable of doing so. However, when uncertainty and ambiguity are low, non-rich media are an effective means of communication. Daft and Lengel's research (conducted in the 1980s) ranked face-to-face interaction as the richest medium, followed by the telephone, letters, and finally, generic printed messages, e.g. memos. Compare social presence.
Subjects: Media studies