Computer-mediated communication often makes visible and explicit many aspects of social interaction that are normally invisible or implicit.
A recent This American Life episode was the radio broadcast of a live performance of the show that was beamed to theatrical audiences around the country. In honor of the fact that the show -- usually an exclusively auditory experience -- was being consumed visually as well, the theme of the show was "Invisible made visible." Host Ira Glass summed up the theme by saying:
To state the obvious, sometimes it is just a lot easier to see things. Clears a lot of things up. And today on our radio show, we have all kinds of stories of people trying to take things that are normally invisible to them and make them visible.
And, of course, he is right. People are capable of processing incredibly complex visual cues -- this gives us the ability to communicate at high bandwidth when we can use both auditory and visual means. Not to get too Marshall Mcluhan about it, but the medium that information is transmitted can have a significant impact on what implicit cues are transmitted, and on how we understand the context of a message.
In strange ways, we face this issue all the time when we interact online.
Computer-mediated communication often makes visible and explicit many aspects of social interaction that are normally invisible or implicit. At the same time other aspects of communicative interaction that we generally take for granted as being obvious or visible are made invisible. If you have ever found it hard to detect sarcasm while G-chatting with a friend, you have encountered this issue.