Instant Messaging Cultural Divide: Presence Versus Communication

Here are some interesting ideas put forward by Danah in summing up a rant about instant messenger usage. I’m definitely one of the IM users that would fall into the presence category. I have accounts on MSN, AIM, Yahoo, and ICQ and run them all through Trillian. I actually have 2 sets of accounts one for work and one for non-work and often use them as a way to send files and data back and forth between machines.


  • There is a cultural divide between different groups of users of IM, namely the always-on’rs and the just-came-to-chat folks.
  • The divide is due to a recognition of IM as a presence tool vs. just seeing it as a communication tool.
  • The just-came-to-chat folks assert a power differential between peers by demanding that the always-on’rs pay attention to them when they appear.
  • IM exacerbates power-differentials by implying that there is equality in participants, as though it is an equalizing context.