New book by Iowa State journalism professor examines how to bridge the technological "Interpersonal Divide"

AMES, Iowa -- In the new book, "Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age," Michael Bugeja, professor and director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University, says modern technology is driving civilization away from real communities.

Bugeja writes that e-mail and cell phones have created an "interpersonal divide" -- a void that develops between people when they spend too much time in virtual, rather than real, communities.

"The book looks at all aspects of technology that have an impact on community," Bugeja said. "There is a growing inability of people to use face-to-face communication to solve problems. I believe the more we can value each other face-to-face, the better we can develop a sense of community."

Communication problems can be both business and personal.

"We're dealing with a new generation that meets, dates and breaks up with each other in chat rooms," Bugeja said. "I have heard of stories of couples walking hand-in-hand on a city street, both talking to others on a cell phone.

"In the business world, ombudsman cases have spiked in recent years and a majority of those cases are related to e-mails," he continued. "No doors have been slammed. Instead, people have become angry over the use of typewritten words in a place, cyberspace, that does not even exist."

The book examines media history to show how other generations coped with similar problems during great technological change. The book shows how each new medium has changed the message, resulting in misinterpretation of motives and causing deep rifts in personal and professional relationships.

"I'm not advocating less use of technology," Bugeja said. "I want to teach our students how to use these important tools correctly."

Oxford University Press published the book. It was released this week.