Virtual workplaces are constructed of people using technology to work at a distance, with the goal of transferring knowledge (both explicit and implicit) toward specific purposes. What are the communication gains and losses most experienced in virtual workplaces? Using an economic frame, this chapter seeks to review literature on virtual workplaces from across professional fields in order to suggest methods for maximizing communication utility and minimizing losses in virtual workplaces. With rhetoric as the primary unit of exchange, what steps can be taken to ensure its effectiveness? Current research points to planning, face-to-face opportunities, mixed media, boundaries, and meta-communication as most important as well as the ability to adapt them to the characteristics of virtual workplaces.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Meta-Communication: Communicating about communication.
Utility: Perceived benefit.
Unit: of Rhetoric: Can be composed of the written or spoken word, but online units of rhetoric can also be composed of other communication such as silences in synchronous forums or emoticons.
Ethos: Credibility, and essential element to trust which is in turn essential to the effective functioning of a virtual workplace.
Social Communication: Informal communication that provides context and mutual understanding.
Virtual Workplace: Information centers in an information age; people within them work at a distance with the goal of knowledge transfer toward specific purposes.
Value: How much someone is willing to pay for something.
CMC: Computer-mediated communication. Commonly used to describe the synchronous and asynchronous communication that supports virtual workplaces.
Boundaries: Limited access to virtual places, including levels within places.