Social Impacts of Computer-Mediated Communication on Strategic Change Processes

Social Impacts of Computer-Mediated Communication on Strategic Change Processes

Dubravka Cecez-Kocmanovic (University of Western Sydney, Hawesbury, Australia) and Andy Busuttil (University of Western Sydney, Hawesbury, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-74-2.ch008
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Abstract

Communication in the workplace has been revolutionized by workers having individual access to networked computers. Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) enables staff members to interact electronically and actively participate in a group or organization-wide debate from their desk. Email, video-conferencing, groupware, and intranet-based systems are all examples of CMC technologies. Universities have been early adopters of CMC because of a number of factors, including easy individual access to a networked computer and readily available software. This has also meant that universities have been amongst the first to experience the socio-organizational effects of these media of communication. This case is about a University, named Uni-X, which adopted and appropriated CMC to support a University-wide consultative process to inform its future strategic directions. Strategic change was required in response to a number of external political and economic factors. The President and the Executive Committee decided to use the consultative process both to increase staff awareness of the circumstances being faced by the University and to engage them in an exploratory process leading to the decisions that were to be made. The CMC system used was intended to provide equal access to information by all staff, to enable a University-wide electronic forum for discussion, and to support the coordination of a multitude of the other in-vivo tasks arising from the process. The case enables examination of (at least) three controversial issues of CMC deployment: equality of access, equality of participation, and democratizing potential. Equality of access means that all the participants have an equal opportunity to access the communication network and information resources in the system. Equality of access has to be distinguished from the equality of participation, which denotes equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion, both to affect and be affected by the opinion of others. CMC’s democratizing potential is an even more complex issue that refers to CMC’s contribution to the openness and transparency of organizational processes and to consensus-based participatory decision-making. Understanding the use and appropriation of CMC by individuals as members of different groups and as members of the Uni-X University, together with understanding the uniqueness of their specific local contexts, is a prerequisite for exploring the richness of social impacts, and why and how they emerged.

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