Videoconferencing in Business Meetings: An Affordance Perspective

Videoconferencing in Business Meetings: An Affordance Perspective

Sjur Larsen (NTNU Social Research, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijec.2015100104


This article investigates users' perceptions of videoconferencing (VC) as a mode of communication in business meetings. The study demonstrates that affordance theory is a fruitful theoretical perspective for understanding what shapes users' perceptions of how well VC works as a communication technology in business meetings. The article is based on observation and qualitative interviews with VC users in a multinational company. The findings suggest that multiple factors affect user perceptions of VC, including technical features, VC room setup, competence, culture, meeting norms, and organizational issues. The affordance perspective adopted in this study may provide practitioners with a theoretically based understanding that can improve their ability to guide VC implementation in organizations.
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Videoconferencing (VC) is increasingly being used for business meetings in companies around the globe (eWeek, 2013; Polycom, 2013). In a VC, participants are able to communicate in real time through the use of telemediated live pictures and sound; VC systems are also often used to enable documents and illustrations to be shared (Julsrud, Denstadli, & Hjorthol, 2014).

Although VC has become more widespread in modern organizations, our knowledge in this area is limited as few empirical studies have been conducted on its implementation and use in modern organizations (Denstadli, Gripsrud, Hjorthol, & Julsrud, 2013; Julsrud et al., 2014). Quantitative survey studies and experimental studies (e.g., Campbell, 2000; Denstadli et al., 2013; Denstadli, Julsrud, & Hjorthol, 2012; Han, Hiltz, Fjermestad, & Wang, 2011; Julsrud et al., 2014; Julsrud, Hjorthol, & Denstadli, 2012; Lowden & Hostetter, 2012; Standaert, Muylle, & Basu, 2013) constitute the majority of existing VC studies, whereas there are few qualitative studies (e.g., Arnfalk & Kogg, 2003; Olaniran, 2009; Olson, Grinnell, McAllister, Appunn, & Walters, 2012).

Research has paid scant attention to how people perceive VC as a mode of communication in business meetings, or the factors influencing those perceptions. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how affordance theory can be a fruitful perspective for understanding what influences users’ perceptions of VC as a mode of communication in business meetings—that is, what users find contributes to VC working well, and what prevents VC from working well, as a mode of communication in business meetings. Affordance theory originated with the work of Gibson (1979), and has since developed in multiple directions within the fields of information systems (Faraj & Azad, 2012; Majchrzak, Faraj, Kane, & Azad, 2013; Pozzi, Pigni, & Vitari, 2014) and human-computer interaction (Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2012). Common to the different approaches to affordance theory within information systems and human-computer interaction is a focus on how people perceive the action possibilities that are afforded by various technologies. Thus an affordance lens directs attention to what users perceive themselves as being able to do with technology—the communication possibilities that they perceive through the use of VC as a mode of communication in business meetings. In this article I define VC affordances as follows: user perceptions of the communication possibilities afforded by VC.

Theoretically grounded in an affordance perspective, this article addresses the following research question: which factors influence how users perceive VC as a mode of communication in business meetings?

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