Enabling Technology for Collaborative Working: A Socio-Technical Experience

Enabling Technology for Collaborative Working: A Socio-Technical Experience

Dianne Willis (Doncaster College, UK) and Elayne Coakes (University of Westminster, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-64-3.ch008


This chapter looks at the use of enabling technology, in particular the Internet, to share experiences of socio-technical thinking and practice. From an idea of gathering an international perspective on socio-technical practices was born a collaborative venture between three members of the Sociotechnical group of the British Computer Society (BCS). The aim of the venture was to gather together a series of modern socio-technical experiences in book format. As none of the three participants lived close to the other in geographical terms and the basis of the book was to be international experiences, some method of communication was needed that took no account of international timelines and geographical boundaries. Major options considered for the project were the telephone, fax or electronic mail (e-mail). Each communication method has its advantages and disadvantages, but for a truly international perspective, e-mail was considered to be the best option. Whittle (1997) argues that the rapid communication, convenience and economy of e-mail promotes efficiency. The eventual choice of e-mail was influenced by the fact that it takes no account of time differences and people can deal with e-mail as and when they have time. According to Harris (1996), communicating by e-mail is very inexpensive compared to telephone communication, as messages and even files can be exchanged around the world for the cost of a local phone call. This aspect was also highlighted when contributors were asked to send disc and hard copy which proved very expensive, though was undoubtedly more reliable as problems with compatibility of systems disappeared.

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