Updating Ethnography to Investigate Contemporary Organizational Forms

Updating Ethnography to Investigate Contemporary Organizational Forms

Julie Rennecker (Case Western Reserve University, USA)
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-144-5.ch009
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Abstract

The emergence of innovative organizational configurations enabled by recent advances in information and communication technology represent new and expanding venues for information systems research. At the same time, the distributed, dynamic nature of these new work forms challenge the premises and practices of traditional information systems research approaches. In this chapter, I advocate ethnography as a somewhat counterintuitive but valuable approach to the study of virtual work groups or, more specifically, virtual project teams. While the speed, fluidity, and physical distribution of virtual project teams pose unique challenges to ethnographic inquiry, it is these very characteristics that beg for the in situ scrutiny that only ethnography can provide. The mission of this chapter is three-fold: I intend to contribute to prior efforts to demystify ethnographic research generally, to illustrate its applicability to emerging venues of IS research, and to advocate for more ethnographic studies of virtual project teams as an essential step in understanding the socio-technical infrastructure needed to support them. Topics covered include the rationale for adopting an ethnographic approach to the study of virtual project groups, modifications to traditional practice, and the challenges, risks, and benefits one can expect to meet along the way. In addition, the chapter discusses different models for conducting multi-site studies and their advantages and limitations with respect to studying virtual project teams.

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