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Distance, ambiguity and appropriation: Structures affording impression management in a collocated organization


Communication and collaboration technologies have recently given rise to unprecedented flexibility in work arrangements, including telecommuting and virtual teams with geographically distributed participants. Much research has consisted of comparing distant and collocated teams, arguing that distance constrains communication opportunities, but this effect can be countered somewhat with communication media. In an “always connected” world, however, traditional conceptualizations of distance may be less useful in that communication opportunities are virtually constant for both distant and collocated teams. Working from an adaptive structuration perspective, we argue for a more nuanced treatment of distance, looking at its more specific effects, such as regulating the probability of unexpected face-to-face encounters, and affecting individuals’ control over the release of information. We show that even in a collocated setting, members of the organization we studied enacted structures that reflected the effects of distance on their behavior, but also reflected social constraints that enabled control over information flow, and the use of language to explain their behavior and maintain positive impressions.

J. Birnholtz
G. Dixon
J.T. Hancock
Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1028-1035
Publication Date
May 1, 2012