Josh's INET independent study, Spring 2006

My semester-long journal guiding all my readers through the independent study I am doing as part of the Internet Studies minor with Professor Hickey at Brandeis.

Location: Waltham, Massachusetts, United States

March 14, 2006

Group Chat at Work

What Is Chat Doing in the Workplace?

This article mostly discusses the concept of group chatting, such as chat rooms, within a work setting. The research is based on a study of how six global work groups functioned over a 17 month span. The reason behind this article is that chatting through a computer has become increasingly more prevalent at work, especially for global companies. E-mail is no longer the best method of communication, even between extremely long distances around the world. Most people prefer "real time" communication to e-mail now: "On the heels of tremendous popularity among recreational users, synchronous messaging applications are beginning to show up at work," says the article.

Since a one-on-one instant message conversation can be distracting and even annoying at times (especially when an IM window suddenly pops up on the screen and draws one's attention to it), the authors' research argues that chat rooms are more beneficial to workers because they can choose whether or not to participate in the group conversation based on the surrounding context within it. One of the focuses of this article is regarding the actual content of conversations taking place inside these afforementioned chat rooms. Not surprisingly, the majority of messages (69%) were work-related. Interestingly, 13% of the messages dealt with the availability of others, which supports the idea that chatting online is just a way to arrange for more "real" interactions, such as phone calls or face-to-face meetings. There was a also a small precentage of messages that were non-work related and meant to be humorous. One of the findings in the study was that as the day progresses (mid-late afternoon), there is a sharp increase in the amount of humor related messages that are sent. Perhaps people are burnt out from real work throughout the whole morning and into the afternoon that they need to joke around a bit before the work days ends for their own sanity.

While this study is strictly focused on group chat, conversing one-on-one can create a greater temptation to discuss non-work issues, such as sports, family, gossip, etc. because people may think that a regular IM with one person is more private. As stated earlier, an IM window can be slightly more intrusive compared to a group chat window that includes many conversations going on at once between many people. In the workplace, people typically feel more obliged to respond immediately to an IM from someone rather than casually follow along in conversation whenever is necessary, like in a chat room.


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2:00 PM  
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11:40 PM  

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