Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | January 26, 2008

multicommunicating in meetings

I’m currently involved in an interesting project investigating the use of ICTs during organizational meetings. Specifically, we’re looking at the different ways people use ICTs (such as Blackberries and other smartphones/PDAs, IM, email, etc…) to multitask during meetings. We’re most interested in the communicative aspects of multitasking (termed “multicommunicating” by Reinsch, Turner and Tinsley in a forthcoming Academy of Management Review article). This includes behaviors such as venting to others, providing social support, furthering understanding of meeting content, etc… during a meeting. When done with ICTs, these interactions become almost invisible, like a form of digital note passing.

What makes this study interesting to me is its connection to my work on being always on. Preliminary findings are fairly interesting. For example, we’re not seeing a relationship between a person’s age and her tendency to multicommunicate with ICTs during a meeting. Going into this study, I would have expected that younger employees (let’s say 40 and below) would be much more likely to do this, but our results aren’t really showing that. I wonder how age will factor into my dissertation work. Maybe younger people are not more likely to be always on…

One thing we are confirming is the importance of organizational norms. This is one of those “well, duh” sort of conclusions, but it’s great to demonstrate it with data. It looks like people are more likely to multicommunicate in meetings if they feel that others in their organization also do it, and that it’s acceptable and appropriate to do so.

Anyway, there’s a lot more going on with our data, so as we’re figuring it out, I’ll post more.

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