I’ve finally completed revisions on my prospectus! (Maybe later I’ll post about how hard it is for me to make and meet my own internal deadlines.) I’m pretty pleased with the general direction in which I’m heading, but of course there are myriad areas for improvement. I guess that’s why I have a committee – nothing like getting your hard-fought work ruthlessly critiqued by those who are older and wiser.
My working title is: How does being “always on” impact our experience at work?: Exploring continuous connectivity from an organizational communication perspective. Here’s a brief overview of my project (excerpted from the prospectus itself):
The list of significant information and communication technologies (ICTs) gets longer every year. As of right now, this list includes well-established technologies such as cell phones and email, as well as more recent innovations like Blackberries and the iPhone, instant messaging (IM), and increasingly ubiquitous wireless internet access. Together, these technologies form a nearly seamless web of connectivity, a state of perpetual contact, where an individual is “always on.”
With my dissertation, I seek to understand the implications of being always connected to the world via these technologies, with the ultimate goal of developing a model of being always on. We are quickly approaching the point of perpetual contact, where we can be reached at any time in any place, anywhere in the world. Cascio and Shurygailo (2003) refer to this as the “new paradigm of work—anytime, anywhere, in real space or in cyberspace” (p. 362). How does this state of being always on impact communication?
Technology use tends to fall along a continuum; some people cannot seem to ever turn their cell phones off, even when they are at home or on vacation, yet others refuse to buy a cell phone at all. Some people are required to keep phones or pagers on at all times because of their jobs, and others are constantly using their phones to project an image of status or importance. By talking to individuals at all points in the continuum of perpetual contact, from the non-users to the super-users, I will get a more comprehensive and complete view of the important issues of being always on. I want to learn how individuals make sense of being always on (or being always off). I want to learn about the positive and the negative effects. I want to know how this shapes their experiences at work, as well as how this affects their home lives. My ultimate goal is to develop a comprehensive model of being always on, from antecedents to processes to consequences.
This research has real implications to our everyday lives, both as members of organizations and as people living in contemporary society. These implications range from learning more about how to be productive at work to how to effectively communicate across physical and temporal distances, from how to manage a multitude of communicate technologies and an increasing amount of information to how to balance work and life concerns. These are issues all of us deal with every day, even when we are not at work. Understanding these issues can help us be more productive and more healthy.