Journal article Open Access

Invisible Whispering: Restructuring Collaborative Decision Making with Instant Messaging: Invisible Whispering

Dennis, Alan R.; Rennecker, Julie A.; Hansen, Sean

Organizational decision making is dominated by teams. When an important decision is required, a team is often formed to make it or to advise the individual decision maker, because a team has more resources, knowledge, and political insight than any one individual working alone. As teams have become geographically distributed, collaboration technology has come to play an important role in such collective decision making efforts. Instant messaging (IM) is an increasingly prevalent workplace collaboration technology that enables near-synchronous text exchanges on a variety of devices. We examined the use of IMduring face-to-face, telephone, and computer-mediated team meetings, a practice we call "invisible whispering." We introduce Goffman's characterization of social interaction as dramatic performance, differentiable into "front stage" and "backstage" exchanges, to analyze how invisible whispering alters the socio-spatial and temporal boundaries of team decision making. Using IM, workers were able to influence front stage decision making through backstage conversations, often participating in multiple backstage conversations simultaneously. This type of interaction would be either physically impossible or socially constrained without the use of IM. We examine how invisible whispering changes the processes of collaborative decision making and how these new processes may affect the efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative decision making, as well as participation, satisfaction, relationships among team members, and individual attention.

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