Across Boundaries in Real-Time: The Use of Skype in an Educational Startup
This study analyses the changing morphology of organizational communication enabled by new real-time communication (RTC) tools with a particular reference to organizational control. The qualitative case study revolves around the use of popular internet-based communication system Skype in a small startup company entering competitive educational services market with a distributed organization and service offering.
Skype is a new kind of real-time communication system (Frößler and Klein 2006) that combines a number of separate synchronous and asynchronous services such as voice calls, instant messaging, text messaging, file transfers, conferencing, presence indicator and directory services into an easy-to-use desktop application freely available from the internet. In contrast to traditional enterprise systems driven largely by managerial concerns for rational control (Beniger 1986, Ciborra 2000, Wright 2007, Yates 1989, Zuboff 1988), Skype incorporates a corporate history and technological architecture that has often been perceived to defy such aims (Benkler 2006, Goldsmith and Wu 2006, Hosein et al. 2003). !is ongoing research explores the question how an organization conceptualizes its attempts to align people, resources and actions in a setting that may be perceived to lack some of the traditional conditions for organizational control. For instance, measures relying on strict circumscription of the organization from its environment may become less effective as RTC systems enable computer-mediated presence across organizations, work environments and professional vs. private divide. While the escalation of immediacy across settings has been observed in the studies on mobile email (Mazmanian et al. 2006, Orlikowski 2007) RTC systems are designed to take it to a new level by providing a stream of presence information continuously reconfiguring the communicative situation. As a part of larger research effort, the Information Growth And Internet Research (www.tigair.info) the study endeavours to explore subtle yet arguably pervasive changes taking place in the socio-economic environment beyond individual cases. these changes relate to widely accepted (Brown and Duguid 2000, Castells 2000, Webster 2002) yet to date narrowly understood changes in the role of information and informating for organizing argues Jannis Kallinikos (2006) in his recently coined theory of information growth. According to Kallinikos, information cannot anymore be understood as a mere resource but a pervasive condition, a new habitat, for organizing. “Sooner or later, the interaction of technology and information obtains a life of its own, whereby what is available or possible gains precedence over the choice of courses of action based on the careful analysis of information needs”, argues Kallinikos (2006, p. 65). The habitat of information emerges from the self-referential growth of information underpinned by interoperable systems and results in the rapid disposability of information.
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