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Distance Matters, Except When It Doesn't: Discontinuities in Virtual Work

Mary Beth Watson-Manheim
University of Illinois, Chicago, USA
Katherine M. Chudoba
Utah State University, USA
Kevin Crowston
Syracuse University, USA

Virtual work has become an increasingly common phenomenon in today's organizations. Substantial and continuing changes in organizational processes and IT infrastructure have increased the pace and intensity of working across traditionally impermeable boundaries, enabling diverse forms of collaboration. However, our understanding of the consequences and implications of virtual work still lags and research results have been contradictory. We suggest that some of these inconsistencies have been because the boundaries that characterize virtual work-time, space, culture, organization, and so forth-are objective demarcations that are not uniformly problematic. It is only when those working in virtual settings perceive a boundary to be a discontinuity that it hinders work processes. We develop a model of virtual work that differentiates between boundaries and discontinuities, which helps account for contradictory findings. By examining the process of virtual work in more detail, we can uncover issues that are the underlying cause of problems, rather than deal with the more obvious symptoms that can mask underlying problem. Our model has implications both for research and for those working in virtual environments.

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Reference:Watson-Manheim, M.-B., Chudoba, K. M., Crowston, K. (2007). "Distance Matters, Except When It Doesn't: Discontinuities in Virtual Work," Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, 7(18). http://sprouts.aisnet.org/7-18
Keywords:Virtual work, Discontinuities/Continuities, Boundaries
Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item - Volume 7 Article 18 (2007)
Email: Mary Beth Watson-Manheim (mbwm@uic.edu)
Katherine M. Chudoba (kathy.chudoba@usu.edu)
Kevin Crowston (crowston@syr.edu)
Additional Information:Paper presented at the Academy of Management Conference, Philadelphia, PA

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