From: "Adriana S. Vivacqua" <>
Comments on Sproull and Kiesler's paper, New ways of Working the Networked Organization.

Their points on how, in an electronic environment, meetings are more "free" are well taken. In fact, the electronic strcture (or lack thereof) tends to level all participants equally, in that no one is the "boss" or has a higher status than the others. Discussions are more open ended, more creative but take longer to reach an agreement.

However, I think that the status problem comes back after a while. If you know who you're talking to, that makes a difference in the meetings. At the same time that people are more willing to write down their thoughts, they don't want to make fools of themselves in front of a whole class (in a course mailing list, for instance). And, even if at first they don't know each other, with system usage, the person's status emerges. Through postings, it becomes increasingly easier to notice who's an expert and who's not. Then the whole problem resurfaces (maybe it's been diminished somewhat, but it's still present).

Having worked with CSCW, I've seen the status problem happen and how the provision of an electronic environment for group work changed the way work was done. the introduction of the technology also brought about interesting reactions, in that it revealed a lot about their own work methods and structure (theoretically, all participants were supposed to be on an equal level, but that was not so in real life - there were some values that defined an informal hierarchy). The structure made them all equal, and each had his own (local) objectives to pursue. The interesting part is, that there was a need for the "boss" figure. To ensure that meetings would converge at some point, one of the participants was appointed as "group coordinator", to oversee the meetings and ensure that global objectives were met. Maybe it was simply that they were used to doing things in this way, so they kept it. It may be a while before they start using the system to its full potential.