Knowledge Workers’ Choices of Communication Technology
Although Mintzberg (1973) showed that managers spend the majority of their time communicating, he did not provide a detailed analysis of the type of media that were used to send and receive information. Since Mintzberg’s publication, communication technologies have entered organizational life, offering new media choices to knowledge workers. In today’s corporate environment, knowledge workers (defined as workers who have to make substantial use of information within their work context (Davis et al., 1993)) use electronic mail (e-mail), voice mail and teleconferencing, in addition to the traditional communication media such as telephone or face-to-face communication, to send and receive information. Given the increasing availability of new communication media and the resulting complexity associated with media choice, there is a need for effective communication technology choice within organizations. It is proposed that improved understanding of the determinants of media choice enables more informed decisions about the choice of communication technology within organizations. For this purpose, both old and new communication media are investigated within this chapter.
With the growing literature on media choice, the number of determinants offered by various theoretical approaches seems to increase. The current debate on approaches includes media richness (Daft and Lengel, 1986; Daft et al., 1987); social influences (Fulk, 1993; Schmitz and Fulk, 1991); media symbolism (Trevino et al., 1990; Daft et al., 1987); situational factors (Rice, 1992; Straub and Karahanna, 1998); social presence (Short et al., 1976); critical mass (Markus, 1987); and communication genres (Yates and Orlikowski, 1992).
Given these different theoretical perspectives about communication media determinants, the question arises about commonalities between the various approaches. All the theories discuss different sets of criteria for determining media choice within organizations, and these determinants can be classified into four conceptually different groups. The first group focuses on task characteristics as primary factors explaining media choice. Theoretical approaches, which focus on the nature of the task, are media richness and situational theory. 1 The second group addresses the social environment as the main determinant of media