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Unintended consequences of computer-mediated communications

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This paper explores the unintended consequences of computer-mediated communications by adopting a typology suggested by the sociologist Robert Merton. The typology is used to present a thematic analysis drawn from the literature on computer-mediated communications and two new studies. The first study considered the impact of computer-mediated technology on communicative behaviour in general, and involved 22 managers working in locations in the UK and USA. The second study focused on electronic mail and drew upon the responses of 70 managers. The paper suggests that Merton's analysis of unintended consequences provides a framework which expands our ability to explain issues associated with the implementation of computer-mediated communications and discusses intervention and laissez-faire as two implicit responses evident in the recent literature.
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Keywords: Computer mediated communications; Electronic mail; Internet; Structuration theory; Unintended consequences; Video conferencing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Loughborough University, Business School, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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