COMMUNITY, CONTEXT, AND THE PRESENTATION OF SELF IN DISTRIBUTED WORKPLACE INTERACTION

Authors


Abstract

Instantaneous communications technology has made it possible for distant coworkers to be interconnected to an unprecedented degree. Despite this, distributed workers often feel deeply disconnected from the production and performance of conventional workplace relationships and workplace culture. As the knowledge economy workforce trends toward ever-greater distribution and globalization, this raises important questions about the practice and experience of creative coengagement by colleagues who are not proximate to each other in time and space. How are shared understandings of workers' behavioral norms disseminated and practiced when workers are physically isolated from the collective workspace? How are relationships of collegiality and hierarchy constructed and performed through increasingly narrow channels of social interaction? How do workers signal their energy and commitment to a collective creative enterprise when their actual productive activity is largely invisible to others with whom and for whom they work? This article draws on my research with distributed knowledge workers, informal observations of colleagues, and personal experiences working as an independent consultant in distributed settings. It focuses on the challenges these workers face in defining their workplace community and effectively representing their professional selfhood when working at a distance. In this article I suggest that one key to alleviating these challenges is to extend the attributes of “placehood” to distant work spaces.

Ancillary