Managing complex, distributed environments: Remote meeting technologies at the Chaotic Fringe

Karen Ruhleder, Brigitte Jordan


This paper is based on an ethnographic study of a company with widely distributed holdings within a volatile industry. The need for this distributed organization to respond as a unified whole to a rapidly changing environ«ment required it to confront the uncertainties and contingencies introduced by invisibility, distance, and fragmentation of information. In order to transcend the boundaries of time and space, the company coupled new technologies with new ways of organizing work. Groupware and remote meeting technologies provided a common virtual workscape. In this paper, we focus on issues generated by the integration of remote meeting technologies into local work practices. We compare face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings to understand how these new technologies impact the work of a distributed organization, and to uncover the new order that emerges around the use of these technologies.

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