Reducing Social Context Cues: Electronic Mail in Organizational Communication

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This paper examines electronic mail in organizational communication. Based on ideas about how social context cues within a communication setting affect information exchange, it argues that electronic mail does not simply speed up the exchange of information but leads to the exchange of new information as well. In a field study in a Fortune 500 company, we used questionnaire data and actual messages to examine electronic mail communication at all levels of the organization. Based on hypotheses from research on social communication, we explored effects of electronic communication related to self-absorption, status equalization, and uninhibited behavior. Consistent with experimental studies, we found that decreasing social context cues has substantial deregulating effects on communication. And we found that much of the information conveyed through electronic mail was information that would not have been conveyed through another medium.

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