C17. Rice, R.E. (1992). Contexts of research on organizational computer-mediated communication: A recursive review. In M. Lea (Ed.), Contexts of computer-mediated communication (pp. 113-144). United Kingdom: Harvester-Wheatsheaf.


Rather than providing yet another review, this chapter takes a different, recursive approach. This chapter does not consider context in the same sense of unique or holistic aspects of organizational settings--that is, from the perspective of the actual participants, whether users, managers, designers or vendors. Nor does it consider the contextualizing influences of the researcher’s institution, funding sources, academic discipline, academic/practitioners orientation, evaluation goals, journal characteristics and editorial policy – that is, from the perspective of individual researchers. Rather this review recursively summarizes and organizes material from published CMC reviews (consisting of theories, models, propositions, critiques or empirical results, while ignoring almost all specific CMC studies) – that is, from the perspective of what actually appears in print and thus potentially accessible to other researchers.

Further, this review considers, when appropriate, studies of computing and information systems in general because the boundaries between computing, information systems and computer-mediated communication systems are inherently ambiguous, and, as systems and applications become more integrated, more so. For example, a computer bulletin board my be considered and used as a database information system, involving a variety of storage, retrieval and display aspects, as users ‘post’ information for others to refer to when desired. However, it may also be considered and used as a computer conferencing system where users engage in on-going, multiple-topic conversations, representing a lively social forum.

Throughout, by ‘research contexts’, I mean the meta-theoretic assumptions, models, frameworks and proposition sets, processes and phases, levels of analysis, system characteristics, contingency models, methodological and evaluation criteria or prior sets of empirical results that have emerged from prior CMC research, and that may suggest contexts for designing, conducting and interpreting future research. The section headed ‘An example: diffusion and adoption of CMC systems’ provides a brief illustration of how these research contexts might be used in studies of CMC diffusion.

Click here for PDF copy of publication