CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work
Title: Informal Communication in Organizations: Form, Function, and Technology
Authors: Robert E. Kraut, Robert S. Fish, Robert W. Root, Barbara L. Chalfonte
Citation: People's Reactions to Technology in Factories, Offices, and Aerospace, pp145-199, 1990
Reprinted in: Baecker, pp 287-314
This paper is divided into three parts, the first part is the theoretical
explination, the second is the formal study, and the final parts is the
The authors pointed out the importance of communication for active
cooperation and creative work. People need to communicate with one
another to accomplish their production and social functions.
Looking around the working environment, the informal communcation
seems to be a dominant activity, but most current video technology
seems to focus on formal communications. The authors then discuessed
more about the nature and value of informal and spontaneous communicative
activity and whether technology could be fruitfully employed to aid it.
They tried to define Informal Communication as :
They describe the surface characteristics of informal conversations: including
Frequency and initiation, Location, and Duration.
In the formal study session, the episodes reviewed here share several
- it is that which remains when rules and hierarchies are eliminated as
ways of coordinating activities.
- it is communication that is spontaneous, itneractive, and rich.
- rich comtent communication channel.
Informal communication tends to be frequent, and is distance sensitive.
In other words, it happens most often with people who are in physical
proximity. Finally, informal conversations tend to b shorter than more
- All were unplanned and unanticipated.
- The visual channel was a prerequisite for these interactions to occur.
- Both production and social work often get done in these informal conversatons.
In conclusion, we should pay more attention to the development of means
and technology to support informal communication.
Report prepared by: Haowei Hsieh
Discussion date: February 14, 1997
Report date: February 17, 1997