So, how do people really use their handheld devices? An interactive study of wireless technology usey FRANCINE K. SCHLOSSER*
University of Waterloo, Canada
Using a symbolic interactionist methodology, the diverse meanings assigned by employees to wireless handheld technology are investigated. Interviews were conducted with 11 individuals representing three organizations in the public and private sector enhancing our understanding of technology use within an organizational context. Wireless technology practices are examined as they relate to aspects of self-identity, that is, the imaged self, the relational self, the integrated self and the isolated self. Individuals were able to ﬁt the technology into their work and personal roles, and at the same time, adjusted these roles to ﬁt new expectations arising from the technology. Innovative ways of using the technology were shaped by individual needs as users adapted their message contexts, social etiquette, self-impressions, and ways of doing business. A need to self-regulate emerged with high expectations of availability and the blurring of multiple work and personal roles. Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The most important lesson that can be learned from seeing the different emphases that different civilizations attach to technology is that this process is determined as much by the nature of the tool-user as by the nature of the tool. Rybczynski, 1983, p. 210. We have entered a new era of workplace connectivity through the advent of portable wireless technologies. These tools will provide needed ﬂexibility to juggle work and family aspects of our selfidentities, and provide the needed control to preserve this sense of self. However, in this fast-forward age, they may also blur traditional boundaries to such a degree, that the lines delineating our sense of self will become shadowy and inconsequential. Just as our greatest strength is often our greatest weakness, we may ﬁnd that the challenges involved in harnessing technology within our own personal and organizational context will create a much stronger sense of self. How then, do normal people who ﬁnd * Correspondence to: Francine K. Schlosser, Department of Management Sciences, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org y Portions of this paper were presented at the 2001 18th Qualitative Research Conference, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
F. K. SCHLOSSER
themselves on the frontline perceive wireless handheld devices and how has use affected their sense of self? In the current study, we investigate the meaning that each individual gives to wireless handheld technology. We examine this question from a multi-faceted perspective including aspects surrounding relational, imaged, integrated and isolated selves. The meaning given to technology and the development of technology-practices surrounding technology gives rise to a continuous cycle of innovation through use. The goals of this research are to investigate the meaning that individuals give to wireless handheld technology within an organizational context. This includes a consideration of the changes to wireless technology-practice and to traditional personal-work boundaries utilizing a symbolic interactionist viewpoint and methodology. A methodology identifying key ‘generic social processes’ underpins the study’s theoretical framework. As it relates to the subjectivist interactionist research process, Prus (1997) pioneered this concept of categorizing group life and suggested that all forms of human activity, occurring within many various subcultures, could be analysed and grouped within similar, or generic, categories. Wireless handheld...