Cognitive Science and Organizational Design: A Case Study of Computer Conferencing

Kevin Crowston, Thomas W. Malone, Felix Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Many researchers have investigated and speculated about the link between information technology and organizational structure with very mixed results. This article suggests that part of the reason for these mixed results is the coarseness of previous analyses of both technology and structure. It describes a new and much more detailed perspective for investigating this link. Using concepts of object-oriented programming from artificial intelligence, the information processing that occurs in organizations is characterized in terms of the kinds of messages people exchange and the ways they process those messages. The utility of this approach is demonstrated through the analysis of a case in which a reduction in levels of management is coupled with the introduction of a computer conferencing system. The detailed model developed for this case helps explain both macro-level data about the changes in the organizational structure, and micro-level data about individuals’ use of the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-85
Number of pages27
JournalHuman-Computer Interaction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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