Work relationships and media use: A social network analysis

Caroline Haythornthwaite, Barry Wellman, Marilyn Mantei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Our research provided empirical evidence about the alternative means of communication used by 25 members of a research group who had available to them: unscheduled face-to-face encounters, sheduled face-to-face meetings, electronic mail, telephone, fax, and desktop videoconferencing. The intent of our research is to learn whether there are elements in existing group communication patterns that suggest how future communication systems can be designed or selected to fit the actual work relationships of a group. A detailed social network survey provided information about what members of the group communicated about, how they communicated, and with whom they communicated. Most communication was done through a combination of media, but predominately through unscheduled encounters, electronic mail, and scheduled meetings; people rarely videoconferenced, telephoned, or faxed. Factor analysis reduced the 24 work relationships to six distinct dimensions: receiving work, giving work, collaborative writing, major emotional support, sociability, and computer programming. The proportion in which the three main media were used varied according to the nature of the work dimension. Our findings suggest that a multivariate perspective that considers group norms and practices, social networks, and work dimensions is necessary to analyze media use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-211
Number of pages19
JournalGroup Decision and Negotiation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • collaborative work
  • computer-mediated communication
  • electronic mail
  • information technology
  • media choice
  • multimedia integration
  • network analysis
  • social networks
  • videoconferencing
  • work communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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