Cognitive science and organizational design: A case study of computer conferencing

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Human Computer Interaction, Volume 3, Issue 1, p.59–85 (1987)


Organizational Modelling


Many researchers have investigated and speculated about the link between information technology and organizational structure with very mixed results. This paper suggests that part of the reason for these mixed results is the coarseness of previous analyses of both technology and structure The paper 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 svstem.


Originally appeared in Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW ΚΌ86) (pp. 43–61). Austin, TX: ACM, 1986.
Reprinted in I. Grief (Ed.) Computer-supported cooperative work: A book of readings (pp. 713–740). San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann, 1988.


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