Discontinuities and continuities: A new way to understand virtual work

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Information, Technology & People, Volume 15, Issue 3, Number 3, p.191–209 (2002)


Discontinuity, Virtuality


"Virtual’’ is a potent buzzword, freely applied to many situations, with many meanings. In this exploratory study, we develop a more precise understanding of "virtual’’ to describe changing work environments. Specifically, we propose a framework to classify work environments based on the type of discontinuities involved. Discontinuities are gaps or a lack of coherence in aspects of work. The framework allows us to compare research across different topics and work settings. We use the framework to classify 75 published articles on virtual work environments or earlier, related research streams. We observed that many studies were simultaneously addressing existing or emerging continuities, factors or strategies for overcoming discontinuities. The focus of "virtual’’ is on changes in the work environment; however, our analysis suggests the need to be equally aware of factors that have not changed and which may become more critical with the introduction of discontinuities.


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