The paradox of discontinuities and continuities: Toward a more comprehensive view of virtuality

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Source:

Academy of Management Conference, New Orleans, LA (2004)

Keywords:

Discontinuity, Virtuality

Abstract:

Understanding the fundamental dynamics in virtual work environments is a challenge for
organizational researchers. We propose that virtuality is, paradoxically, generally composed of
factors that simultaneously simplify and complicate the work environment. We use the
metaphorical construction of continuities and discontinuities to explore this phenomenon, and
show that considering boundaries as creating discontinuities in work environments enhances our
understanding in two ways. First, the language of discontinuities allows us to employ the device
of paradox to explore the underlying dynamics of virtuality. This device makes it easier to
examine the more complex reality of virtual work. Second, consideration of discontinuities
draws attention to possible problems encountered in virtual work environments and ways that
individuals and teams may compensate for the tension and differences implicit in discontinuities;
in other words, paying attention to the seemingly logical antithesis of discontinuities, or
continuities. By taking a process perspective, one can focus on the behavioral component of
work, which in turn, has a subjective component. An example from a field study of a global
virtual team is examined to illustrate the usefulness of the discontinuities/continuities framework.

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