Creating and Maintaining Obligations with Emerging Technologies: An Empirical Study of Mediated and Face-to-Face Communication

Edgar A. Whitley, Rachael Scothern


This paper describes a study that was undertaken with a small sample of staff at the London School of Economics and Political Science in order to consider the kinds of communication that are performed throughout the School and to investigate how the obligation established between two or more parties is influenced when communication is mediated as opposed to being face-to-face.

By addressing current literature on media selection and by applying the validity claims of Habermas to the concept of speech acts in communication, this study indicates that electronic communication does incite a sense of obligation between speaker and hearer that is lower than that of face-to-face interaction, but stronger than that of traditional written media. In the new 'virtual organisation' the importance of the creation of obligation is manifest if the traditional social infrastructure of trust is to be maintained.


Obligation, mediation, media selection

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