There is a general need to understand better how context can affect evaluation, usage, and productivity of IT in research and practical settings. This paper investigates how perceived effectiveness of e-mail-style computer-mediated communication (CMC) differs between work and non-work contexts of use, and contrasts these differences with perceived effectiveness of face-to-face communication (FtFC). From the prior literature, we identified seven major activity domains that are prominent in CMC research. We developed a set of activity scales and corresponding measures of normative cognitive effort (NCE) for these domains and conducted an initial study to evaluate the overall instrument. In a second study, we measured perceived effectiveness of the communication mode within each activity domain among subjects who had communicated via e-mail and FtFC over a 15-week period. Some subjects communicated to support team-based software development (work context), and others communicated for personal interest (non-work context). We find communication technologies, activities, and contexts of use jointly determine perceived effectiveness; context influences perceived effectiveness primarily through interactions; and NCE successfully predicts perceived effectiveness based upon normative differences among activities. Our findings extend prior research in the area of task-technology fit to incorporate context effects, suggest that context is an important consideration in designing research, and introduce NCE as a method for predicting fit that can be applied even prior to system design. We conclude that the differential effects of work vs. non-work contexts are too large to be ignored, and we recommend an increased focus on context effects in CMC research and practice.
Wilson, E. V. and Sheetz, Steven D.
"Context Counts: Effects of Work versus Non-Work Context on Participants’ Perceptions of Fit in E-mail versus Face-to-Face Communication,"
Communications of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 22
, Article 17.
Available at: http://aisel.aisnet.org/cais/vol22/iss1/17