This paper addresses the research question: How do digital backchannels, mediated by Real-Time Communications, facilitate the progress of conference calls? It is argued that whilst the fields of Distributed Work and Computer Supported Collaborative Work have been studied in depth, research into Real-Time Communications (RTC) and Instant Messaging (IM) is at an early stage. There is a paucity of research into the use of these technologies in distributed settings within organisations, especially from a perspective of generating social cohesion within teams. Furthermore, there is no known research into the use of instant messaging to mediate “hidden” interactions between individuals, through digital backchannels, within conference calls. Qualitative empirical evidence is obtained from two case studies of teams using an established corporate RTC product. Goffman's Interaction Order (1983) is presented a suitable lens through which to interpret this mediated form of interaction. Empirical evidence points to concurrent working and use of digital backchannels during meetings and conference calls. Dramaturgy (Goffman 1959) is used to identify and analyse three interaction styles of “bitching”, “bouncing” and “brawling”. It is found that interactions over digital backchannels fulfil criteria of Interaction Ritual (Goffman 1967) and may contribute to the creation of social cohesion.
Eaton, Benjamin D., "Bitching, Bouncing and Brawling - How Backchannels Brought Colour to Conference Calls" (2009). ECIS 2009 Proceedings. 43.