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Abstract

We studied how project groups in a pharmaceutical organization configure a new Web-based communication medium to communicate project content. The project groups are geographically dispersed and operate in different time zones. In such environments, synchronous or geographically bounded modes of communication (e.g., face to face meetings, telephone) are not always viable options. As such, computer-based communication media become surrogate conduits for day-to-day project communication and exchange of project-related content. In the study, content communicated via the Web-based medium varied between different projects groups in the organization. To explain these variations, we develop a theoretical framework based on genre theory and augment this with perspectives from media richness theory. We illustrate how the augmented framework can explain the variations in communication within two project groups. We find that substantive medium use is likely when there is a fit between an institutionalized communication genre, perceived nature of content, and medium configuration. When there is a poor fit between genre, content and medium, we find evidence that communicators seek to achieve a better fit by manipulating one of these three constructs. We also outline some practical implications for the configuration of Web-based media that support dispersed project groups.

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