Interest in the diffusion process of email has been growing steadily. Whereas, initially, successful email implementations had been attributed to technological aspects (Pliskin, 1989; Pliskin, et al., 1989), more recently nontechnological explanations have received considerable attention (Pliskin and Romm, 1990). Lynne Markus, in a recent paper on email use (1994), contrasts individuallevel explanations with collectivelevel explanations and noting that the former considerations are not enough to explain why senior managers choose email for some of their communication tasks. The main argument behind the latter school of thought is that the diffusion of any technology is a social matter which depends on whether the technology is perceived as "socially appropriate" by the community of potential users. Thus, the decision of individuals to adopt email will therefore depend on whether this technology is seen as capable of serving their unique social needs within their community(Culnan and Markus, 1987). It will also depend on the type of usages that email lends itself to and the degree to which these usages are tolerated within the community. For example, it has been demonstrated by Romm and Pliskin (1994) that the successful diffusion of email can be greatly affected by users' realising its tremendous potential for political usage. The thrust of much of this early research has been to view e-mail as a dependent variable, i.e., to concentrate on what causes email to be successfully implemented in organisations, and to look for explanations for why it is accepted and how its diffusion is affected by other organisational processes (e.g., Rafaeli and LaRose, 1993). It is only in recent years that email has begun to be researched asan independent variable that causes or affects other organisational processes (Kling, 1995). Sproull and Kiesler, for instance, argue that email has a democratising effect on organisations because it enables people who are at the periphery of organisations to become more visible, and facilitates communication between people at the bottom of the organisational hierarchy and those at the top. Similarly, Finholt and Sproull (1990) demonstrate how email can facilitate group decision making and bring about group unity and cohesion. Rice's series of investigations (Rice, 1987; Rice, 1992; Rice, 1993) deal with the effect of networks on group behaviour in the workplace, with particular emphasis on how membership in networks affects members' attitudes about the newtechnology, and promote group innovation. The purpose of this research is to add to the understanding of the role of email in organizational power and politics. We build on a case study that took place at a university and explore the WAYS in which BOTH management and employees used email to further their unique political goals and conclude with a discussion of the implications from this case to email research and practice. Data for this study were collected by the authors at a University which is referredto as UIM, reflecting its InterMediate size in terms of the number of students (about 15,000), academics (about 500), and administrative staff (about 200). Textual analysis, interviews, and observations were employed in the study. These were comprehensiveand mutually supportive. The actual names of organizations and people have been withheld to protect their anonymity.
Romm, Celia T. and Pliskin, Nava, "Email as a Facilitator of Power Plays:Analysis of Political Events at a University" (1995). AMCIS 1995 Proceedings. 79.