Research intentions

Below is a summary of a draft research proposal. It summarises, albeit briefly, the intentions of my research. It also considers why I feel that my research is useful, what I intend to find out, how I will do all of this, what resources I will need, and who will benefit from it all.

Title: New communication technologies and the experience of work

There has been a vast amount of anecdotal writings about how new forms of communication technology (NFCT) - Atom, weblogs (blog), Internet groups, instant messenger (IM), Podcasting, really simple syndication (RSS), voice over IP (VoIP), and Wikis (1) - that suggests NFCT can help businesses grow and/or diversify (2), challenge traditional forms of media (3), and introduce free speech where political democracy is weak (4). However, little if anything has been written about how such technologies have an effect on how we work, especially from a worker's perspective. For instance, there have been many high profile examples of workers being dismissed for blogging about their work (5) and creating headaches for employers (6). What is more, there is evidence to suggest that workers use IM whilst at work (7) (albeit secretly or concurrent to other PC-related tasks) to discuss matters of a work-related nature (amongst other things) and numerous RSSs (e.g. LabourStart) abound the Internet purely to report and discuss work-related matters. Therefore, the main purpose of my intended research is quite broad-ranging and questions I hope to answer in some way are as follows:

a) How widespread is the use of NFCT in relation to workplace issues?
b) What are the work-related reasons to use NFCT in the first place?
c) How do NFCT compliment or compensate for traditional forms of worker voice, e.g. trade union representation, staff councils, professional affiliation, etc.?
d) To what extent do NFCT add to or frustrate the experience of work?
e) What other previously unconsidered uses do NFCT serve?

How will I do this?
As the research area is potentially vast and there is little if no literature about how NFCT relate to experiences of work, I intend to begin my research with a pilot study that looks at one particular aspect of NFCT and working, i.e. I will seek out information about bloggers because they are relatively abundant and easily accessible via the Internet. A brief questionnaire will serve this purpose. However, confidentiality is likely to be the key to attaining information from bloggers themselves given that most blog anonymously out of fear of dismissal from their employer, even though very few act maliciously in these situations. I believe the most appropriate method in this instance would be an on-line questionnaire that would be suited to the technology being researched and the sensitive nature of who is being researched. The findings from this pilot study will inform further research in relation to NFCT in that the questions are to be aimed at linking NFCT with experiences of work, i.e. by simply asking - why do you blog about work, what motivated you to start blogging, etc.? The pilot questionnaire will run for six months and in the same time a broad-range of blogs are to be collected. Prior work suggests gathering around 500 work-related blogs is feasible. I would expect around 50 per cent to respond to the initial questionnaire and from a pool of around 250 bloggers around 50 per cent of respondents would make themselves available for further study. Costs at this stage will be minimal as the researcher on a part-time and intermittent basis can do the pilot study and using already established and procured resources.
However, further data gathering on blogs, never mind other forms of NFCT, is likely to incur financial costs and time that cannot be accommodated by the researcher or the institute the researcher is employed by. An estimation of costs at this stage are unknown, although the main costs are likely involve making numerous telephone calls (interviews and repeat interviews, most of which will be international) and laborious tasks such as transcribing interviews. A further cost may involve procuring a tape recorder compatible with telephonic communications and a software package capable of processing and analysing qualitative data. Finally, I expect once the pilot study is over that the data collection process to last 24 months, although within this period there will almost certainly be scope for substantial progress reports and the writing of conference papers with view to publishing in both academic and non-academic journals.

I believe the benefits for researching NFCT will be of significant benefit for a number of groups - academics, personal users of NFCT, governmental and non-governmental policy makers, employer organizations, employee organizations and professional organizations. In brief, the research will not only engage with the previously under-researched informal and unofficial application of NFCT, it will provide unprecedented insights into how workers experience work and adapt to work by making use of increasingly available and commonly used NFCT. Moreover, published work on this matter will add substantially to the literature that considers the quality of working life and the future of work.

1) Walker, S. (2005) 'Some current forms of web communication technologies',
2) Hewitt, H. (2005) Blog: Understanding the information reformation that's changing our world, Nashville, TE: Nelson Books.
3) Guardian (2005) 'The bloggers have all the best news', The Guardian: Media GGuardian, June 6,,,1499801,00.html
4) BBC News (2005) 'Global blogger action day called', February 21,
5) Hopkins, C. (2005) 'Blogfire: Blog employment survey',
6) Swartz, J. (2003) 'Worker blogs raise some company concerns', USA Today: Money, May 10,
7) Guardian (2005) Foibles: Instant Messenger, Guardian: OfficeHours, May 23,,,1489845,00.html.

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