“Invisible Whispering”: Restructuring Meeting Processes with Instant Messaging

  • Julie A. RenneckerEmail author
  • Alan R. Dennis
  • Sean Hansen
Part of the Advances in Group Decision and Negotiation book series (AGDN, volume 4)


Instant messaging (IM) is an increasingly prevalent workplace communication tool that enables near-synchronous text exchanges on a variety of devices. In an interview study of IM use in two organizations, we explored the use of IM during face-to-face and telephone meetings, a practice we call “invisible whispering.” We introduce Goffman’s characterization of social interaction as dramatic performance, differentiable into “front stage” and “backstage” exchanges, to analyze how invisible whispering alters the socio-spatial and temporal boundaries of meetings. Using IM, workers were able to participate concurrently in “front stage” and “backstage” interactions, to carry on multiple “backstage” conversations, and to influence “front stage” activities through “backstage” conversations. This type of interaction would be either physically impossible or socially constrained without the use of IM. We discuss the potential implications of these changes for meeting effectiveness and group dynamics, raising questions for further study. We also suggest that the analytic lens and vocabulary we use to analyze the social consequences of invisible whispering offer a new point of entry for future studies of IM and for computer-supported group decision and negotiation more generally.


Group Decision Instant Messaging Meeting Participant Meeting Attendee Front Stage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie A. Rennecker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan R. Dennis
    • 2
  • Sean Hansen
    • 3
  1. 1.Panoramic PerspectivesAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Information Systems, Kelley School of BusinessIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Case Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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