The Politics of Instant Messenger

Do you use IM? Well if you’re reading this, chances are the answer is yes. But do you use IM for work? I’m beginning to learn that the answer may also be yes — even though it is not “required.”

So far in my research, I have found IM to be both an emancipator and a limiter. On the one hand, people have told me that it allows them to co-create with their colleagues “on the fly” and get “immediate answers.” But I’ve also learned that it makes people trackable.

People frequently get called into meetings through IM, get asked questions with the intent of getting “immediate answers.” And above all, be “available.”

When people use email, by contrast, it’s for “documentation,” “official business,” or even “to cover my ass.” IM allows you to be informal and quick. But it also allows you to get immediate reaction or involvement from a coworkers. IM is more than a communication device, it’s an informal way of enforcing ongoing availability.

How often do you IM at home?

I’ll have more to say on this later, but if you’re interested in talking to me about IM, feel free to…ahem…IM me. Ahem.

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