Christine Beckman and Melissa Mazmanian are two young and dynamic faculty members who are highly involved in the COR community. Christine is an Associate Professor of Organization and Management in the Merage School of Business and Melissa is an Assistant Professor of Informatics in the School of Information and Computer Sciences. They sat down with COR recently to discuss their own work, their experiences with COR, and an exciting new collaborative research project they are working on.
Interview by Katie Pine
COR- How long have you been affiliated with COR, and how did you first get involved?
CB- Since the beginning, in 2004. I was on the first executive committee. Martha brought the idea from Michigan, and I had been involved in a similar thing at Stanford, so I jumped into it quickly.
MM- At Michigan, I got involved with ICOS and it changed my life. It made me realize I was interested in organizations, and it gave me a community of people with shared interests. It is my second year here, and I am unusual because I am from a business school and I am faculty in an informatics department. I knew about Martha and COR before coming here, and COR was a big part of making me comfortable accepting the job. Knowing this community was here was very heartening to me.
COR- Could you tell me a little about your research? I’ve heard you’re working on a project together. Could you each tell me about your own work, and the project you’re collaborating on?
CB- My interests fall into three categories. The first centers on how organizations learn through networks and relationships. The next is how an organization’s ability to learn is shaped by the internal constraints that exist, the path dependencies that arise from an organizations’ early development, and how this impacts their ability to learn from partnerships. And the newest goes into the joint work I’m doing with Melissa. It has to do with culture and control, and how norms both structure social dynamics and frame how people interact with each other. I’ve been doing some work for the Navy, looking at how technologies shape communication between sailors and spouses. The sailors use technologies to do this, email and texting, so I’m interested in how the Navy shapes communication patterns around technology. Melissa’s work on blackberries is very related, because she looks at how, through technologies, work comes into the home life, while I’m looking at how home life comes into work, and that’s how we intersect.
MM- We’re working on a concept about how multiple layers of communication occur simultaneously. People engage in different layers at the same time- so a lawyer may come home and be with her family but she is getting emails on her blackberries. In each context, work and home, there are expected rules and norms for engagement, and the person has to negotiate those rules and norms for both contexts at the same time, and transition back and forth- their co-workers might expect them to be available at all hours through the blackberry, but they have their kid standing in front of them and wanting their attention too. I’m working with the concept that there are multiple layers of communication happening at the same time, and examining how people engage in different layers with near simultaneity. There are different technologies and modes of communication being used in the same temporal space. There is a lot of role blurring, and that is a dynamic process as people make micro-transitions from one role to another through their communication technologies.
COR- how did you start doing this work?
CB- well, we knew of each other and have been meaning to work on something. COR really helped facilitate the connection in a huge way.
COR- Melissa, can you tell me about your work?
MM- my own work looks at new capacities for communication in organizations at the organizational, group, and individual levels. Technologies have given us the capacity to communicate in new ways. I am interested in how people deal with those capacities, and how it affects work/life balance. I look at the expectations of coordination in different organizations and groups, and the key mechanisms by which groups make sense of the capacities for communication that are enabled by technologies like blackberries. Some groups have an expectation for constant connectivity- members are expected to be available any moment of the day. Others have much stronger boundaries between work and home life. Technology gives you a really good way to look at these things- the question “when do you turn your blackberry off?” tells you a lot about an organization’s expectations of their members.
COR- what drew you to your current research?
CB- I’m pretty eclectic. I have a lot of diverse projects. My dissertation was on networks and path dependencies. Now, I get inspired by my students. I really enjoy working with graduate students, and I find that tends to open up new directions for my work as well.
MM- I’ve been working on this research for a long time. I’ve always found this topic really interesting. I worked with a guy when I was a graduate student who used to work at Goldman Sachs, and I asked him “what was the hardest thing to leave?” and he said “my blackberry!”
COR- How has your involvement with COR affected you as a scholar?
CB- It has been a great help. The faculty workshop today was a good example. We had faculty from around the university. We are very interdisciplinary, but we are all interested in the same core phenomenon. So we are able to come at things from different angles.
MM- It is very motivating to me. To be able to turn to someone for inspiration or support who has the same research interests. For me, the sense of community is really valuable. COR provides this motivating space, and also a generative space to discuss and share ideas.