This book is based on extensive studies of the effects of computer-based communication technology - e-mail, distribution lists, bulletin boards, and computer conferences - through field research as well as social and psychological experiments. Sproull and Kiesler, both I believe trained as experimental social psychologists, believe that computer-based communication is radically changing the ways people interact with one another, much like nineteenth century communications technologies as the telephone, typewriter, and railroad transformed social and business lifestyles. With new computer-based communications, the authors argue, organizations are becoming more flexible and fluid, people increasingly think of themselves as part of the larger organization as opposed to mere members of a single department, and managers are working more democratically with employees.
The early work of this book was basic research on groups, especially on the topics of group dynamics, communication, and decision making. When Reagan was elected president, Kiesler had just come to C.M.U. and the N.S.F. held up her grant on standards setting groups. So, for fun, she began to explore computer networks, the experiments of which "revealed many interesting phenomena, which we eventually wrote about in books and articles--on flaming, electronic group dynamics, changes in decision making and employee participation, and new kinds of teamwork." Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization, summarizes that research.