3Roles and the Digital World

3.1. When electronic communications disrupt space-time

Chesley [CHE 05] believes that “theoretically, computers and communications devices are neutral with respect to promoting access to individuals across time and space”.

Without restarting the debate over the neutrality of technology and technical advances, real life shows us that the widespread use of information and communication technologies has disrupted the delicate balance of our daily routine. More generally, ICTs have modified the shapes and boundaries of the various spatiotemporal spheres within which individuals enact their roles. Once limited to people and organizations easily accessible in our immediate geographical surroundings, our immediate social group can now be global, distributed across the entire planet due to the help of new technologies, as much via traditional telecommunications networks as across more recent and innovative “social” networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.

This characteristic is essential in terms of the balance between professional and private life. Do employees really stop their professional activities when they close the office door and leave their workplace? Can employers believe that their employees really are focused on their tasks, if every one of them can receive messages at any moment on telephones, tablets and other mobile devices?

Recent studies have shown that ICTs, and in particular e-mail, “is a medium through which professional ...

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