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Spreading the load: mobile information and communications technologies and their effect on information overload

Author(s): D.K. Allan | M. Shoard

Journal: Information Research: an international electronic journal
ISSN 1368-1613

Volume: 10;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 227;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Keywords: Mobile information systems

Introduction. We report on a small-scale research project which examined the impact of mobile technologies on the users' experience of information overload. The project focused on a group of worker who have had relatively little attention in both the mobile technology and information overload literatures: senior managers. Method. The case study approach was adopted, as complementary to an incremental approach to theory building. An inductive approach is adopted, in which data are collected and the findings are interpreted in the light of previous work. The case site was West Yorkshire Police Force in the UK where BlackBerry handhelds were being used by senior officers. Analysis. A semi-structured interview schedule was developed and applied in face-to-face interviews with the Senior Management Team and their secretaries. All interviews were recorded and the transcripts of the interviews analysed, using qualitative coding. Results. A conceptual model of the interactions and relationships among the key elements that drive and mediate the information flows and information behaviour within a complex organizational environment was developed. Managers' information behaviour and coping strategies were found to have changed since the introduction of mobile devices. Officers are more likely to deal with information received sooner, thereby resulting in less queuing of messages (although filtering strategies still prevail). Approximation (responding in a non-precise way) was also found to have increased. In this particular implementation, the mobile technology has not altered the information-pull behaviour of managers. Conclusion. The main finding is that personal information management is now distributed more evenly throughout the day. Thus, the technology has enabled officers to 'spread the load' and, in doing so, has helped to ease some of the pressures created by information overload.
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