This project will explore how remote socialization enabled by information and communication technologies (ICTs) is transforming four occupations: graphic design, automotive engineering, banking, and Internet entrepreneurship. Following a comparative, field-based research design, this research will examine the effects of both organizational environments and socialization tactics on ICT use and consider issues of technology use, socialization, and the changing nature of work. In today's workplaces, it is increasingly common to encounter arrangements in which occupational members are geographically distributed from one another. This new reality calls into question existing theories of socialization and learning practices that highlight the importance of collocated interaction and in situ knowledge transfer. By focusing on how individuals use ICTs to learn what it means to be an occupational member, this research will contribute to a new breed of theory on socialization that indicates the processes, practices, and strategies individuals can use to become effective members of an occupation even though they work remotely from others. By drawing on recent theorizing, which suggests that ICTs may provide particular affordances for interaction that non-mediated (e.g. face-to-face) contexts do not, it will explore the possibility that remote socialization may, in fact, help occupations to transform themselves. One aim is to build theory about the mechanisms by which technology leads to occupational transformation.
Occupational skill is critical to economic success, social progress, and individual well-being. However, many occupations seem to be failing to adapt quickly to changes in science, technology, and policy. The failure of occupations to change and refashion themselves to meet new social and technological pressures portends job loss from reduced skill for American citizens, and potentially increased outsourcing to other countries. This study will provide insight into how technology-enabled remote socialization may be able to contribute to faster occupational transformation. Although, for many years, ICT-mediated communication has been seen to be impoverished when compared to face-to-face communication, but now that it has developed considerably, ICT-mediated communication may provide more opportunities for workers to break free from the inertia of established occupations and develop new work practices and strategies that move the occupation forward. Additionally, it is imperative that new occupational members learn how to effectively acquire the knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs well when they work remotely from others. This study will provide insight into effective practices of remote socialization and occupational learning such that individuals who are attempting to learn new work practices and knowledge will be successful in their efforts.