Six Dimensions of Understanding Media

As readers, you realize that I am an avid consumer and tester of social media and new communication tools. An article in the MIT Sloan Management Review helped put the testing of these tools into focus for me: The Six Key Dimensions of Understanding Media. JoAnne Yates, Wanda J. Orlikowski and Anne Jackson propose a guide to understanding and evaluating the use of communication technologies in the workplace.

They propose the “Genre Model” which identifies elements of adoption and the change in patterns of communication as a tool for evaluating new technology. The model consists of six elements:

  • Why – what is the purpose and expectation
  • What – what content will be communicated
  • Who – participants in the communication and their roles
  • Where – location of the communication, physical or virtual, geographic dispersion
  • When – temporal elements, like how quickly do you expect a response
  • How – manner and form of communication, such as format and structure

The article traces some history and analysis from the business letter, to the paper memo to email. Then it moves on to a case study of Blog Central in IBM, Skype in MNI Partners, and an Electronic Bulletin Board in a large European Petroleum Company. It uses the six elements to for the initial expectation of each new communication tool and the actual use of each tool.

The method of the article is an interesting way to approach new social media platforms both externally and internally.

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