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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Virtual Teamworking using Networking \LTechnologies: An Investigation into its impact on Organisational Dynamics

Electronic communication is becoming a more and more integral part of modern life. It is, therefore, a matter of great importance to explore the impact of new technological developments in this area on individual and group dynamics, particularly in the context of organisations. Networking technologies are at the forefront of this technological development and they range from email to Internet discussion groups and the use of sophisticated software designed for virtual teamworking. These networking technologies are influencing our lives in many obvious ways such as enhancing communication and speeding up the rate of change. However, they also have more subtle implications for the development of organisations at a deeper level of interaction where the dynamics of anxiety, shame, resistance, envy, authority, power, projective processes, splitting, and others take place in an emergent, sometimes surprisingly escalating manner.Working with networking technologies means working across boundaries. These include cultural and personal boundaries in all their differing aspects, covering attitudes to work and the use of technology, openness or resistance to change, language differences and the use of humour. Those who try to collaborate and work jointly across such boundaries take the risk of unwelcome and unwilling intrusion which could threaten individual and group senses of self. The fragility of a sense of self is heightened when networking technologies come into play, as I will soon show. This can be seen in the dynamics of shame and regression and can sometimes take the form of an overt attack or the taking of offence.My sense is that many of the dynamics that occur in virtual teams are similar to those which have been identified in real life interactions, only faster, less contained and more difficult to work with. To make some sense of what is happening in electronic communications I will use insights from three theoretical perspectives: The complexity perspective with its emphasise on self organising and emergent processes and its implications for control. The psychoanalytic perspective with its insights into the unconscious dynamics of groups, the individuals within them and the interactions between them. I will suggest that virtual teams are characterised by dynamics similar to face-to-face groups, both small and large. The gestalt perspective with its holistic approach and its focus on dialogue, both important in exploring the relationship between, and the relatedness of, people using electronic means of communication. The data for this paper arises from my own experience of participating in the virtual (and at the same time very real) life of some groups using different networking technologies. I have also talked to many other people about their experiences and some of these are woven into this paper. The methodology is, thus, that of participatory inquiry (Reason, 1994; Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Marshall, 1992; Reason & Heron 1996) which emphasises the researcher as an embodied experiencing subject among other subjects. I will now take up the analysis in terms of four main examples.'