MSc-IT Study Material
June 2010 Edition

Computer Science Department, University of Cape Town

Communication over the Internet

The traditional office environment has the advantage of maintaining close contacts between co-workers. Such close contact, according to an important study by Thomas Allen of MIT, is limited by distance.

Communication with individuals who are more than 20 feet away is infrequent. The benefits of face-to-face communication seemingly appears only within quite narrow physical constraints.

Imagine working from home for a year. While telecommuting (working from home via a modem, telephone, etc.) makes communication possible, communication is more difficult and intermittent than face-to-face communication is.

New techniques such as Video Teleconferencing can, in principle, make distance communication similar to a face-to-face meeting.

There are large costs, however, in good teleconferencing, both in the initial hardware and the heavy load it places on the network.

Nonetheless, neither good teleconferencing or good email can replace the subtleties and rapid multiple exchanges of personal, face-to-face interaction.

Can Internet Technologies develop further to facilitate more appropriate interaction for people working in distant places?

Is it likely that we will have a complete substitute for the office environment?

Many technical solutions are already available from commercial providers. It is likely that in the future more options will become available as technologies improve, and as we gain a better understanding of how companies function over the Internet.

It is already common practice to use the Internet to allow internal (intra-organisation) documents to be filled in and circulated safely and effectively.