Current Projects

WTO has an active portfolio of projects exploring the intersection between work, technology, and organization. Projects generally feature concern for work, mainly in technical settings, and consider the organizational issues implicated at the intersection of work and technology. Our bias is toward field-based research in which we employ ethnographic approaches to understanding work practice in situ. In some cases, we use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate phenomena of interest.

Our research projects actively involve students at all levels (Ph.D., Masters, and Undergraduate) and often include our research partners from industry as investigators. As we engage with new students and partners, our projects evolve in unanticipated and exciting directions.

Most of our projects are supported with generous funding from external agencies such as the National Science Foundation and from industry sponsors.

For a description of WTO’s early projects, click here.

Networks of Corporate Power
2008 – current
Faculty: Stephen R. Barley
Students: Thomas Haymore, Daniel Morales, and Andrew Blanco

This project focuses on identifying and analyzing networks organizations formed by campaign contributions, the employment of lobbying firms and the movement in individuals between government, corporations, lobbing firms, unions, trade associations, and citizen’s groups.

The Institutional Field of Corporate Political Power
2007 – current
Faculty: Stephen R. Barley
Students: Thomas Haymore, Daniel Morales, Andrew Blanco, and Sarah Bellows-Blakely

This project explores how since the late 1970’s corporations and other business groups have build an institutional field dedicated to shaping Federal legislation and policy in the United States.

Culture & Work Practices
2007 – current
Faculty: Pamela J. Hinds
Students: Carol Xu, Tania Laden, Lei Liu, Joachim Lyon, Brandi Pierce (Carnegie Mellon University), and Bobbi Thomason

Work is increasingly conducted in teams of people spread around the globe. For example, products are designed around the world and used by people world-wide. We are interested in how people who are working in global teams reconcile regional differences in needs and requirements and create global products. We are also conducting studies focusing on the relationship between national culture and context and the work practices that have emerged.

Cross-Cultural Responses to Technology
2005 – current
Faculty: Pamela J. Hinds
Students: Talia Brodecki, Henrietta Cramer, Heidy Maldonado, Lin Wang (Tsinghua University) and Ben Robinson

In this project, we are studying cultural differences in peoples\\’ responses to technology based on the theory that fundamental differences in cultural beliefs, values and behaviors affect how people respond to particular instantiations of technology. We have conducted studies on how people interact with and respond to intelligent agents, such as robots. More recently, we have conducted research on cultural differences in social networking behavior. To conduct this work, we rely heavily on theory and methods from cross-cultural psychology.

Culture & Creativity
2010 – current
Faculty: Pamela J. Hinds
Students: Hannah Kim, Siddarth Mishra

This project is focused on understanding cultural differences in the meaning of creativity and what stimulates it.

Robots & Teams
2006 – current
Faculty: Pamela J. Hinds
Students: Malte Jung, Siddharth Mishra

Our goal in this project is to explore the ways people will work with and adapt to autonomous mobile robots, to understand the possibilities and problems of mutual adaptation in human-robot interaction over time, and to anticipate changes in the group dynamics of collaborative work. We are examining how the presence of a robot affects the development of shared mental models, transactive memory, cohesion, and commitment in robot-assisted groups. We are also exploring how a robot’s expertise relative to the group affects group performance.

Subgroup Dynamics, Language, & Knowledge Sharing in Global Teams
2002 – current
Faculty: Pamela J. Hinds
Students: Tsedal Neeley, Aditya Johri

In previous research, we noticed that globally distributed teams often developed an “us” vs. “them” dynamic across sites. Although they are structured as interdependent work teams, distributed, technology-enabled teams frequently are composed of two or more collocated subgroups. The collocated subgroups often reflect national identities, adding an additional layer of complexity. In this work, we identify factors likely to promote and mitigate fracturing between subgroups and consider the impact of subgroup formation on task effectiveness. From our studies, we are also gaining insight into the challenges of a lingua franca in these teams and into the value of site visits.

This project involved a two-year study of collaboration in twelve internationally distributed software development teams. Data collection activities included ethnographic interviews with team members and managers, on-site observation of teams, and team performance assessments. In 189 semi-structured interviews, we explored how team members thought about their team and their experiences in the team. We also conducted twelve person weeks of “concurrent observation” of six of the distributed teams in our study. Concurrent observation of a team distributed between Germany and India, for example, meant that one member of our research team observed during a week in Germany while another member observed members of the same team located in India. Approximately one year after the observations, we also conducted a second round of on-site data collection (including team meetings and selected interviews) to get a sense of how the dynamics on these teams evolved, to ask questions about issues gleaned from our initial analysis, and to get a measure of team performance at a second point in time.

We are currently writing papers on language challenges, cross-national learning, the enduring role of site visits, and influence dynamics.

Ethical Issues in Nanotechnology Workplaces
2010 – current
Faculty: Robert E. McGinn

I am involved in a series of initiatives aimed at helping researchers enrich their thinking about ethical issues that arise in nanotechnology workplaces. For example, I’m developing an ethics module for new-user training at nanotech research labs and devising a survey of attitudes and beliefs about ethical issues in relation to nanotech on the part of undergraduates involved in nanotech research, I introduced a new graduate course (“Research Ethics for Engineers and Scientists”) that included a substantial component on ethical issues related to nanotechnology, and I am writing a periodic column on ethics and nanotechnology aimed at nanotech researchers for the NNIN website.

Flash Teams
2013 – current
Faculty: Melissa Valentine, Michael Bernstein
Students: Daniela Retelny

This is a series of studies about how to crowdsource complex and interdependent projects.

South Bay Cancer Center:  A Study of Organizational Design from Start to Finish
2013 – current
Faculty: Melissa Valentine

This is a longitudinal field study of the design of a new cancer center, from greenfield site to operational organization.

A Study of Role Redesign at the Stanford Cancer Center
2013 – current
Faculty: Melissa Valentine

This is a longitudinal field study of the design of a new organizational role.

An Ethnographic Study of Real-time Location Services (RTLS) in Organizations
2015 – current
Faculty: Melissa Valentine
Students: Tom Moir

This is an ethnographic study of a new technology called Real-time Location Services.