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Illusions of Balance and Control in an Always-On Environment: A Case Study of BlackBerry Users

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 15:58 by Catherine A. Middleton
This paper presents a qualitative case study of Canadian BlackBerry® users. It begins with a brief description of the BlackBerry, a handheld wireless mobile email device developed by Research in Motion1 . BlackBerry users find their devices to be empowering, allowing them more control over their environments. The BlackBerry does give its users a mechanism to exert control over the management of daily communication tasks, but by virtue of its always-on, always-connected nature, it also reinforces cultures that expect people to be accessible outside normal business hours. Rather than just a tool of liberation for its users, the BlackBerry can also be understood as an artifact that reflects and perpetuates organisational cultures in which individual employees have little control and influence. While this case study focuses on BlackBerry users, it is suggested that the findings are not unique to this device. BlackBerries and other mobile technologies have been envisioned by some as means of enforcing work-life boundaries, but this paper concludes that the use of always-on mobile devices can lead to situations where conflict between work and personal activities is exacerbated rather than reduced.