Today's Wall Street Journal contains an intriguing article, Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace: Devices on Workers, Furniture Offer Clues for Boosting Productivity.
You read that right. Some businesses, such as banks, engineering firms and pharmaceutical companies, to name a few industries, are experimenting with employee identification badges that contain tracking sensors in order to develop a better understanding of how employees interact with each other and with customers.
As creepy as it sounds for employees to be tracked by their bosses while at work and as much as we may think it's way too much Big Brother for our tastes, the research study behind wearing the electronic devices revealed some interesting, if predictable, insights about human communication.
- The study discovered that there is a correlation between face-to-face communication and greater employee collaboration. The more employees shared face time, the greater the amount of collaboration on team projects.
- Employees who talked face-to-face with each other were more were more likely to mirror each other's verbal and non-verbal behavior, which means they were better listeners during their exchanges.
- Companies specializing in developing office systems use space sensors to research yet another important communication behavior, namely, how employees use space, frequently called proxemics in communication studies.
None of these results are remarkable. Communication theorists and practitioners have affirmed the importance of face-to-face communication despite the recent trend toward computer mediated communication. Therefore, this research only substantiates what educators have been teaching in college classrooms for years.
But the use of microchips for the sake of gathering data seems a frightening, if not chiling, prospect.
The question yet to be addressed is how such devices would work in the public school environment or in an institution of higher education.
For example, could sensors in student identification cards improve attendance and thereby reduce truancy rates?
Indeed, would sensors placed in faculty identification cards make faculty more aware of their classroom interaction?
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