Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Information Systems

Major Professor

Rosann W. Collins, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Richard P. Will, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert M. Fuller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stanley J. Birkin, Ph.D.


communications monitoring, surveillance, self-awareness theory, CMC, hazard communications, figure-ground contrasts, instant messaging, IM


Employer monitoring of communications is prevalent and on the rise due in part to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Health Insurance Privacy Protection Act, and other legislation in the U.S. and other countries. However, the critical effect of this new activity on what is communicated in companies has not been assessed. This dissertation examines the impacts of computer mediated communication systems monitoring on neutral, incriminating and exculpatory content, as well as the overall volume of communications issued on monitored and non-monitored computer mediated communication systems. Incriminating communication is cataloged in a hazard communications taxonomy for this investigation. A controlled laboratory experiment has subjects participate in an instant messaging discussion on a topic for which they are likely to be aware of information that is incriminating to their organization, or its members, or both. Consistent with self awareness theory, monitored subjects engage in significantly less overall and neutral communication. They volunteer fewer high intensity hazard communications, but are less likely to curtail low intensity hazard communications. They issue denials about more incriminating topics. Contributions to research include theory development, especially in the area of standard selection; application of self-awareness theory to the new domain of computer mediated communications monitoring; a research framework; a taxonomy and coding scheme for the new hazard communications constructs; and a relative standards influence instrument and methodology for use in studying competing standards. Implications for corporate monitoring and communications policies are discussed, and a research agenda is outlined.