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Personal profile

Personal profile

William C. Barley is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research explores the processes enabling individuals from different disciplines to work together to achieve goals they would be unable to achieve alone. In modern organizations, it is impossible to fully understand these processes without recognizing the role that technologies play in the production and communication of meaning. To that end, Barley's work focuses on how individuals in organizations design and use technologies to collaborate across knowledge boundaries. His work draws on the theoretical traditions of symbolic interactionism, social constructivism, and practice perspectives from communication studies, organization studies, and science and technology studies.

Drawing primarily on fieldwork, Barley's research aims to capture collaborative work as it occurs within and across organizations. In various projects, he has examined collaboration among automobile engineers, weather researchers, and physicians and nurses working in hospitals. Although he relies heavily on ethnographic methods, he also employs other analytic techniques, both qualitative and quantitative, to uncover themes in his data. In particular, he has built and tested theory using social network analysis, regression models, and agent based simulation modeling.

Research Interests

Organizational communication
Collaboration and coordination
Data representation
Field studies of technology design, adoption, and use


Ph.D., Media, Technology, & Society, Northwestern University
M.A., Media, Technology, & Society, Northwestern University
B.S., Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego


Office Address

3001 Lincoln Hall, MC-456
702 South Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone

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Research Output

Experts at coordination: examining the performance, production, and value of process expertise

Barley, W., Treem, J. W. & Leonardi, P. M., 2020, In : Journal of Communication.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Networks and technology

Barley, W. & Poole, M. S., Jan 1 2019, Movements in Organizational Communication Research: Current Issues and Future Directions. Taylor and Francis, p. 233-252 20 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • A framework for how expertise is communicated and valued in contemporary organizations: Why process work matters

    Treem, J. W. & Barley, W. C., 2018, Transformative Practice and Research in Organizational Communication. Salem, P. J. & Timmerman, E. (eds.). IGI Global, p. 130-148 19 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • Valuing multiple trajectories of knowledge: A critical review and agenda for knowledge management research

    Barley, W. C., Treem, J. W. & Kuhn, T., Jan 2018, In : Academy of Management Annals. 12, 1, p. 278-317 40 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Technology-Organization Relationship

    Barley, W. C., Mar 8 2017, The International Encyclopedia of Organizational Communication. Scott, C. R., Barker, J. R., Kuhn, T., Keyton, J., Turner, P. K. & Lewis, L. K. (eds.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., p. 1-11

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary