Notification on your Blackberry

A textbook perfect example of notification appeared on the front page of the NYT business section today. Geraldine Fabrikant tells the story of Sallie Krawcheck’s leaving Citigroup(“When Citi Lost Sallie”) and a good bit of the story of the story has to do with how notifications were handled.

Long story short, Krawcheck was a top exec at Citi who was “shunted aside” in an internal shakeup in September. After speaking to colleagues at a corporate retreat she went back to her room and fired up her Blackberry:

“A friend had written to warn her that within a few days Citigroup would announce that it was stripping her of most responsibilities….”

The article goes on to note:

“[t]hat she was being shunted aside was not a surprise to [her]…. What infuriated [her] was that the bank moved up its announcement without telling her….”

Plain vanilla notification. Even when it doesn’t matter consequentially, it does matter to us when and how we find things out (or find out that others are finding out).

Apparently, though, her superiors were not being entirely crass. When she got back to New York she found a voice mail “formally notifying her that the timing of the announcement was being accelerated.” Evidence then, that a phone message (presumably from (near) the horse’s mouth) is preferred to finding out via a leak and rumor (I leave it to the reader to figure out where hearing such news face-to-face fits in this scheme).

And, from the organizational side, the idea that the threat of a spreading leak can create an imperative to officially announce was suggested by sources who told the reporter that the announcement was moved up “because news of it was already spreading.”

Finally, we get a nice taste of how notification rights and obligations are organizationally structured and how they are regarded and disregarded in interaction. At several points in the article the reporter quotes anonymous sources who cannot be named because they are “not authorized to speak publicly about the company.” Such disclosures are of course common — how many times do you hear (or say) “OK, here’s the info but you can’t tell anyone I told you (because I am, in fact, not authorized to tell you)”? It tells us something about the information order that such departures from protocol do not disqualify a source. More importantly, it shows how the information order is built up out of a complex network of notification norms honored in practice and dishonored in rhetoric and vice versa.

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

One thought on “Notification on your Blackberry”

  1. moreover, possessing information (whether you have the official authority to release it or not) can be lucrative or a liability. extreme cases would be selling celebrity secrets to tabloids or being a prisonor of war under torturous interagation. talk about layers in the structure of information norms.

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