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William C. Barley

Profile picture for William C. Barley

Contact Information

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


William C. Barley is an associate 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 also 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 natural scientists, automobile engineers, weather researchers, and physicians and nurses working in children's 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, natural language processing, 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

Additional Campus Affiliations

Associate Professor, Communication
Associate Professor, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)
Affiliate, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Recent Publications

Ruge-Jones, L., Barley, W. C., Wilson, S. R., & Poole, M. S. (Accepted/In press). Interacting Barriers: How Barriers Compound Across Levels of Analysis to Affect Teams. Management Communication Quarterly.

Ruge-Jones, L., Barley, W. C., Wilson, S. R., MacSwain, C., Johnson, L., Everett, J., & Poole, M. S. (2023). Activated Differences: A Qualitative Study of How and When Differences Make a Difference on Diverse Teams. Management Communication Quarterly, 37(4), 846-877.

Treem, J. W., Barley, W. C., Weber, M. S., & Barbour, J. B. (2023). Signaling and meaning in organizational analytics: coping with Goodhart’s Law in an era of digitization and datafication. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 28(4), Article zmad023.

Barley, W. C., Ruge-Jones, L., Wissa, A., Suarez, A. V., & Alleyne, M. (2022). Addressing Diverse Motivations to Enable Bioinspired Design. Integrative and comparative biology, 62(5), 1192-1201.

Barley, W. C., Dinh, L., Workman, H., & Fang, C. (2022). Exploring the Relationship Between Interdisciplinary Ties and Linguistic Familiarity Using Multilevel Network Analysis. Communication Research, 49(1), 33-60.

View all publications on Illinois Experts