Comps readings this week

May 24 2009 Published by under comps, Information Science

And now for something a little different. I'm continuing
my preparations for comprehensive exams from my old blog.
 There will be some test essays and also some continuing notes
on readings.  Typically, I don't mark my notes on readings as
"Research Blogging" because the articles are some what older, and some
of my notes are very brief although they are on peer-reviewed research.
I would be interested in feedback on that - if you think I should mark
them research blogging, let me know!

Quan-Haase, A., & Wellman, B. (2005). Local Virtuality in an
Organization: Implications for Community of Practice. In P. v. d.
Besselaar, G. d. Michelis, J. Preece & C. Simone (Eds.), Communities and Technologies
2005: Proceedings of the Second Communities and Technologies Conference
Milano 2005 (pp. 215-238). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
So local virtuality is "The pervasive use of computer mediated
communication for interaction with physical proximate people, even when
located near-by." Hyperconnectivity is "the instant availability of
people for communication anywhere and anytime." They are looking at a
high tech company - one with a lot of tech savvy workers who rely on
information to do their jobs.  They are interested in looking
at whether communicating this way, the adoption of this synchronous
technology, increases distributed collaboration, builds communities,
reflects pre-existing collaborations and communication, or maybe breaks
down f2f
communication.  The actual method is a case study of
a single high tech firm, with surveys, interviews, and observations of
27 people in 2 departments: software development and client services.
 The software developers are a pretty cohesive team. They eat
lunch together, socialize together, and spend lots of time together
although they perform their work independently. The client services
employees are more "individualistic",  working in cubicles,
working with clients, but not each other.

The members of these two departments communicate - a lot - both f2f and
by computer. The software dev department has lots of meetings with most
members attending, and they discuss problems together. The client
services department has fewer all-hands meetings, and does most of
their collaboration in groups of 2. There are a lot of people jammed
together in the office, so CMC is less disruptive than talking or
meeting.  CMC has not substituted for other forms of
communication or lessened the collaboration and sense of
community.  In fact, they tend to communicate in all modes at
the same time (sounds familiar!). One thing that helps, is that the
organization has norms built around using IM - about not answering
right away if your're in the middle of things, etc. E-mail's different,
it's more formal.  All of this CMC doesn't break down their
hierarchies, though, but it does help maintain the trust relationships
that are there between team members.

Rogers, P., & Lea, M. (2005). Social presence in distributed
group environments: the role of social identity. Behaviour and Information
, 24(2), 151-158. (fwiw, I blogged about this
article twice in September 2005, and half way through the whole thing
came back to me)
When they say social presence, they're removing the part of presence
that is physical presence, basically leaving intimacy and immediacy.
This reminds me of the Clark and Brennan stuff because they're
going from a 1976 paper on presence comparing the cues available in
television to the phone to letters. From that, they then extrapolate to
a modern take that virtual reality is highest in terms of social
presence and text communication is lowest. A lot of the early work was
just about adding more cues - the idea being that that closer the CMC
was to f2f the better.  They then go on to talk about social
identity theory.  A typical way in text based cmc is to have
biographies and pictures of the participants, but they say that this is
actually trying to get people to make connections by gender, age, and
other stuff instead of having them form a new group to identify with. I
guess in one study they cite, the group that didn't have information
identified more as a group than the other group that had names. Their
study was with students in Amsterdam and Manchester doing group work in
an online course.  Long story short - they emphasized group
identity over interpersonal relations. This resulted in more sense of
belonging, more posts, etc.

Olson, G. M., & Olson, J. S. (2000). Distance matters. Human-Computer Interaction,
15(2-3), 139-178.
This is a classic article. It's one of a few in my readings that
address hype with careful review of empirical evidence from a
decade or so of research (I love this type of article, well, and the
ones by the cranky old people of LIS). They quote Mee saying in 1889
that if video were added to the telephone, "distance will lose its
enchantment by being abolished all together." They cite a more recent
book (1997) by Cairncross, The
Death of Distance
. But they believe that distance, in
terms of "differences in local physical context, time zones, culture,
language"(p2) is immortal.  They review what's known about
co-located team work, virtually co-located team work, what will never
change, and what different features of technology can change or help
with.  They look at synchronous collaboration that is part of
long-term work collaborations.

For co-located work, some of the companies gathered their software
developers or designers into "warroom" type things when they were on
the final drive to get a product out the door. This put everyone's desk
in the same room, with whiteboards, and areas where they could have
spontaneous meetings.  Things were pasted on the wall and
everyone could see each other during meetings to quickly check if they
were understood or to get feedback.  When talking, they could
easily gesture at things.  The real names for these features
of  physically co-located  work are:

  • rapid feedback
  • multiple channels
  • personal information (you know more about the identity of
    the people you're chatting with by looking at them)
  • nuanced information
  • shared local context
  • information "hall" time before and after
  • co-reference
  • individual control (of attention)
  • implicit cues
  • spatiality of reference (p. 10)

When they talk about examples of remote work now, they provide examples
of successes like incorporating scientists from smaller institutions in
space physics research, saving travel time, and distributed sofware
development teams. Many groups who have tried to collaborate this way
have spent a lot of time trying to change their work to make it fit the
collaboration tools and even those who have been successful spend a lot
more time coordinating (or on "overhead").  The teams
generally change their work process to break it into modules or make it
more loosely coupled.  The authors give plenty of examples of
people trying to deal with technology: shouting over speaker phone (oh
how i hate that!), placement of the video camera, or just using a
channel that doesn't provide enough information (trying to describe an
engineering defect using audio only).

The authors use these terms to describe their findings.
Common ground - (see my
earlier discussion
of Clark & Brennan), a
collaborative process in which participants use various cues and
strategies to establish that they are talking about the same thing
Coupling of the work itself - "the extent and kind of communication
required by the work"(p.21). Tightly coupled means that the work is
non-routine, highly interdependent, requires many different people, and
frequent communication. Loosely coupled means that the work requires
less coordination and communication.
Collaboration readiness - participants have to be willing to try these
tools and to share information.
Technology readiness - as it sounds

For the future of collaboration at a distance, there are still issues
of common ground, time zones, culture, and interactions of these with
technology.  The authors give some great examples of faux pas
in conferencing across time zones and cultures.   Clearly
things are things that technology alone can't address.

One response so far