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Communication and Cooperation in the Virtual Workplace

Teamwork in Computer-Mediated-Communication

Gaby Sadowski-Rasters, Geert Duysters and Bert M. Sadowski

This innovative book explores the structure, growth and effectiveness of virtual communities in computer-mediated environments. In spite of initial enthusiasm, much uncertainty remains about the prospects of virtual teams and the technology that supports their collaboration. This book seeks to confront these issues and offers a unique insight into the realities of virtual working.
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Chapter 4: The Advance Case Study

Gaby Sadowski-Rasters, Geert Duysters and Bert M. Sadowski


INTRODUCTION Many studies have addressed the differences between face-to-face and computer-mediated communication (CMC), often informed by media richness theory (MRT)’s claim that face-to-face communication is necessary if tasks are complex and information is equivocal. And even today, the widespread conviction is that CMC, viewed as (a collection of) lean communication media, may be adequate if and only if tasks are simple and information is unambiguous. The Delta study, presented in the previous chapter, examined the reliability of the MRT claim in the real-life setting of a geographically dispersed group of scientists who prepared a joint research proposal. The Delta study as such is one of the first studies to compare face-to-face communication in a real-life setting; most previous studies tended to rely on experiments only. In that setting, the claim was implausible. Allegedly poor communication media such as e-mail and mailing lists were found to enable rich communication, including exchanging ambiguous information, defining and allocating fairly complex tasks and expressing a range of emotions. In all these respects, the difference between virtual and face-to-face communication was less obvious than predicted by MRT. Thus, it was argued, ‘inherent characteristics’ of the communication media used cannot account for the way communication between non-collocated individuals or groups unfolds, which once again directs attention to the conditions and circumstances that may contribute to smooth, efficient and satisfactory communication at a distance. The case study presented in this chapter will highlight the impact of organizational factors, including the initial set-up,...

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