Challenges in Virtual Collaboration

Videoconferencing, Audioconferencing, and Computer-Mediated Communications

by Lynne Wainfan, Paul K. Davis

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This report summarizes the research literature on virtual collaboration, focusing on interactive virtual collaborations in real or near-real time. In particular, it reviews how the processes and outcomes of virtual collaborations are affected by the communication medium (videoconferencing, audioconferencing, or computer-mediated conferencing). It then discusses how problems in such collaboration can be mitigated and opportunities realized. Problems include increased “us vs. them” divisions and misunderstandings, as well as shifts toward risky options. Opportunities include broadening the range of views and options, as well as broadening the range of available experts. The report suggests a strategy for choosing the most effective medium, including face-to-face communication and hybrid systems, as a function of task and context (e.g., convergence on a decision or brainstorming).

The research described in this report conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

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