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The Magic of Infrastructure: Evolving Large-Scale Collaboration

Date & Time:
15:30:00 - 17:00:00,
Thursday 25 May, 2006


The practice of distributed collaboration is increasing in scale so that entire teams can be connected from each site. Using a combination of ethnographic and social network analyses in a three-year longitudinal field study, I describe how a technological intervention in communication infrastructure changed the interaction among a large-scale, distributed, group-to-group engineering collaboration. I begin by describing some challenges for such large-scale collaboration. First, team interaction within sites competed with negotiation and information-seeking across sites. Second, separate sites failed to overcome their practices in order to adopt new common terms and methodologies. Third, a number of misattributions occurred in the distributed interaction, i.e. beliefs that the technology is conveying one’s actions across distance as they believe that others locally would perceive them. The introduction of a voice system changed the pattern of distributed communication to resemble more collocated interaction. It enabled team members to engage in far more communication between sites, to change interaction from formally delegated to spontaneous and informal, and to communicate in varied ways according to personal interaction styles. I discuss how a focus on communication infrastructure can impact large-scale collaboration.

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  • Name: Dr Gloria Mark
  • Affiliation: Associate Professor in the Department of Informatics, University of
    California, Irvine
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