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Page history last edited by n.schadewitz@... 13 years, 7 months ago






Cultural Context

This pattern was observed to work well in Hong Kong/Korean and Hong Kong/Taiwanese collaborations in design education.


Original Context Scenario

Kim, from Korea and Kwan from Hong Kong joined a design subject that is offered at their Universities in Korea and Hong Kong respectivly. The project involves internaitonal teamwork and will run for about 2 months. For both students, this course is the first experience to collaborate with students from other nations and over a distance. They are exited about this opportunity, but they are also nervous about how they will perform.



How can you initiate the contact between students from universities around the world, who will work on a common design project?



The international distributed design project is about to start. Local teams were formed by the organizers and remote teams were assigned to each local team. Although all participants know the project brief, it is difficult for the distributed groups to approach the design problem because they are unaware of each other’s personal and professional backgrounds, culture, expectations and goals. In addition, course organizers aim at estabilshing a learning community where students learn ot only from the interactions between their team members but also from international and local tutors and other teams.


Collaborators with a Collectivist Community Orientation, such as Hong Kong and Korean students, need to develop a sense of belonging to the learning community and remote team members in order to trust each other and take responsibility for the project outcome. It is difficult to establish such conditions in a short-term design project over a distance, because teams do not share a common history. In order to facilitate the emergence of common ground and reduce breakdowns in communication, Collectivist Community Orientation oriented cultures need to have close contact over a period of time. Intensive colocated work is ideal in this case. However, holding the international project for the entire time collocatedly is not viable.



Organize a short, intensive, collocated workshop to which all participants are invited. Help students to gain common ground by introducing the design topic in lectures, by scheduling collaborative activities to let the team establish a common goal, and by organizing social events for the participants to get to know each other.


A memorable beginning of the design project helps students to connect emotionally to the community and team. For this purpose, interweave off and on task activities in the collocated short workshop. Give an opening lecture to establish a shared understanding of the project goals and communicate all necessary project information. Set up a collaboration goal or several milestones that should be reached during the collocated workshop. Thereafter let the local and remote team members introduce each other informally and allow time for social events. At the same time, encourage the participants to explore the design topic to discover similarities and differences among the team members’ expectations and visions. Especially in design projects, stimulate multi-modal discussions using mind mapping, sketching, playing games or telling stories to convey design ideas among culturally diverse members. Encourage the emergence of team roles, which each member takes up according to skills and interests. A plan for accomplishing project milestones is aligned to the curriculum given by the course leaders.


Positive Consequences

A grand opening conveys a feeling of importance for Collectivist Community Orientation and Hierarchical Authority Orientation cultures, due to which students will feel obliged to take the project seriously and take responsibility. In an intensive and inclusive workshop where formal and informal meetings are intertwined, collective community cultures establish a friendly relationship, which is important fuel to a successful collaboration beyond this workshop. While students discuss using a second language, reaching shared understanding is facilitated through both High and Low Contextual Communication. In case misunderstanding occur in verbal communication ideas are written down, drawn or acted out, which balances low and high contextual communication. Due to the interrelation of tasks and off-task activities in this workshop. students negotiate a shared understanding by exploring and explaining their design ideas within multiple contexts from which meaning can be inferred.


Applicability and Drawbacks

The success of this solution in Hong Kong/Taiwanese teamwork can be explained by a comparatively similar collaboration context to Hong Kong/Korea. In both cases, Collective Community and Hierarchical Authority Orientations prevail. GRAND OPENING was not utilized in Hong Kong/Austrian collaboration. A mixed Individual and Collective Community and Equal and Hierarchical Authority Orientations in students might have contributed to disregarding this solution. Nevertheless, geographical or temporal dispersion and monetary limitations might have been the predominant reason for not using the pattern in this case.


Resulting Context

Due to restrictions in time and funds not all students might be able to join the collocated workshop, therefore use READY STEADY GO and make sure that all collaborative technologies are set up and ready to use before the participants converge in the local workshop.


In case the workshop opening cannot be hold collocatedly, start the design project with a distributed collaborative task that connects sharing and comparing information about the participants backgrounds and visions about the joined design project. Use the pattern KNOW ME BETTER for this activity.


Examples and Related Work

Researchers who look into intercultural computer-supported collaboration mentioned the effectiveness of collocated workshops as openers for distributed collaboration among heterogeneous groups (Vogel et al., 2001), (Rutkowski et al., 2002), (Paasivaara and Lassenius, 2004). These researchers observed effectiveness of face-to-face opening meetings in distributed collaboration in other cultural context than mentioned in this pattern. Design pattern WELCOME AREA (Schümmer and Lukosch 2006) is also related to this solutions.


Rutkowski, A., Vogel, D., Bemelmans, T., and van Genuchten, M. (2002). Group support systems and virtual collaboration, the hknet project. Journal of Group Decision and Negotiation, (2).
Paasivaara, M. and Lassenius, C. (2004). Using iterative and incremental process in global software development. In Int’l Workshop on Global Software Development, International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2004), pages 42–47, Edinburgh, Scotland: IEE.
Lukosch, S. and Schümmer, T. (2006). Groupware development support with technology patterns. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 64(7):599–610.


<-- Design Patterns Network

Comments (6)

n.schadewitz@... said

at 11:58 am on May 27, 2008

I would guess that this pattern can be observed in many other contexts? Do you know any?

n.schadewitz@... said

at 8:32 am on Jun 3, 2008

The three iCamp trials (the third one is still ongoing) we have conducted are entirely online - the students never met physically. We simply used an online videoconference as a "warm-up" meeting to bootstrap their collaboration. You can imagine that it proved rather ineffective. It took the students quite a long time to start to collaborate (or completely failed to collaborate). Of course, there could be loads of different reasons to explain their sluggishness and "cold start". Our cross-cultural collaboration pattern seems not fit your existing ones (an alternative pattern to explore ;-))


n.schadewitz@... said

at 9:27 am on Jun 5, 2008

I totally agree with you that the Handshake session was not an effective solution. But if the project budget can't afford any physical meeting for the participants, it seems that this is better than nothing ;-) Anyway, I forgot to mention that in our trials, we also asked individual students and facilitators to set up a personal blog to share their backgrounds - something similar to KNOW ME BETTER before they started to collaborate on some "real" tasks. However, some students were so lazy that they just put one line of text in their blogs, whereas the others almost put their whole family history there :-)

n.schadewitz@... said

at 10:51 am on Jun 5, 2008

I tried to log on to add comments but then they ask for the Password / Invite Key which I don't have that with me here.
Some events that reminds me of this pattern -- back to 1995 when Internet starts to catch attention, my professor offered something like that for the studio I once attended. It was an architecture studio and each one of us partnered with one student from an universities overseas (forget the exact name now). We set up a simple web page to show our face and use email to communicate with the team. The goal is for each team (2 people basically) to develop a design through this online collaboration. At that time, the collaboration did not seem to be very successful to us -- we only knew our partners through a brief online orientation, and we didn't have lot of communication with other team members. It's probably because the design time for us was not long enough (around 2 weeks), and there were other tasks we need to work on. Basically we did not have much emotional connection with the partner with available collaborations.

Forward many years after, grand opening seems to be a common element when we start working on a project. Currently we (China, high context) typically collaborate with a team in U.S./Europe (more low context). There is a FT manager who acts as a meeting holder. Although there are not many activities for us to understand one another, through a project we start to know each other more. One of the challenge is probably for members from different cultures to understand others. It takes time to let members to overcome the language and culture behavior before achieve a better result in interaction.
IMHO the meeting holder could be important to make the atmosphere easier for members to merge into this collaborative environment. Recently my office purchased a video conference specifically used for collaboration . The speed is very good and I find those are very very helpful tool for this kind of grand opening session.

n.schadewitz@... said

at 11:00 am on Jun 5, 2008

I agree that a face to face meeting is often impossible and therefore you take the alternative of virtual handshake sessions. this was also suggested by another comment on the wiki... how ever, this is more difficult, and maybe you are absolutely right, that especially in cross-cultural collaboration you need a good facilitator!

There is another pattern hypothesis called KNOW ME BETTER, that suggests to share background information about each other before collaboration and then build up through collaboration. One criticism is that many might not see the benefit of this extra work... And somehow over time you establish this common ground anyway, but not always, and this leads to breakdowns in the early stages of a collaboration that was not supported by an initial face to face meeting. ... difficult ...

Anonymous said

at 1:08 pm on Jun 26, 2008

GRAND OPENING A collocated workshop organized by the faculty of collaborating universities supported the coordination and initiation of collaborative activities among Hong Kong and Korean students.
Collaboration between Hong Kong and Taiwanese students was also successfully initiated using a collocated workshop as an opening event of this collaborative design learning project. This can be explained by a similar cultural collaboration context. The Hong Kong/Taiwan cultural context and team culture were comparatively similar to the Hong Kong/Korean. In both cases, Collective Community and Hierarchical Authority orientations prevail. Therefore, the forces that helped to balance the problem with initiating collaboration and organizing a grand collocated opening workshop to address this problem were similar, too. Thus, the consequences for Collective Community and Hierarchal cultures was gaining a feeling of community and respect for the project. This naturally resulted in similar contexts that supported remote collaboration after using this solution.
Although Hong Kong/Austrian collaboration showed similar problems in initiating collaboration over a distance the solution was not utilized. Among other factors, this might have been because of the difference between the cultural contexts in these examples and Hong Kong/Korean and Hong Kong/Taiwan collaboration cases. While the cultural context in the Hong Kong/Korean and Hong Kong/Taiwan collaboration was composed of Collective Community and Hierarchical Authority orientations in both nations, Hong Kong/Austrian showed a mixed Individual-Collective Community and Equal-Hierarchical Authority orientation. This changed the forces which would have to be balanced in this collaboration initiation and hence the same solutions could not be used, resulting in different consequences for remote collaboration.

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