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A structured synchronous computer-mediated discussions keeps the discussion of culturally diverse collaborators focused.


Cultural Context

Balances High and Low Contextual Communication Orientation, Monochronic and Polychronic Time Orientation, Long and Short Time Orientation cultures, Technology Orientation differences in cultures and differences in Uncertainty Avoidance.

This pattern was observed in Hong Kong/Korean and Hong Kong/Taiwanese collaboration.



International design students use the INTERNATIONAL HOME to communicate asynchronously and share design representations with the remote team. They frequently SUM UP local conversations and tutorial instructions, which are stored in the INTERNATIONAL HOME and which can be used to guide a chat session.



Although the global virtual teams use the INTERNATIONAL HOME to communicate, they take several communication cycles to clarify the understanding of complex and ambiguous design problems. Therefore, teams engage frequently in synchronous chat conversations to instantly clarify a problem that arose from local design implementations. However, several problems might have accumulated over time and every member might have a different concern that needs to be discussed. This causes breakdowns in organizing an efficient chat conversation.



How do you provide for a focus in negotiation in synchronous textual discussions?



In design communication, High Contextual Communication is important to clarify design concepts and ideas and support textual communication with more contextual information. Usually High Contextual Communication and Polychronic Time Orientation cultures come up with different problems simultaneously. However, Monochronic Time Orientation cultures tend to start late in the design process to implement their previously elaborated concepts. This causes misunderstanding in computer-supported communication with Polychronic Time Orientation cultures, who continuously develop tangible designs in order to progress conceptually. In addition to differences in time orientations, cultures differ in the acceptance of Technology Control in communication. While some cultures try to minimize the use of media in communication to not feel as if they were controlled by those technologies, cultures who perceive technology under their control use a variety of media to communicate their ideas. This causes tensions in computer-mediated communication between such cultures, because textual design communication needs additional media to communicate rich, contextual design information. The conversation becomes unstructured and confusing because complex ideas have to be explained in explicit details, which is difficult for design students whose mother tongue is not English.


Technological Solution

Install video chat or text chat technologies that support the students' remote conversations around physical or digital representations of designs and processes of designing.


Social Solution

Incorporate team conversations around shared design concepts or representations in the collaboration. 

Such a structured chat is started with a presentation of whatever was done locally. This can be followed by a discussion of such diverse conceptual ideas or tangible designs reaching for a compromise between local teams on order to negotiate shared design goals and ideas. Thereafter, tasks and milestones for further local developments and implementations and a time for the next meeting online with new results can be identified.



Chatting based on textual or visual design ideas and design representations helps High Contextual Communication oriented teams to keep the focus in discussion but also allows for multiple-linked in-depth conversation sessions, because there is a structure members can come back to. This balances Monochronic and Polychronic Time Orientation in a discussion, since both a linear structure and parallel thoughts are supported. In addition, differences in the acceptance of uncertainties and ambiguities in the design process can be balanced by a structured chat. Local teams are aware of what needs to be discussed, which reduces uncertainties. Even if some issues could not be resolved in a chat session, issues are commonly known and hence ambiguities are reduced. This also creates a balance between the goals of Long and Short Time Orientation cultures. While Short Time Orientation cultures can see the achievements after a discussion, Long Time Orientation cultures notice issues for ongoing discussions.


Resulting Context

The ANNOTATED DESIGN GALLERY can be used to support textual conversations with contextual information about the local design processes. To further support a structured chat SUMMING UP can be used to review all points discussed and share them with members who might not have attended the structured chat to inform what was discussed. Using the indicator LOCAL CO-ACTIVITY, chat participants become aware of parallel local activities and presence of other team members, who are not signed in with an individual account. In a synchronous discussion changing emotions about the subject matter can be indicated using MOOD OF THE MOMENT.


Related Work

Researchers discussed the advantages of threaded discussions and structured dialogues for collaborative learning activities online (Weasenforth, 2002), (Simon Mcalister, 2004).


<-- Design Patterns Network


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