The Use Of Awareness Displays For Role Clarity In Distributed Workgroups

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Abstract
Geographically distributed workgroups have potential for improving collaborative work, but can be challenging. One challenge is identifying which group members are responsible for specific elements of a task when group members' actions are not easily observable. As such, individuals participating in geographically distributed work may be more susceptible to role ambiguity, which is an unclear understanding of one's own or others' roles within the group. Visual awareness displays may help mitigate role ambiguity by making otherwise unclear information more apparent, but the design of the awareness display may also impact how role ambiguity is experienced. Specifically, tailoring displays to highlight only role-relevant information and other information may be more beneficial than displays that either highlight or abstract all information. This study explores the effect of awareness display type on role ambiguity and communication about role information on geographically distributed individuals collaborating on a video game task using an experimental design. One hundred eighty six participants were assigned to groups of three individuals and completed a fifteen-minute task in the online multiplayer game Neverwinter Nights, in which they had access to either a tailored, abstract, or detailed visual awareness display. Their performance and communication were recorded and analyzed along with surveys measuring role ambiguity and objective role understanding. The results indicated that individuals most accurately identified group members' roles when they had access to the detailed display, but that awareness display type did not have an effect on feelings of role ambiguity. In terms of performance, there was an overall trend toward the detailed display being best for facilitating performance in on the less collaborative aspect of the task, although there was an interaction such that more frequent video game players performed better than less frequent players, but only when they had access to the tailored display. For the more collaborative aspect of the task, however, the abstract display best facilitated performance. Awareness display type did not impact any type of communication between group members. Future work in this area can explore different awareness display configuration types on role ambiguity, or the impact of prior experience on interpreting these displays. ! ! ! ! !
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2013-08-19
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Awareness Display; Role Ambiguity; Distributed Collaboration
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Birnholtz, Jeremy P.
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Hancock, Jeffrey T.
O'Connor, Kathleen M
Fussell, Susan R.
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Communication
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Ph. D., Communication
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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