Supporting Culture in Computer-Supported Cooperative Work
Lu Xiao (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Gregorio Convertino (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Eileen Trauth (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), John M. Carroll (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Mary Beth Rosson (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006
Information Technology (IT) has a significant impact on our lives beyond mere information access and distribution. IT shapes access to services, technology, and people. The design and use of IT can change people’s communication styles and the way they work, either individually or in a group. The recent introduction of groupware and Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) systems enables people to collaborate with fewer time and space constraints and affects people’s lives and their cultures in the long term. CSCW is a new and fast developing research field. The terms groupware and CSCW were coined in the mid-1980s. The study of CSCW and groupware could be defined as a middle field of research between the study of single user applications (e.g., human-computer interaction [HCI] research) and applications for organizations (e.g., information systems [IS] or management information system [MIS] research) (Grudin, 1994). CSCW studies the way people work in groups as well as technological solutions that pertain to computer networking with associated hardware, software, services, and techniques (Wilson, 1991). There are several alternative labels used to denominate CSCW applications: groupware, group support systems (GSS), collaborative computing, workgroup computing, and multiuse applications. Some of the key issues studied in CSCW include commuter-mediated communication, awareness and coordination, and multi-user interfaces. However, there has been very limited research to account for culture in CSCW. In this article, we discuss the role of culture in the design and implementation of CSCW systems that support work in cross-cultural contexts. We first present two different perspectives on culture in the literature. We then review prior research in both HCI and IS fields and follow with a summary of preliminary research work in CSCW about cross-cultural group work. We conclude by discussing alternative approaches to design and by suggesting a theoretical tool that may inform future research on the cultural factors in CSCW.