The ubiquity of collaboration cannot be overstated. Derived from the Latin collaborare, which means “work with” or through, collaboration is the process wherein agents work together through transaction. Collaboration entails the existence of a team if a common goal or purpose underlies the transaction. A virtual team exists when collaboration takes place (to a varying degree) through technology across time, space, and (often) organizational boundaries; also known as e-collaboration. As a general definition, we follow the lead of Kock and colleagues (Kock, Davison, Ocker, & Wazlawick, 2001;Kock & Nosek, 2005), and state that e-collaboration is “collaboration among individuals engaged in a common task using electronic technologies” ( Kock et al., 2001, p. 1). This is a very broad definition and includes such historical means of e-collaboration as the U.S. Department of Defense’s ARPANET and early group decision support systems (GDSSs) such as Lotus Notes (Kock & Nosek, 2005). Few would argue the contemporary impact computers, the Internet, and network architectures (e.g., local area networks; LANs) have had on collaboration and teams (Schwartz, Divitini, & Brasethvik, 2000). Current instantiations of e-collaborative systems include the Internet (which includes various e-collaborative subsystems such as Internet relay-chat, bulletin boards, and weblogs), videoconferencing, and virtual workstations. The opportunities created by this new wave of e-collaboration and virtual teamwork have, in turn, dramatically transformed military forces (e.g., network-centric warfare; Cebrowski, 1998), business (e.g., B2B collaboration; Rosenberg, 2003), infrastructure (e.g., traffic flow regulation; Jermann, 2001), and other areas of society (e.g., collaborative music development; Weinberg, 2005).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Ecology: (In reference to e-collaboration and teamwork.) A field that emerges at the intersection of technology, users, and goals; it is what matters (i.e., has meaning). Related terms are biological life process (bioprocess), joint cognitive system (JCS), or Umwelt.
E-Collaboration: Collaboration among agents engaged in a common task using electronic technologies.
Cognitive Systems Engineering: A design discipline that uses analyses of work (practice, structure, purposes, and constraints) to inform the design of process and technology for human-system integration. It deals with socio-technical systems, where socio refers to the social processes of communication, cooperation, and competition.
Work Domain Analysis: A map of the functional structure of an organization or system.
Constraint: A limitation of possibilities.
Adaptation: (In reference to e-collaboration and teamwork.) Self-organization around the work domain (i.e., use) constraints.
Organization: Meaning that emerges from experience with an assemblage or ensemble of interrelated elements.
Virtual Team: A virtual team exists when e-collaboration takes place through a varying degree of technology across time, space, and (often) organizational boundaries.