The Use of Story in Building Online Group Relationships

The Use of Story in Building Online Group Relationships

Stephen Thorpe (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-863-5.ch040
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Abstract

Throughout history, story has been a powerful and effective way to build relationships within groups of people. Professional group facilitators know the power that story can bring to the workshops and group sessions they lead. From within the membership of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), a group of 18 facilitators came together to collectively research the benefits of story in online groups. There was strong interest in developing practical processes and techniques that facilitators could use in building and maintaining relationships in the online groups they work with. This chapter presents some of the findings from a cooperative inquiry the group undertook investigating the use of story using a variety of media including: e-mail, audio, telephone, video and Web conferencing, instant messaging, chat, blogging, and online surveys. Our investigations reveal that story can be a powerful means for building relationships between group members within online groups. The impact of disembodiment, restrictive feedback, unclear membership, and tolerance for technical difficulties are also detailed and some interventions are outlined.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Plus Delta Evaluation: A Plus Delta evaluation is a formative evaluation process that provides feedback on an experience or event and collects ideas for future improvements. It is framed in “improvement” language rather than language that might be experienced negatively. The plus identifies what went well. The delta identifies what might be changed to improve a process or particular activity. Plus Delta evaluations can be used with individuals or groups of any size.

Blog: Blog is short for Web log. A Web log is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site. Blog readers view and can post comments to the blog author’s postings. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog.

Plus Delta Evaluation: A Plus Delta evaluation is a formative evaluation process that provides feedback on an experience or event and collects ideas for future improvements. It is framed in “improvement” language rather than language that might be experienced negatively. The plus identifies what went well. The delta identifies what might be changed to improve a process or particular activity. Plus Delta evaluations can be used with individuals or groups of any size.

Online Groups: In this chapter, the term online groups is used as an umbrella term to encompass the many new types of Internet-enabled groups that group leaders are called upon to facilitate. Groups such as global virtual teams, virtual communities, e-groups, discussion forums, chat rooms, facilitated blogs, and audio and Web conferencing teams. These new forms of groups communicate collaboratively across time, distance and borders through the use of information and communication technology.

Blog: Blog is short for Web log. A Web log is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site. Blog readers view and can post comments to the blog author’s postings. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog.

Co-Operative Inquiry: The cooperative inquiry method is a form of research where participants are viewed as co-researchers who participate in decision-making at all stages of the research project. It involves two or more people researching their own experience of something in alternating cycles of reflection and action. Cooperative inquiry rests on two main participatory principles; epistemic participation and political participation. Epistemic participation means that any propositional knowledge that is the outcome of the research is grounded by the researcher’s own experiential knowledge. Political participation means that research subjects have a basic human right to participate fully in designing the research that intends to gather knowledge about them. Thus, the research is done by people with each other, not by researchers on other people, or about them.

Groupthink: Groupthink is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

Dialogue: Dialogue stems from the Greek roots dia and logos and means “through meaning.” It is a communication form for discovering the shared meaning moving among and through a group of people. Dialogue involves becoming aware of the thinking, feelings and formulated conclusions that underlie a group’s culture or way of being with each other. The dialogue process asks participants to “suspend” any attachments to a particular point of view or opinion so that deeper levels of listening, synthesis and meaning can evolve within a group.

Groupthink: Groupthink is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

Online Groups: In this chapter, the term online groups is used as an umbrella term to encompass the many new types of Internet-enabled groups that group leaders are called upon to facilitate. Groups such as global virtual teams, virtual communities, e-groups, discussion forums, chat rooms, facilitated blogs, and audio and Web conferencing teams. These new forms of groups communicate collaboratively across time, distance and borders through the use of information and communication technology.

Co-Operative Inquiry: The cooperative inquiry method is a form of research where participants are viewed as co-researchers who participate in decision-making at all stages of the research project. It involves two or more people researching their own experience of something in alternating cycles of reflection and action. Cooperative inquiry rests on two main participatory principles; epistemic participation and political participation. Epistemic participation means that any propositional knowledge that is the outcome of the research is grounded by the researcher’s own experiential knowledge. Political participation means that research subjects have a basic human right to participate fully in designing the research that intends to gather knowledge about them. Thus, the research is done by people with each other, not by researchers on other people, or about them.

Narrative: While there is debate about what defines a “narrative” and a “story,” there are generally four main features of a text (or discourse) that mark it as a “narrative” and differing from a “story.” (1) A sequence in time; narrative should include a clear beginning, middle and an end. (2) A focal actor or actors; narratives are always about someone or something. (3) An identifiable narrative voice; a narrative is something that someone tells from a particular perspective. (4) A moral of the story or an evaluative frame of reference; narratives carry a meaning and cultural value such as standards against which actions of the characters can be judged.

Group Facilitation: Group facilitation is a process in which a person who is acceptable to all members of a group, is substantively neutral, and has no decision-making authority, is chosen to intervene in a group’s process to help it meet its agreed purpose. A facilitator is a process guide, someone who makes a process easier or more convenient. Facilitators assist groups in a range of ways such as improving meetings, team building, visioning, planning, community development, decision-making, problem solving, organizational change, conflict resolution, developing co-operative participation and evaluation. Decisions are usually made using consensus decision-making methods.

Dialogue: Dialogue stems from the Greek roots dia and logos and means “through meaning.” It is a communication form for discovering the shared meaning moving among and through a group of people. Dialogue involves becoming aware of the thinking, feelings and formulated conclusions that underlie a group’s culture or way of being with each other. The dialogue process asks participants to “suspend” any attachments to a particular point of view or opinion so that deeper levels of listening, synthesis and meaning can evolve within a group.

Narrative: While there is debate about what defines a “narrative” and a “story,” there are generally four main features of a text (or discourse) that mark it as a “narrative” and differing from a “story.” (1) A sequence in time; narrative should include a clear beginning, middle and an end. (2) A focal actor or actors; narratives are always about someone or something. (3) An identifiable narrative voice; a narrative is something that someone tells from a particular perspective. (4) A moral of the story or an evaluative frame of reference; narratives carry a meaning and cultural value such as standards against which actions of the characters can be judged.

Group Facilitation: Group facilitation is a process in which a person who is acceptable to all members of a group, is substantively neutral, and has no decision-making authority, is chosen to intervene in a group’s process to help it meet its agreed purpose. A facilitator is a process guide, someone who makes a process easier or more convenient. Facilitators assist groups in a range of ways such as improving meetings, team building, visioning, planning, community development, decision-making, problem solving, organizational change, conflict resolution, developing co-operative participation and evaluation. Decisions are usually made using consensus decision-making methods.

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