A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Communication Tools and Communication Outcomes

A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Communication Tools and Communication Outcomes

Shin-Yuan Hung (National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan), Tsan-Ching Kang (National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan), David Yen (Miami University, USA), Albert Huang (University of the Pacific, USA) and Kuanchin Chen (Western Michigan University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/jgim.2012070103
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Computer mediated communication (CMC) technologies have benefited business organizations in many ways. Although there have been numerous studies on email use, studies have only begun to emerge regarding use patterns of instant messaging (IM). This study investigated the use of email and IM within two different cultural settings: United States and Taiwan. Students enrolled in MIS courses from each country were split randomly into the IM and email groups for a problem-solving assignment. The variations of communication outcomes (as measured in volume, quality, and use satisfaction), are checked against two categorical variables (i.e., culture and communication tools), and at the same time controlled for perception on tool ease of use. Results show that culture and communication tools jointly affect all three outcome variables individually. The main effects were also statistically significant for volume and quality, but not for satisfaction. Respondents from different cultures prefer different communication methods, which are also collectively constrained by other factors like preference over contextual information and social norms. Such a difference in media preference, combined with media traits jointly affects the outcomes of communication. Managerial implications are provided.
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Issues about technology use in different cultures are becoming more important due to increasing reliance on global work teams in today’s business environment (Huang & Yen, 2003). Business partners or work teams located in different geographic locations often have to work under a similar IT platform to minimize technology incompatibilities. Yet, an IT application that is favored in one culture due to compatibility with culture norms and fads may not be considered useful or easy to use in another culture (Guo, Tan, Turner, & Xu, 2008). An example is the red color that is used to denote stock prices going downward can easily cause confusion in cultures where the same color carries the positive, increasing, and going upward meaning. Culture consists of beliefs, value systems, norms, morals, myths, and structural elements of a given organization, tribe, or society (Watson, Ho, & Raman, 1994). There is evidence in the literature that shows that culture has an effect on individual’s behavior, e.g., technology acceptance (Schepers & Wetzels, 2007; Srite & Karahanna, 2006; Straub, 1994; Tung & Quaddus, 2002), media selection (Chau, Cole, Massey, Montoya-Weiss, & O'keefe, 2002; Chen, Yen, & Huang, 2004; Choe, 2004; Shirani, Tafti, & Affisco, 1999; Srite & Karahanna, 2006; Straub, Keil, & Brenner, 1997; Straub, 1994) and group decisions (Zhang, Lowry, Zhou, & Fu, 2007). Another work (Guo et al., 2008) shows that the difference in preference of instant messaging (IM) and email between China and Australia is also attributed to culture. Therefore, culture is an important element when choosing investment options in communication media, especially for those environments with culture diversity or projects that require collaboration across multiple countries.

Media richness theory (MRT) has generated much interest in IT, since many IT applications are essentially designed to facilitate or improve communication. In the context of IT, richness in media varies across software tools when they are used to reduce different degrees of uncertainty and equivocality (Daft & Lengel, 1986). Rich media are closer to our face-to-face communication, where abundant visual and auditory cues are available during communication. Not all rich communication cues are used or even preferred uniformly. Cultural or societal norms frequently influence how individuals utilize communication media. For example, the preference of social-relational aspects of communication has led Japanese respondents to complain the lack of verbal and nonverbal backchannel responses with answering machines, but none of the American respondents considered that a problem (Miyamoto & Schwarz, 2006). The net result is a higher phone call abandon rate for the Japanese respondents when they reached the answering machine. A similar finding is reported in Massey, Montoya-Weiss, Hung, and Ramesh (2001), where participants of Asian origin considered groupware a better fit to deliver the intended message while U.S. participants found it difficult to sort out the exact information they needed from among the multitude of information that groupware provided. As these authors explained, the difference is mainly attributed to culturally driven communication behavior where Asian cultures tend to prefer high context (i.e., additional information required in addition to straight facts) communication. In sum, culture also plays a role in shaping the preference over how communication media are used.

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