Evaluation of User Acceptance of Virtual Environments and Interfaces for Communication in Virtual Teams

Evaluation of User Acceptance of Virtual Environments and Interfaces for Communication in Virtual Teams

Maria Manuela Cruz-Cunha (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave, Barcelos, Portugal & Algoritmi Research Centre, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal), Goran D. Putnik (School of Engineering, Algoritmi Research Centre, University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal), Patrícia Gonçalves (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave, Barcelos, Portugal) and Joaquim Gonçalves (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave, Barcelos, Portugal & CESUC Social Studies Center, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJWP.2014100102
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Abstract

Several studies have highlighted the relevance of face-to-face communication, suggesting that computer-mediated communication can lead to decreases in group effectiveness and reduce satisfaction levels in terms of trust and comfort of its users. Supported by an experiment where the emotional or affective aspects of communication were tested, this paper validates the thesis that, from the users' perspective, there is no opposition to the acceptance of virtual environments and interfaces for communication, and that these environments are able to cope with the reconfiguration dynamics requirements of virtual teams or client-server relations in a virtual enterprise operation. For the thesis validation, the authors experimented with two architectures, the Direct Communication Architecture (DCA) and the Virtual Communication Architecture (VCA) and found that the VCA could represent a “natural” environment to cope with the new generation of organizational environments and teams, characterised by intense reconfiguration dynamics.
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1. Introduction

Since the earliest signs of human life that man communicates. Firstly face-to-face, from simple processes of exchange until speech, and later using symbols and written communication (Colin, 1966).Today communication is a basilar process for business, from selection, negotiation, business settlement and monitoring (Benbasat, 1992; Ferreira et al., 2014; Olekalns, 2002; Purdy, Nye, & Balakrishnan, 2000; Shelby, 1993; Weigand, Schoop, de Moor, & Dignum, 2003), and is a very important dimension of virtual team working (Anderson, McEwan, Bal, & Carletta, 2007).

The pace of business and the constant need to align businesses to the required market demands has accelerated the ways to communicate, overcoming time and space barriers, so communication has become computer-mediated: from videoconference or computer conferencing, which can be thought of as the “traditional” face-to-face communication of today, until virtual communication interfaces and environments, where there exists a computer simulated world between the interlocutors.

Collaborative virtual teams, concurrent engineering, interactions in virtual enterprises, collaborative product design, etc., which are highly interactive activities undertaken in a distributed development environment, between dispersed groups or people, require interaction using ICT-mediated means, ranging from videoconferencing to virtual communication environments. Several requirements can be identified in order to achieve adequate synergies between efficient and high performing members of such teams, related to the cognitive, emotional and ergonomic aspects of communication, as this text indicates. In fact, social factors are increasingly being considered as important for achieving more consistent and sustainable success in corporate environments (Leonard & Zyl, 2014).

Even though there are many communication tools used to collaborate in virtual teams (VT), not many studies have suggested their global efficiency, therefore, the new challenge to cope with the business requirements relies on how to apply the philosophy of effective and efficient virtual communication. Communication and trust are particularly significant for fostering a feeling of oneness among project team members. Oneness, also referred to as “teamness”, is repeatedly mentioned as one of the challenges facing global project teams (Stawnicza, 2015). Paradoxally, existing research points to two conflicting findings: some researchers have asserted the advantages of computer mediated communication in VT, transcending the space and time limits (Ho & McLeod, 2008; Underhill & Olmsted, 2003), while others claim the loss of cohesiveness, trust, comfort, mum effect, confidence and hence the weaker relational ties of face-to-face communication (Ramingwong & Ramingwong, 2013; Straus, 1997; Warkentin, 1997; Weisband, 1999), which can be a source of information systems conflicts (Boonstra & Vries, 2015), although we recognize that the later reflect older studies.

Computers extend what people want to communicate through wide area network technologies in a short period of time, however, sometimes written, verbal and body language may be momentarily misinterpreted causing the direct communication process to be inefficient or delayed. However, such as in “Ironies of automation”, Baindridge (1983) discusses the ways in which automation of industrial processes may expand rather than eliminate problems with the human operator, concluding that the human factor will become more important rather than less, also in ICT-mediated communication the problem is usually stated the same way (van Eijnatten & Putnik, 2010).

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