An Empirical Investigation of the Role of E-Communication in International Collaborations

An Empirical Investigation of the Role of E-Communication in International Collaborations

Ying Zhang (University of Strathclyde, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9639-6.ch005


This chapter addresses the role of e-communication in international collaborations by examining its usage, cultural implications, and impact on trust building. Theoretically, this study is informed by social constructionism (Gergen, 1999; Goffman, 1959). Empirical insights were generated from the qualitative case study of WinCo which was an international collaboration between a UK-based wine and spirits multinational company and their distributors. The findings suggest that different e-communication channels are often used by collaborating partners to enhance the breadth and depth of their communication. New participants tend to enhance the skills of e-communication usage through self-learning, formal educational programs, and support from the company's employee development team. The widespread usage of e-communication impacts on partners' trust building in terms of their mutual perceptions of one another's competence and social bonding. National culture also affects partners' use of e-communication in international collaborative practice.
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Conceptual Background

Social Constructionist Theory

The theoretical influence of social constructionism on this research stems from its concern in relation to the constructive effects of discourse in creating and changing the social reality (Phillips & Hardy, 2002). Social reality can be represented in different ways by individuals whose experience is discursively constituted (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2000). It indicates that language plays an active constructive role in the individuals’ self-representations in various social contexts (Marshall, 1994). This social constructionist approach of multiple voices from the social reality stresses the multiple interpretations, which can be generated by researchers as well as the subjects researched. The above broad research field and the related issues imply the socially-constructed nature of collaboration because collaboration does not occur in a vacuum but in the processes of social interaction (Blumer, 1969; Mead, 1934) between actors who develop definitions of a situation and then act according to those definitions (Bogdan & Taylor, 1975, p.15). The action in collaboration is constituted within and gains its intelligibility through actors’ social interaction (Gergen, 1999). This theoretical perspective will be applied in the understanding of the partners’ interaction which is mediated by the usage of EC in international collaborations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous E-Communication Applications: Communication by people at different times through the use of email, blog and forum.

Synchronous E-Communication Applications: Simultaneous communication by people through the use of video conferencing and online-chat programs.

International Collaborations: Cross-border collaborative arrangements between organizations, for example, international supply chain networks, joint ventures, strategic partnerships, and alliances.

Crossvergence: A belief that new and unique value systems can be developed across different countries.

E-Communication: Computer-mediated communication or electronic/virtual communication. The main channels include emails, blogs, discussion forums and social media.

Divergence: A belief that the values systems of different countries are distinct from one another.

Convergence: A belief that the value systems of different countries become similar.

Social Constructionism: A philosophical approach or world view which addresses the multiple social realities interpreted and represented by people.

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