Frameworks for Talking about Virtual Collaborative Writing

Frameworks for Talking about Virtual Collaborative Writing

Beth L. Hewett (University of Maryland University College, USA), Dirk Remley (Kent State University, USA), Pavel Zemliansky (James Madison University, USA) and Anne DiPardo (University of Colorado, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-994-6.ch002


This chapter draws on various rhetorical, media-based, social presence–based, activity-based, and systems-based frameworks for understanding virtual collaborative writing. Such theoretical understanding is helpful to bridging the gap between those who study virtual collaborative writing to develop theories of the practice and those who draw on theory to develop effective practices.
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This chapter provides information to help readers understand how virtual collaborative writing has been theorized so that readers can make informed decisions about what tools they may use, how roles may be assigned, and what processes they may use in specific situations. To this end, it addresses some issues relevant to bridging the gap between theory and practice—academic scholars and business-based writing practitioners—and the theories that ground some of the conceptions of virtual collaborative writing as discussed in this book.

In Chapter 1, we identified definitions of collaborative writing and principles associated with collaborative writing in virtual settings. We also acknowledged that virtual collaborative writing can occur in a variety of ways in terms of the tools that writers can use and the processes teams choose to use to produce a given text. As teams try to ascertain the best tools and approaches to use for their particular writing situations, they need to consider a number of factors that can influence the efficiency of virtual collaborative writing. Researchers have studied these factors, using real workplace projects as their case studies and surveying practitioners about their perceptions of certain dynamics in their collaborative writing. From this research, a body of literature exists concerning the issues of media choice, roles of team members, and approaches to writing. Theories drawn from these studies can inform decisions that project managers and those who participate in virtual collaborative writing projects generally face.

It is important to note that the language and terminology discussed in this chapter’s literature review may not always match that of Chapter 1, but that many of the concepts are similar and will be identified as related. These theories are interdisciplinary and, as a result, the writers may not be using the same term for a similar concept given different perspectives from different disciplines. Much as Table 1in Chapter 1 provided a general understanding concerning how certain tools can facilitate collaboration relative to presence awareness, degree of synchronicity, hybridity, and interactivity, this chapter reviews the theories most pertinent to discussing virtual collaborative writing. Indeed, some of the theories described in this chapter contribute to a discussion of information in that same table. For example, elements pertaining to presence awareness have been discussed in this literature using the term social presence theory, and dynamics associated with interactivity have been discussed using the term media richness theory.

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