19. groupware


A company has offices in New York and London. They are considering using some form of video to supplement their existing email, fax and telephone communications.

(a) Discuss the options available and potential advantages and problems they may encounter.

(b) How would your advice be changed if the two offices were in London and Sydney Australia?

(c) Email and video are 'just' electronic substitutes for face-to-face conversation. What radically different forms of groupware might the company consider - justify your answer using examples and appropriate theoretical frameworks.

answer available for tutors only

(a) options include:

  • full video conferencing - pros: well-established technology, suitable for medium-sized groups; cons: expensive, requires high-bandwidth, dedicated communication lines, requires extensive equipment and dedicated room, may need camera-person, facilitator
  • desktop video - pros: cheap hardware, lower bandwidth requirement, use of standard networking including Internet for international collaboration - cons: low quality video, bandwidth may still be a problem, especially for audio channel, difficulties in having more than one person at each end.
  • desktop video can use a window on a PC screen or have a dedicated TV screen - former has less equipment, but competes for screen space.

(b) The working days in London and Sydney hardly intersect, there being an 11 hour time difference! This means that synchronous video conferencing involves, at best, unsociable hours at one end.

Asynchronous use of audio/video annotations to shared documents may be more appropriate for many purposes.

(c) options:

  • They could consider the use of shared electronic artefacts. These already exist in the form of shared databases, but these usually do not support feedthrough and so new groupware solutions would be needed to add this.
  • They could also consider virtual reality meetings. If they were, for example, an firm of architects, they could meet for virtual site tours of planned and existing buildings. The theoretical foundations of VR are not so well understood at present, but much standard collaborative theory can be applied (e.g. common ground); also there is a developing special theory of collaborative VR.

Other exercises in this chapter

ex.19.1 (ans), ex.19.2 (ans), ex.19.3 (tut), ex.19.4 (tut), ex.19.5 (tut), ex.19.6 (tut), ex.19.7 (tut), ex.19.8 (tut), ex.19.9 (tut), ex.19.10 (tut), ex.19.11 (tut), ex.19.12 (tut), ex.19.13 (tut), ex.19.14 (tut), ex.19.15 (tut), ex.19.16 (tut), ex.19.17 (tut), ex.19.18 (tut), ex.19.19 (tut), ex.19.20 (tut)

all exercises for this chapter