Leveraging Social Media to Support Effective Virtual Teaming

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mark Zachry (left) and David McDonald have received a three-year award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study self-managed, voluntary virtual work teams.

Mark Zachry (left) and David McDonald have received a three-year award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study self-managed, voluntary virtual work teams.

University of Washington researchers, Dr. Mark Zachry in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) and Dr. David W. McDonald in the Information School, received a $874,978, three-year research award to study self-managed, voluntary virtual work teams. The results of this research will have broad implications for the future of how people work and interact online. As more and more businesses try to leverage the Internet for distributed work teams, research like this will help them capitalize on existing successes through new work processes and online tools.

Drs. Zachry and McDonald will study the characteristics of self-organizing, voluntary teams that contribute to Wikipedia. Wikipedia has been in the top ten most visited websites since 20071,2, attracting the contributions of thousands of active editors, many of whom affiliate with one or more WikiProjects, teams that coordinate work on the encyclopedia. With several hundred self-organizing, volunteer teams and over 8.5TB of historical user interaction and contribution data, Wikipedia will provide the researchers with a massive number of cases for investigating the basic characteristics of virtual teams. The research will generate foundational knowledge for designing advanced systems to support virtual teaming and collaborative social computing.

The investigation will initially focus on the work activities and interactions of participants in multiple WikiProjects. From this investigation, the researchers will develop models of how individuals come to understand, interpret and infer group or team characteristics when interacting online. Insight from this foundational research will be used to design and deploy socially translucent tools in online collaborative systems where voluntary teams work together. These socially translucent tools will allow people to manipulate, extend, and refine how they present the characteristics of a voluntary virtual team. These tools will enable existing and new team members to realize greater potential in their endeavors.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Human-Centered Computing program, in the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems. The new funding continues Dr. McDonald's and Dr. Zachry's previous NSF funded research to enhance large-scale distributed contributor systems through socially translucent system design.

Award: IIS-1162114
Award Title: Enhancing Social Translucence in Systems to Support Virtual Teaming
Duration: 3 years
Total: $874,978
NSF Award Link: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=1162114

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia#History
[2] http://www.alexa.com/topsites