Humans have been collaborating across geographical boundaries for thousands of years. Nevertheless, distant collaboration today remains problematic, complicated and prone to failures. This thesis investigates distant collaborative practice in a particular setting: closely coupled collaboration in virtual project teams whose members are spread across various geographical locations. The aim is to understand the specific factors, conditions and challenges underpinning such situations. This thesis describes, analyses and discusses three in-depth empirical studies on the practices and use of groupware technology in six real-life virtual teams, two in industry and four in education, applying interpretative research and action research methods. Two main lines of investigation are pursued: the first involves an examination of the organisational issues related to groupware adaptation in virtual project teams, while the second looks at the social context and practices of virtual project teams. Two of the key findings are 1) that the process of groupware adaptation by virtual project teams can be viewed as a process of expanding and aligning the technological frames of the participants, which includes mutual changes in both the technology structures and the collaborative practice; and 2) that establishing the social context within virtual project teams comprises negotiations of shared meaning bridging discontinuities typically associated with geographical distribution such as culture, work practices, professional disciplines, time differences and technology. This thesis comprises a general introduction, referred to as the summary report, and seven research papers, which deal in detail with the results and findings of the empirical cases. The summary report provides a general introduction to the research methods used, the empirical cases conducted, the research field on virtual teams and, last, it relates the findings and results across cases and papers in respect to the two main lines of investigation: organisational issues of groupware adaptation and the challenges of establishing and developing the social context within virtual project teams.
|Place of Publication||Roskilde|
|Number of pages||258|
|Publication status||Published - 2006|