Collegiality in Cyberspace
case studies in computer
Department of Sociology
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements
for the degree of
Master of Social Sciences (Sociology)
University of Tasmania, November 1992
This thesis contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other higher degree or graduate diploma in any other tertiary institution. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the thesis contains no material previously published or written by another person, except when due reference is made in the text.
This thesis would have not have been completed without the support and collegiality of my fellow Master of Social Science and Graduate Diploma of Social Science students, who have helped with ideas, the Murder game and editing. I would especially like to thank Richard Volpato for his invaluable ideas and encouragement in not only getting this thesis off the ground but completed as well. I would like to thank Matthew Burbury and Kylie Murphy for their ideas and help in the Card and Murder games, Janet Woolley for her editing skills as well as Justin Ridge (Computing Centre, University of Tasmania), and the many Internet Relay Chat (IRC) users who have given resourceful and often needed technical advice on IRC. Finally, appreciation must also be given to all those individuals from the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania who participated in the case studies presented in this thesis for their time and valuable information.
Living in an information society changes the nature of social contact between individuals. With advances in computer mediated communication those who engage in research have the opportunity, to not only communicate with those who have similar research interests, but are able to collaborate with others in dispersed locations as well.
Inter Relay Chat (IRC) is a synchronous computer conferencing system that allows individuals to communicate with others in real time. This type of communication overcomes the barriers of time and distance. Since IRC allows individuals to communicate over dispersed distances collaboration is able to take place between individuals who have never met and who may never meet IRC then is a computer mediated communication system that is consistent with the collegial form.
Four case studies were conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of IRC as a communication system between collaborators. The results of these case studies show that although there were some operational problems with IRC, individuals working in collaborative work groups were able to communicate with each other. IRC has the ability to engender new collegial forms as well as supporting classical collegiality.
As collaborative work groups develop an in house knowledge (that requires some type of study) a code develops to provide group closure. These groups are proto collegial. Neo collegial work groups have a theoretical knowledge base, plus a commitment to the processes of work. They engage in value added activity around a commonly accessible object. As collegial work groups engage in value added activity such as interdisciplinary collaboration they move away from bureaucratic structures, becoming closer to neo collegial forms.
IRC allows individuals who want to engage in collaboration to enter cyberspace supported by a collegial form.
We live in an information rich society. There is a virtual explosion of information and information systems that are altering the patterns of social contact between people as well as individual roles. Individuals, from students, academics to large research corporations have discovered that the only way they can survive now, and be ahead in the future is to understand that information technology is advancing at great speeds and that they must keep up with it. Researchers worldwide, in universities or private research facilities, recognise that their work effort is enhanced in a networked environment where collaboration is available.
Collaboration amongst dispersed groups can be accomplished by computer mediated communication such as electronic mail and interactive conferences etc. Communication via the computer network overcomes the constraints of time and distance. Through electronic mail and computer conferencing, researchers are able to talk directly with other investigators in the same, or related fields. Collaboration with others, with the support of computer technology has the potential to change the nature of collegiality as defined in sociological theory.
This new emphasis on group rather that individual thinking in work environments, whether it is in the research lab or in academic collaboration requires a type of computer mediated communication, that operates in ways that are consistent with the collegial structure of the work groups that are now emerging.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a synchronous computer conferencing system which is consistent with the collegial form. This thesis looks at several case studies that use Internet Relay Chat as a medium of communication between individuals and work groups. These studies were designed to ascertain communication effectiveness using IRC and what effect this type of communication has on the development or support of collegiality within collaborative work groups.
1.1 Computer Mediated Communication
Computer mediated communication (CMC) allows individuals who are connected to a computer network to communicate with each other over time and distance.
You have at your fingertips the ability to talk in real time with someone in Japan, send a 2,000-word short story to a group of people who will critique it for the sheer pleasure of doing so, see if a Macintosh sitting in a lab in Canada is turned on, and find out if someone happens to be sitting in front of their computer (logged on) in Australia, all inside of thirty minutes. No airline (or tardis for that matter) could ever match that travel itinerary. (Kehoe:1992:5)
Computer mediated communication has many advantages. Robertson (1991) has outlined the following:
Speed. One of the major benefits of CMC is speed. A message sent via computer will arrive at its destination, whether local or overseas often within minutes of being dispatched. This form of communication is more efficient than sending messages through the regular postal service which can in some cases, depending on the overseas destination, take up to a week to reach the receiver. Faxing messages can also take time if the line is busy or if the facsimile machine is not located near the sender. Computer mail can be sent from one terminal to another. Both the sender and receiver do not have to leave their desk to either send or receive messages.
Dispersed communication. Using CMC as a method of communication means that individuals from many dispersed places are able to communicate with each other via a computer network. Distance is no longer an issue. Individuals who have never met in person or who may not have the opportunity to meet, can communicate and collaborate on specific work projects or share their expertise in particular areas.
Synchronous communication. Individuals from all over the world are able to talk to each other in real time through CMC. With this type of communication, issues of time or distance between those who wish to communicate are addressed in an efficient manner.
Asynchronous communication. CMC can also be asynchronous providing a means of communication across time barriers. With communication systems such as electronic mail (E-mail) the sender does not have to rely on the recipient being free to receive and attend to the message as soon as it arrives. The message will stay in the recipients mail box until they attend to it. This type of system is essential especially when communicating overseas where some time differences are unavoidable.
Anonymity. Most CMC allow anonymity between users. Since those who use computer mediated communication cannot see each other face-to-face, they are able to take on an alias to hide their identifies if this is what they want or if it is required for some reason. For instance some computer conferencing systems make use of anonymity e.g. Internet Relay Chat.
Not all CMC systems are the same. In most instances there is usually a computer mediated communication system or systems that will fill the needs of different individuals and corporations. Below is a few of the most common or popular ways of using computers to communicate with others.
1.2 Electronic Newsgroups
Electronic Newsgroups are online discussion groups that allow dispersed individuals to communicate with each other on a variety of topics that interest them. There are over 2000 news groups on the Network and they range from such diverse issues as Astrology, Folk dancing, Hypertext and Virtual reality!
By having such distinct names each news group is able to have a highly focused discourse on the specified topic. Once individuals have found those news groups that hold specific interest to them or meet particular demands, they are able to select those groups and read the articles posted within them. Individuals are able to see new postings, responses made by other individuals
Individuals are able to respond to particular articles posted by other users, as well as making additional comments themselves. This can be done by either posting an article of their own to the news group, or by responding directly to the author of the article in question via the electronic mail system.
Individuals are able to subscribe and unsubscribe to particular news groups whenever they wish. News groups can be accessed by using different applications such as Newswatcher (a Macintosh application).
1.3 Bulletin Board Systems
Electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) are used as discussion symposiums where individuals from all over the world can discuss issues of interest usually on a particular subject. Those who use bulletin boards do so for a variety of purposes which include some of the following:
Requests for information. By using the bulletin board individuals are able to increase their information resources to include those of other group members. This could be of help to individuals in areas of research, study or because they have an interest in this particular area and would like to know more.
Problem solving. A problem can be thrown open for discussion amongst all those interested and an electronic brainstorming session of sorts could ensue.
In this way collegiate groups form, in which like-minded individuals can help each other on a particular problem solving task. The benefit of this communication system is that it is asynchronous. Individuals can look at the board at any time and contribute possible solutions at a time that is best suited to them.
Provide advice or knowledge. The discussions on BBS are always alive and continuous regardless of the time of day or where individual members reside. Since each subject area is continuously updated, each time the user logs onto the system they have access to current knowledge on that particular subject, or related areas.
People who subscribe to the BBS can either be passive readers or active contributors to the discussion at hand. Interaction in most cases occur amongst individuals who have never met. This provides a network of information amongst individuals who have things in common on a dispersed level.
1.4 Electronic Mail
Electronic Mail or E-mail is both quick and asynchronous. A computer based mail system fills the gap that exists between written communication by letter and spoken communication by telephone (Postel:1988:64). As well as sending memorandums or letters, data files can be sent from one individual to another via the E-mail system already in computer format, ready to be viewed upon receipt. Multiple copies of the message or file can be sent to different users at the same time from the same posting.
Asynchronous communication. Since E-mail is asynchronous it does not depend on the receiver being immediately on hand to receive the message. Messages received are kept in the recipient’s mailbox until the next time they check their mail. E-mail messages can be read, saved into a particular file or computer disc, printed out or responded to at the receivers leisure.
This type of communication has advantages over telephone conversations as it is sometimes difficult to contact a person at the time wanted. A lot of time can be wasted searching for a person to accept a telephone message. Messages left with others, can be difficult for the recipient to understand because some important pieces of information may have been lost in the transcription.
Aliases. Those individuals who use E-mail on a regular basis and write to the same addresses are able to define an alias for different recipients. In this way they do not have to spend time typing in many E-mail addresses or having to remember difficult ones. This is useful if the author wants to send multiple copies of a message to different people.
There are some limitations to E-mail which include the following:
Delays in response. If the message is urgent and the recipient does not log on to the system and check their mail box, some mail may not be read and responded to quickly.
Certainty of receipt. Senders cannot be sure if their message got through if the recipient does not respond to the message received.
New mail systems have done much to alleviate these problems by having chimes that let the receiver know that they have just received a message e.g. QuickMail (by Macintosh). The type of chime can also tell the receiver what type of message has been received e.g. urgent. Some mail systems have a built in feature that allows the sender to know if and when the recipient has received the message sent.
1.5 Computer Conferencing
Computer conferencing offers many benefits that support communication within groups. Some systems are designed to be synchronous while the majority are asynchronous.
Communication takes place through a computer terminal by typing and reading. Both cognitive and social emotional exchanges tend to be different that face-to-face communication. Communication is asynchronous; sending and receiving may occur seconds apart, or days or even years apart. The computer stores information, allowing retrieval by attributes such as topic. The user can also filter communications, deciding whether, when and how thoroughly to choose to read items from the mass of accessible material. (Hitzt in McConnell:1989:191)
According to Rapaport (1991) computer conferencing had its origins in 1971 when the office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) commissioned Murray Turoff to develop a computer system that was analogous to the existing voice conference. Since the development of EMISARI (the Emergency Management Information and Reference System) which was the prototype of more recent computer conferencing systems, many conferencing structures have been developed to suit the needs of different groups.
There have been many experiments using computer conferencing systems. Below is a case study conducted by McConnell (1989) that looks at an asynchronous mode of conferencing using a computer.
1.6 CMC in education (McConnell’s Study)
McConnell (1989) conducted a case study amongst a group of professional teachers taking a MEd in Service Education. He used the CoSy (asynchronous) conferencing system as part of his study to ascertain usage patterns and perceptions of computer conferencing in education.
The general aim of the trial was to examine the introduction of a sophisticated, computer based electronic teaching and learning medium into a conventional on-campus postgraduate degree course whose students were, on the whole ordinary non computer literate people. McConnell (1989:191)
The overall reaction to this form of computer mediated communication was mixed. McConnell reported the following types of statements from participants.
- Easy to use
- Great fun
- Frustrating to use
- Time wasting
A key finding was the social presence of the group.
Social presence can be characterised by such attributes as feeling close to other participants in a meeting, the level of anxiety during the meeting; the amount of interaction and so on. (McConnell:1989:194)
Feelings of satisfaction were high while feelings of anxiety were low amongst participants during conference exchanges. Many shy students felt more comfortable communicating with this computer medium because they perceived that they had an opportunity of participating more fully in meetings. In face-to-face meetings they would not have had the same level of participation.
There were many students however who reported that they did not feel close to other conference participants. Individuals felt that during conference sessions there was a great deal of formality as compared to face-to-face communication processes, and student-to-student interaction was perceived as being low.
The results of this study outlined five main factors that limited the use of this computer conferencing system.
Time. There was a lack of time in becoming familiar with the system so that it could be used effectively as a part of study activities.
Reading messages. Many of the students in this case study found that the conference messages were difficult to read because they did not have access to a hard copy of the conference session or a scrolling facility on the computers that they used. This discouraged use of computer conferencing despite the reread facility built into the system.
Conference length. The mass of information (continually building up over time) was another factor that limited use of this conference facility. If there were a number of messages sent to the system that were lengthy, then students had to deal with trying to assimilate at times, vast amounts of information. This was true if the time between computer logons was of an extended period.
Access to computers/terminals. Participants of this case study found that the computer facilities available to them were not adequate for their needs. These individuals were reluctant to use other computer facilities elsewhere on campus, away from direct support.
Note taking. Since there was no hard copy of the conference available students had to take notes of the important pieces of information that they wanted to remember. Having to take notes became irritating.
The factors limiting the use of this computer conferencing medium may not be as noticeable if a different conferencing system was used. Not all computer conferencing systems are asynchronous. Synchronous communication allows individuals to communicate in a different conference format.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) (described in the next chapter) is one system that allows individuals to communicate with each other in real time, logs from sessions can also be kept for later reference. Computer conferencing via IRC, with the support of other computer mediated communication systems such as E-mail (an asynchronous computer medium), if used in collaborative work groups, may be a way of allowing all members to be equal participants in discussions dealing with both the product and the process of work within the group to which they belong. However one must ask the question of how CMC or IRC in particular, will affect individual involvement with, commitment to, and perception of, their work colleagues.
2.1 Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Reid (1991:8) states that;
IRC is a multi-user synchronous communications system. It allows people to chose which person or group of people they wish to see the activity of and to whom they wish their own activity to be transmitted.
Jarkko Oikarinen wrote the program in 1988 and it is based on a client server model. (Pioch:1992).
Servers. A number of servers are linked together to form the IRC network. Servers transmit various types of information between themselves to keep each other up to date. Think of a server as being a bank… there is one in each local geographical area, which will constantly update the main bank records of any changes and receive updates made by other branches. (Ridge:1992:4)
Clients. A Client is used to connect the IRC user to the network. All clients in a particular area i.e. Hobart Tasmania will connect to their local server. In this case irchat.utas.edu.au located at the University of Tasmania’s Computing Centre. Think of a client as being similar to a bank customer. The customer communicates with the local branch (i.e. the server) and receives information such as account balances which are relevant to him/her. (Ridge:1992:4)
Ridge (1992) has designed the following model to demonstrate how the IRC network here at the university of Tasmania is linked to various parts of the world.
Figure one: Simplified map of IRC
Communication using IRC relies on the written word. It is synchronous in that messages are typed, transmitted, received and in most cases responded to within the same time frame in which verbal communication would take place.
IRC does not rely on physical contact between users at anytime during the communication process. Most individuals who use IRC on a regular basis would only know a very small number of other IRC users in person, or have any physical contact with other users who do not live specifically in their own local area.
One of the benefits of IRC is that it allows communication between individuals who have never met and who are not likely to meet, to share ideas, customs and other information about each other. It also allows individuals from dispersed locations, who have common interests or who are working on similar projects to collaborate with each other in a synchronous format regardless of time or distance.
IRC is not operated at any particular headquarters or by any particular organisation (it is not an official program). It is a collection of servers mutually updating each other through links.
Most IRC users are students or individuals, who as part of their employment, have access to Internet via a computer or terminal.
IRC is maintained by individuals who have chosen to spend their own time in many cases to set up, or maintain IRC for the benefit of local users. IRC was set up at the University of Tasmania on a semi-official basis in order to aid research in computer mediated communication.
Ridge (1992) has made the comparison between IRC and a CB Radio/telephone combined. He has noted that while users of CB radio use a call sign as a means of identifying themselves to other users, those who use IRC have nicknames to identify each other. No real names are used on IRC so nicknames are utialised to identify particular individuals, this is to provide anonymity. Information such as real names can be part of the user’s location/E-mail address e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org (Cheryl Anne Vincent), which anyone on the IRC system can view if they wish.
Once on the IRC network individuals are able to send and receive messages. Ridge (1992) used the metaphor of a telephone because once on IRC it is possible to send a message directly to a particular computer. In the IRC environment this is called a private message and is only received by one person to whom the message is intended, no one else on the IRC network sees this message.
In order to participate in a public discussion with other IRC users it is necessary to create a forum for this to happen, or to join an already existing discussion. This is done by the use of channels. A channel in this case is analogous to that used by a CB radio in which individuals are able to see all the activity (discussion) that is going on within the channel and can contribute messages of their own.
In order to control one’s environment once in the IRC network simple commands are executed that allow the user to do particular things e.g.
/msg <nick> message- sends a private message to the designated person.
/join #<channel name>- allows the user to join a particular channel or to create one of their own.
/mode #<channel name> +i- makes the channel invite only so that those users who wish to join this channel have to be invited by someone who has channel operator status.
2.2 Uses of IRC
Mulry (1992) has outlined some of the uses of IRC which consist of the following:
Communication between two or more individuals in real time. Individuals can either send private messages to each other or can take part in public discussions on channels. IRC users from many dispersed places are able to talk to each other regardless of time or distance.
Conferences. These can be open or restricted depending on how the conference forum (in this case channel) is manipulated. For instance if a group of individuals wished to participate in a private conference the channel operator (the individual who created the channel or an individual who has been granted operator status) can make the channel private so that it does not appear in the list of IRC channels. They can also make the channel invite only, allowing only those users who have been specifically invited to the channel to join it.
High speed file exchanges. Any information that can be put into a data file can be transferred through the medium of IRC. This includes both text and graphics.
Access to specific services while using IRC via robots/service. IRC robots are clients that have been automated to react in particular ways within the IRC environment. For example Noteserv is a robot/service that allows IRC users to leave a short note for other users, who are not currently logged on to IRC. Individuals who have notes left for them on Noteserv will automatically be notified of this the next time they logon to IRC.
2.3 Access to IRC
IRC is a text based interface that can be accessed from any computer or terminal that has a connection to the Network.
The IRC screen
The IRC screen (as viewed on a Macintosh computer) looks like the following:
Figure two IRC screen
The above figure shows a typical screen during an IRC session. Trim and Lindahl (1990:5) state that Chat [IRC] is a full screen utility. It takes over the screen…. Almost everything happens in the upper bulk of the screen. This includes both messages from other users, as well as the output of the control commands.
As each person sends a message to the channel, the computer screen scrolls to incorporate this new dialogue. Old messages once they have left the screen are lost from view, but can be recaptured if the user issues a command to scroll back through the discussion or keeps a log of the session.
Public messages from individuals participating in a IRC discussion appear within the channel with the originating nickname in <angle brackets> e.g.
<Legend> now you have direction you r an op
Private messages are sent to the recipients screen with the originating nickname in *asterisks* e.g. if the message sent by legend was a private one it would look like this;
*legend* now you have direction you r an op
When an individual sends a private message to another user their name appears in asterisks proceeding the message they have sent as well.
All control commands can be seen on the screen by the channel participants e.g.
All those individuals on channel #Liahona would see the following command:
***mode change wigg on channel #Liahona by Liahona.
This particular command shows that wigg has been granted channel operator status (able to manipulate the status of the channel i.e. making it invite only, private, secret etc.) on channel #Liahona by Liahona.
The black line at the bottom of the screen carries information such as the IRC user’s nickname, what channel (if any) they are on and the status of that channel, e.g. Liahona is on channel #Liahona and the status of that channel is invite only (+i). Information such as the time of day may also appear on this line.
All the messages sent to the screen by Liahona are typed in the bottom line of the screen next to the channel name e.g.
#Liahona: once the projects finished less stress!!! :)
This line scrolls as the message is typed in. There is a limit to the length of each message once the limit has been reached the IRC user must use the carriage return to continue with any unfinished dialogue.
Although many dispersed individuals enjoy using IRC as a medium of social communication, how effective is it as a communication system? How does communication via IRC differ from face to face communication and how do individuals adapt to communicating in this way?
In order to ascertain the benefits of using IRC as a major means of communication between individuals, the following two games were played. IRC logs for each game session were kept and analysed. Individuals who participated in the How to Host a Murder role play were asked to submit written comments on their perceptions of IRC and its communication effectiveness.
2.4 How to Host a Murder
The objective of this game was to determine how effective computers are for communication. Can individuals actually get the messages that they want to over the computer without the aid of other methods of communication i.e. non verbal cues.
Areas of specific interest were:
Individual perceptions on the efficiency of IRC as a means of conveying information between people in a setting where information content is important.
The difference between IRC and face-to-face communication.
How to Host a Murder is an adult detective game. These games have particular settings i.e. country mansion, archeological dig etc. The players all take on a role as a murder suspect whose objective is to discover who the murderer is without incriminating themselves (if in fact they are the murderer). The game is played in rounds, during which each participant must disclose specific pieces of information about other players. Players may ask other suspects any questions they wish in order to get them to disclose any incriminating evidence. A separate individual acts as the game facilitator who controls the game setting and makes sure that particular players reveal specific information in each of the rounds e.g. suspect one reveals the contents of a will in round two etc.
The game players, by paying attention to the information given out during the role play should be able to guess who the real murderer(s) is (if it is not themselves).
There is four rounds to the game at the end of which the facilitator asks each suspect to reveal who they suspect committed the crime.
The participants of this IRC role play consisted of nine individuals aged between 23 and 33 enrolled in the Master of Social Science degree at the University of Tasmania. All game participants knew each other well. Eight individuals played the part of guests at a country mansion. The ninth person acted as the game facilitator to make sure that all the rules of the role play were adhered to and that guests divulged the required information at the appropriate time.
Overview of the game
Most individuals loved playing the game and thought that it was fun, although trying to communicate in this way proved to be a challenge. Some of the players felt a little disadvantaged because of inefficient typing skills or because they were unfamiliar with the IRC program itself. Some individuals indicated that it was hard for them to keep up with all the information that was on the screen at one time. Others indicated that they had to concentrate when typing messages because they knew that they had to give out vital information and wanted to make sure that they did this right.
As the game progressed most individuals became accustomed to the IRC program and the scrolling effect of the screen and got into the game more in terms of the characters they played. Many of those individuals who had trouble assimilating all the information presented to them on the screen tended to adopt strategies to overcome problems with this, such as only attending to information that they thought was pertinent to them.
As familiarity with IRC increased the individuals who participated in this role play found that they could communicate via this computer medium. Individuals managed to guess who the assassin was as a result of playing the role game even with the limitations of IRC.
Initial reaction to the game and IRC
Initial reaction to the IRC environment in the context of playing this game was enthusiastic and this positive attitude stayed throughout the game. The following comments are typical of those given by game participants:
It was fun and exiting, particularly as it was more difficult to predict how people were going to react… as we could not see peoples non verbal communication. My first time typing on IRC and I can understand the addiction. Even before the game started I was enjoying the freedom of anonymity, as Rog, to carry on an affair with Lady Flo. That loosening of inhibitions, the FLAME EFFECT (emphasising message by putting it in capitals similar to shouting in verbal communication.) that you see on BBS and E-mail systems is critical to the utility of on-line systems. There are no obligations, conventions or barriers in this mode of communication. You can talk when and if you want and to whoever you like.
Having only used IRC once before it was easy to pick up the general gist of how IRC worked (i.e. channels etc.) It was an interesting and challenging way to communicate with people, especially communicating in a way that means you have to concentrate on what others were saying and also try to solve something at the same time. It made you think about what you were going to say because it would effect other peoples comments. This would be different than simply talking to people via IRC simply as a means of discussion.
Most of the participants in this role play stated that they had problems communicating with others using IRC as a communication medium. Most of these problems were due to poor typing skills and unfamiliarity with the IRC program. Protocols used between individuals in social communication were absent as well, mostly due to the lack of non verbal cues that are exchanged in face-to-face communication encounters. Inefficient typing skills was a problem mentioned by a few individuals that effected the communication process.
it is essential to be able to touch type.
If you are like me and cannot type very fast or accurately, you tended to concentrate on what you were saying and lose what the others were typing. The advantage is that you could always read the log but I think quite a few clues were lost in this way, more so than if you had heard it spoken to the group. However you did have the advantage that you could more readily ignore or deflect a person’s line of questioning more readily than if they were harassing you vocally.
Communication problems occurred because some participants were so busy trying to get the messages they had to reveal on to the screen to take note of what other people are saying. This problem does not occur as often, when conversations on IRC are between small groups of people.
When discussion groups contain more than five individuals, trying to communicate (especially when the information content of each message is high) problems can occur in keeping up with discussions or understanding messages. Some individuals adopted strategies to help overcome this problem. One individual explains how he managed with this situation:
Cocktail party syndrome. The script should show that people came to be able to focus on single separate streams of the screen conversation. I skipped most of the stuff about Randy’s past, whereas Donny would have very specifically scanned those lines, ignoring other streams. We picked what interested us and ran with it. By skimming what was not essential we learned how to read IRC. We adapted to losing all our non verbal channels of communication everything was made textually explicit I suspect more content came out this way than otherwise would. Anyway the ability to scroll back on speech helped immensely to being able to think things over and respond fully.
The scrolling effect of the screen seemed to hinder the communication process to some extent for those individuals who were not familiar with this concept. One individual commented that The scrolling effect of the game, that is the page on the screen scrolls up every input, causing one to consider only playing minimally since to lag behind means missing vital information.
This can cause considerable problems for those who are new to the IRC environment especially if there is a great deal of activity on the channel where discussion is taking place. This makes it hard for those who are unfamiliar or slower to keep up with all that is going on. Familiarity with IRC comes with continued use of the system, as with many things practice makes perfect. Individuals who intend to use IRC for conferencing purposes should be encouraged to play with the system so that they become more familiar with the technology and the protocols that govern it (see appendix one for sample of the log for this role play).
In face-to-face communication there are particular rules that govern social behaviour. For instance it is not polite to interrupt the flow of conversation by jumping in with comments of one’s own. Many of the protocols that govern social behaviour during the communication process are transmitted via non verbal cues. Usually when an individual has finished speaking their voice rises or when an individual wishes to speak they will lean towards the person to whom the conversation is directed.
Since communication via IRC relies wholly, on written words the conventions that regulate face-to-face conversations are absent.
As a result discussions on IRC can become hard to understand because individuals can interrupt dialogue or flood the screen with information accidentally, in the absence of non verbal cues. More structured conversations with a moderator or chairperson might help with this issue, when individuals or groups wish to use IRC for conferencing purposes.
Individuals found that using IRC was a good way to teach the idea of focussing on a particular problem. Since concentration is required to keep up with the flow of information (especially in this conference format) this method could teach individuals how to focus their attention as well as how to focus their communication of a specific topic in order to be able to communicate in a clear manner.
One of the role play participants commented on the possible uses or IRC.
A whole new world of doing things… breaking down the barriers of distance etc.. widening your ability to communicate with a wide variety of people form all over the world, with different perspectives.
Individuals once accustomed to IRC found that they could communicate well. However competence aside, do individuals communicating via IRC follow the same rules of protocol as those involved in face-to-face communication?
2.5 Who has what cards?
One of the objectives of this card game was to determine how effective individuals could communicate using computer mediated communication while working on other tasks (on the computer) at the same time i.e. working on word processing or graphics document. The other point of this case study was to explore the moral environment of IRC in regards to communication.
This game was designed by Matthew Burbury (a Master of Arts qualifying student). The individuals were given a spreadsheet that looked like the following example:
Figure three Individual spreadsheet for card game
Each asterisk indicates what cards individual players had e.g. person Two has the Ace of Clubs while person Three has the Ace of Spades. This spreadsheet was not to be printed out but left open in the background while individuals communicated on IRC.
Game players had to switch from one window to the other to either check who had what card, mark cards on the spreadsheet (after finding out who had what card) or to ask someone on IRC a question.
Players were also given specific instructions that they had to follow whilst playing the game e.g. do not give out any information to person five, as well as particular things they had to find out in order to answer bonus questions e.g. one player’s hand totals 34, who has this hand? The winner of the game was the first person who could find out who had what card or who could answer the bonus questions first.
Players were able to use what ever strategies they liked to find out the information they wanted but they had to abide by the instructions they were given e.g. who they could talk to and who they could not talk to. All communication had to be via IRC, either public messages on the channel or by sending private messages to individuals.
Each individual kept a log of the IRC session and these were collected at the end of the game and analysed. It was by analysing these logs that individual communication behaviour could be observed. (see appendix two, sample of the games log)
IRC and multi-tasking
Some individuals had problems coping with communicating on IRC and working on an application in another window. The main reason for this was because they had not used IRC before or were only recent users of the system.
Individuals overcame this to an extent by only attending to those messages that they felt were pertinent to them. While reviewing the logs for this IRC session it could be seen that the further into the game individuals got the less public messages they sent to the channel. Individuals carried out most of their conversations between certain other players. Some players teamed up on an informal level to help each other elicit the information they wanted from other players. For instance if person four tried to talk to person one and person one did not respond to their enquiry, then person four would ask person six to find out the information they wanted from person one. This was mostly done in return for a favour of sorts.
The difference between IRC and face-to-face communication
It seems that when there is an aura of anonymity people will act in a particular way or say things that they would not normally say. For instance during the card game some individuals were not as honest as they might have been in face-to-face communication. They not only avoided giving out particular pieces of information asked for but at times actually lied to those who they were in communication with.
Some individuals in the card experiment were asked as part of their instructions to not give out information to particular individuals, they were successfully able to do this in most cases without telling the individual concerned that they were not allowed to communicate with them. Some game players were able to manipulate other individuals in particular ways to get the information that they wanted just through the use of words. With face-to-face communication individuals generally give away extra information about the words they are saying by the non-verbal cues that they give e.g. sometimes it is possible to ascertain if an individual is lying when they are confronted face-to-face. With CMC all the individuals involved in the communication process have to guide them is the written word. A relationship of trust has to be developed in order for this to be successful. This trust at times was abused by individuals in this game if they thought that they could get away with it.
There were times when individuals would stab their allies in the back to get some information from someone else. A sense of morality normally associated with face-to-face social interaction was wavered in this case because of anonymity and because it was assumed that people could not be found out. There were a few comments made by some of the participants of this game voicing their discontent at perceived dishonesty amongst some of the games players.
IRC is an amoral system of communication. The ensuing morality of IRC is dependent on the users and the manipulation of others that takes place in the communication processes between individuals within the system. Since Internet Relay Chat is an informal chat system there are no official overseers. Sanctions for misbehaviour are in the hands of the individual IRC users themselves.
In formal computer conferencing individuals are usually known to each other (either by reputation or in person) and anonymity is reduced, as a result breeches in established social protocols should not
happen as often. However, when individuals chat with others, to whom they have not met, on an informal basis, they must take the risk that things are not always as they seem.
2.6 IRC as a communication medium
IRC as a communication medium does have some limitations which include the following:
The scrolling effect of the screen. This makes it hard for some individuals (especially new IRC users) to keep up with the flow of information that is sent to the screen, particularly if there are more than five individuals conversing at one time.
Inefficient typing skills. This limits the communication process to an extent because those individuals, who are slower at typing, tend to find keeping up with the conversations that are going on a challenge. Because of the time some users spend concentrating on the messages that they wish to send to the screen, they sometimes miss other messages that have been displayed.
Absence of non verbal cues to guide conversation. As a result of this there is a lot of interruptions to conversations that can make communicating by IRC hard to understand.
Issues of morality. There are times that some IRC users misrepresent themselves or the information that they give to others. This is mostly because of the anonymity that IRC allows. Some users behave on IRC in a different manner than what they would in face-to-face encounters because they perceive that they can get away with it.
Since IRC is primarily an informal chat system many of these limitations cannot be addressed except in formal communication encounters. Those who wish to use IRC as a means of communication to aid in collaborative work are able to establish discussion forums where conferencing between colleagues is able to take place. Channels can be established and maintained by collegial groups in which those who have interests in common or who are working on similar projects are able to converse together in either a formal or informal basis.
Besides the benefits outlined by Mulry earlier in this chapter, e.g. synchronous communication, high speed file exchange, access to services while logged on the the system e.g. Noteserv, IRC has some other advantages over other conferencing systems (which are mostly asynchronous) these include;
Time. The time that is involved in becoming competent in using the system to communicate is relatively short. Most of the participants in the case studies just presented managed to master the basics of the system by the end of the respective games they participated in. The How to Host a Murder went for approximately two hour hours while the Who has what cards? was one hour in duration.
Access to conference record. Every IRC user is able to record a log of each session they participate in. These logs can be read, saved and printed out as occasions require.
Conference length. Since this is a synchronous form of computer conferencing communication happens in real time, there are no delays in response to issues raised. The duration of each conference depends on the issues at hand or the individuals involved.
IRC is fun. One of the major benefits of IRC according to many of the individuals who participated in the games presented here as case studies is its informality. This made IRC fun to use and experiment with. Because IRC is perceived as fun it allowed individuals to become familiar with a computer mediated communicating system. Most of the individuals in these studies had never experienced communication in this way before participating in these games. They could play and learn at the same time. This has major benefits for education since it allows feelings of collegiality to develop not only amongst academics but students as well. It may be possible in the future for students at universities in many diverse places to collaborate together on major projects because it allows communication across distance and time.
Collaboration of this type could engender collegiality (as discussed in the next chapter) amongst collaborative work groups as well as supporting classical types of collegial forms.
3.1 Collaborative work groups
Work groups comprise multiple individuals acting as a bounded whole in order to get something done. So construed, they are inherently cooperative, where the term designates their requirement to coordinate the interdependent events to accomplish an acknowledged goal: it does not imply the absence of competition or conflict among group members. A work group’s purpose of goal, in turn may well involve a number of multi person tasks and task cycles: its activities are expected to persist over time and to survive membership changes. (Bikson, Eveland:1990:249)
Collaborative work groups vary in both form and purpose depending on the organisation to which they are a part. These groups consist of individuals who are dependent on each other in order to get the project done. Resources such as finance, knowledge and skill are combined to produce a specific product. These groups are either permanent or temporary.
Robertson (1991) has outlined some specific work group characteristics.
- Permanent. These groups have a relatively permanent membership who typically engage in ongoing projects within the organisation to which they belong. Members normally work in close proximity and there is a high division of labour according to skills and output.
Individuals in these groups either work on long term projects or a series of short term projects. Communication within the group dwells more on the actual work itself and less on how members will work together. Formal work groups are usually permanent.
Temporary groups. On the other hand temporary work groups are established for a particular purpose or task. Membership normally consists of individuals who would not ordinarily work together and who would separate after they have completed their assignment. These groups allow organisations to respond to particular demands that occur within the organisation’s environment in non routine ways. The expertise needed for sustaining these groups are found from all areas within the corporation as need arises.
Face to face. These groups consist of members who meet together at the same time and place. Their major means of communication is through discussion. They may meet to plan specific work projects including project design and work allocation, generate ideas through brainstorming sessions or reporting back on the project’s progress and making necessary revisions etc.
Dispersed. These groups are separated by distance. Group members are unable to hold face to face meetings due to the constraints of time or distance. These groups use information technology to communicate with each other which may include the telephone, Facsimile, Electronic-mail or Computer conferencing.
Task orientated. This type of group involves members who carry out particular tasks or work on specific projects. They can either be permanent or temporary depending on the nature of the task or project being carried out.
Problem orientated. These groups are temporary in nature and involve individuals who pool their resources to solve a particular problem through the means of discussion. A brainstorming session is an example of this type of group structure and purpose.
3.2 Collegiality - the legacy
Theories of collegiality have their sociological roots in the works of Max Weber in his discourse on Authority. According to Weber there are certain important types that exist in relation to legal and traditional authority. One of these types is the Collegial form.
It is possible for any type of authority to be deprived of its monocratic character by the principle of collegiality. This may, however, occur in a variety of ways with varying significance. (Weber:1978:272)
Although Weber talks about Collegial forms, there is nowhere in his works that he gives a clear description on what he views as collegiality. As Waters (1989:951) states, all Weber gives is a list of 13 possible instances, *types*, in which the collegial principle serves to divide the powers of a monocratic chief by placing limits and controls on these powers.
Where Weber does talk about collegiality he postulates that it will decrease in significance (especially in the political sphere).
At the present time they are rapidly decreasing in importance in favour of types of organisation which are in fact, and for the most part formally as well subject to authority of a single head for instance, the Collegial governments in Prussia have long since given way to the monocratic district president. The decisive factor in this development has been the need for rapid, clear decisions, free from the necessity of compromise between different opinions and also free of shifting majorities (Weber:1978:271-272)
Waters argues that Weber predicted a retreat from collegiality because of advancing bureaucratisation, since it offers advantages in rapid decision making and efficient administration. He states that one of the major opposing views of Weber’s retreat from collegiality is Durkheim whose utopian vision of the emergence of occupational corporations corresponds in some respects with a picture of collegial structure. (Waters:1989:946)
The emergence of collegiality in non political contexts derives from the special form that the historical development of the professions took rather than from a structural imperative rationality (Waters:1989:957)
By citing Post Weberian theories on collegiality Waters has come up with a formal statement of the Collegial principle that Weber himself failed to do;
Collegial structures are those in which there is dominant orientation to a consensus achieved between the members of a body of experts who are theoretically equal in their levels of expertise but who are specialised by area of expertise. (Waters:1989:956)
Waters gives six ideal typical features of Collegial organisation.
Collegiate organisation is arranged in terms of the use and application of theoretical knowledge (Waters:1989:956). Knowledge is specialised in respect to particular collegiate groups i.e. doctors and surgeons have a specialised knowledge that deals with medicine and clinical practice. This knowledge base is complex and needs continuous advancement and maintenance in order to keep up with the developing needs of those to whom they service. For instance with the outbreak of AIDS over the last decade medical science has had to find ways to stop the spread of the disease, stall its progress, as well as come up with possible cures.
This upgrading of specialist knowledge is vitally important because collegial bodies are not only consumers of the knowledge they possess but are disseminators of it, into the wider community as well. Collegiate organisations are formed to serve clients who do not have this specialist knowledge and rely on members of the collegium as experts and distributors of this knowledge in the form of information.
For instance, individuals who go to a doctor for a medical diagnosis see the doctor as an expert who will be able to tell them what is wrong and how they may receive treatment. As a result of this responsibility to the public, there are strict ethical norms that govern practise within collegiate bodies i.e. doctors observe a strict code of confidentiality between themselves and their patients.
Members of collegiate organisations are conceived of as professionals. (Waters:1989:957) Professional careers are divided into two stages.
Apprentice. This is where the collegiate member internalises those professional norms that govern the collegium as well as learning the professional skills associated with practice.
Practitioner. The transition from the apprentice to practitioner stage of the professional career is not voluntary nor is the candidate appointed to this higher level.
They are elected into this position by those on the aspiring, or higher level. i.e. PhD’s are not granted by other graduate students but by collegiate members in university faculties. Volpato (1991:207) stated that Knowledge is a cognitive tool used, maintained and protected by a professionalised, perhaps even a cloistered group. Credentials provide the basis for membership.
Another important characteristic of a professional career is that of tenure. Once an individual has received tenure within the organisation to which they belong;
it remains in place unless there is gross and obvious dereliction of duty or violation of ethical norms. The granting of tenure implies that the person has been tested in the various stages of apprenticeship and found not to be wanting, and is therefore free from the indignity of further tests or reviews. (Waters:1989:957)
Collegiate organisations are performance orientated systems. For this reason it is extremely unlikely that any group of its members will be exactly equal in accomplishment and the prestige that attaches itself to it. However, precisely because members of collegiate organisations are specialists. It is frequently difficult to compare performances. (Waters:1989:957)
As a result these organisations are formally equal.
For instance one senior lecturer or tutor is as formally equal as another regardless of differing work performances. Variability between member performance, is the source of prestige-based stratification patterns found amongst some groups in organisations or institutions to which these collegial bodies belong. Many such reputable organisations are able to attract greater resources or talented recruits e.g. Medicine and Law (faculties), Harvard and Oxford (universities).
Waters fourth ideal typical feature of collegial organisations is formal autonomy. Collegiate organisations are self controlling and self policing; that is they are not subject to direction from any external source once they have been constituted. (Waters:1989:958) Formal autonomy comes in the form of freedom of action and violation of ethical norms.
Freedom of action in regards to the pursuit of professional goals. In this way collegiate groups are free to do research, instruct others and communicate research findings in forums such as journals, text books etc. Performance standards are informal and differ from group to group but within all groups there is a minimum standard of performance that all members must adhere to. Members must also follow those ethical norms established by the group. For example some research by scientists because of its nature, is not allowed to be carried out on human subjects e.g. experimental drug therapy.
Violation of ethical norms. Sanctions for violation of these norms, except in the case of illegal activities, are matters of self regulation within the collegium rather than outside influences i.e. bureaucratic or commercial interference.
Scrutiny of product
It follows that if a collegiate organisation is self policing and egalitarian, then there must be maximum stress on peer evaluation and informal control. (Waters:1989:958) All work products by individual members of the collegium must be available for review by peers e.g. consultations and second opinions by those in medicine or written and oral dissemination of research by colleagues in academia.
Collective decision making
Collective organisation implies the constitution of collective forums in which decisions are made. The committee is the prototypical Collegial decision-making body. (Waters:1989:958) There are three committee types:
General committees. These involve all the members in a particular collegiate organisation e.g. academic board.
Specialist committees. These committees comprise peers within a particular enclave e.g. faculty board.
Delegative committees. These involve participants of work groups employed on particular projects e.g. policy-drafting. The members of these committees work for and are responsible to superior committees, for instance the academic board.
Committees within collegium are usually hierarchical in nature supposably allowing for the equal participation by all specialist members.
Democratic voting procedures are the usual way of reaching consensus in these committees.
3.3 The survival of collegial organisations
Waters analysis of collegiality has clearly demonstrated that it did not retreat in the face of advancing bureacratization but has in fact survived. Some possible reasons for this survival are:
Collegiate organisations have the auxiliary support of either other individuals outside of the group, for example doctors have the support of nurses or they exist as protected niches within larger institutions for instance academics rely on the support of the university institution. Although Waters states that one of the characteristics of collegiality is formal autonomy many collegiate bodies would not survive outside of the protected environment of the bureaucratic institutions that support them. For instance although academics are perceived as being formally autonomous it is in fact with the support of the university that they receive their livelihood i.e. the university pays their salary.
Socialisation of new members
In order to perpetuate the collegial structure new members must be constantly socialised into the system. These aspiring colleagues either have to meet a particular standard of theoretical knowledge or skills e.g. university degree or the collegium may decide to educate aspirants within the confines of the organisation as apprentices.
Auxiliary support and the socialisation of new members provide minimal subsistence. In order to not only survive but to flourish collegiate organisations may need to engage in cross collegial activities in which additional value to organisations ensue.
Value added activity
Collegial groups are able to move further away from bureaucratic structure by shifting away from traditional views of productivity. Value added activity means a change in the work processes that go on within the group. For instance Volpato (1992) envisions a shift away from traditional views academic research, which measures productivity in terms of publications, to collaboration between interested parties who mock up projects, or develop product ideas and then see who might wish to finance these semi entrepreneurial efforts. Volpato (1992:4) states;
This shift [away from traditional research] also presupposes a number of changes in intellectual property in which patents, registered designs, and copyright have a far stronger role to play than publication. Here rents on reputations (academic promotions, salaries etc.,) are increasingly supplemented by royalties on productive intellectual property.
In such a situation, the collegium would become a body corporate with representatives for managing intellectual property.
Another aspect of value added activity is the development of networks of support through collaboration across areas of expertise with other collegial bodies. In this context inter-disciplinary research would engender new collegial forms.
3.4 Collegial and non collegial collaborative groups
Collaborative work groups regardless of their formation consist of a number of individuals acting as a team to carry out a specific task or project.
Collegiate work groups are mostly collaborative but not all collaborative work groups are collegial according to Water’s definition of collegiality. A non collegial work group may have some experience which is intrinsic to itself but it does not have a band of theoretical knowledge that marks it out as a speciality. For instance a typical work group could be the members of a committee, meeting together to plan a conference. These individuals all have particular histories of expertise in various areas such as negotiation skills, coordination and project management. The members of this work committee are able to bring these skills into the group to help with the planning and running of the conference. Their areas of expertise are diverse but they do not have a specific area of knowledge that is the basis of the work that they do.
Contrary to this a group of computer scientists working on a project e.g. an information retrieval system, have a theoretical knowledge base for their work. Each member may have different areas of expertise such as systems analysis, design and programming in computer technology, that will be brought into the group as valuable resources, but they still have a common theoretical knowledge base which is Computer Science.
The other major difference between collegial and non collegial collaborative work groups is that non collegial groups are product specific while collegial collaboration is based on the way that individuals work together rather than on specific outcomes.
Groups that are product specific require members to use the resources that are available, both personally and as a group, to enhance the product that is the basis of all their work. This product could range from a list of brainstorming ideas to a week long convention for managers etc. Collegial collaborative work concentrates less on product (although this is important) but more on the processes of work. This commitment, in the form or strong work ethics and internalised norms, is over and above the commitment to product.
Collegiate work groups have a band of theoretical knowledge that is the underlying basis of their speciality, as well as a strong commitment to the collegium and the processes of work. It is these characteristics that set them apart from non collegial collaborative work groups.
3.5 Physical location of colleagues
Research has shown that colleagues are more likely to engage in collaborative work with those individuals who are within their immediate surround. The further away colleagues are from each other e.g. different floors in the same building or even different buildings the less opportunity they take to collaborate on research projects together.
Hagstrom (1965, in Kraut et.al:1988 :155) stated that Spatial propinquity often leads to collaboration since it is likely to lead to informal communication.
Kraut et.al (1988) found that 82% of collaborations occurred amongst researchers who had offices on the same floor. They give the following reasons that this is likely to occur in terms of communication possibilities:
Colocation. Researchers that work in similar areas or disciplines are usually located near each other e.g. the Sociology Department or the Chemistry Lab. As a result possible collaborators have many opportunities for unconstrained interaction (e.g. informal visits to a colleagues office to discuss a problem or idea) because of close proximity.
Communication frequency/quality. Contact with colleagues on a frequent informal level often leads to collaboration. For instance two colleagues that have lunch together often may discuss with each other specific areas of interest and find that they have some interests in common.
Cost of communication. The costs of communicating with a research partner or partners who are not in the immediate location can become extremely expensive for an individual undertaking research.
Kraut et.al. (1988:162-163) point out the benefits of close proximity with collaborators;
Proximity makes it possible to explore new relationships and to supervise and sustain progress by providing the low cost communication necessary to assess the compatibility to catalogue what has been done, to alert partners to minor problems, and to enforce guilt. Being situated near a pool of potential collaborators provides a low-cost opportunity for a researcher to discover the qualities of another that might make him or her a desirable collaborator. This increased awareness of the attributes of one’s neighbours allows one to chose partners judiciously, lowering the risk of selecting an inappropriate collaborator.
3.6 Communication using IRC between collaborators
IRC allows those who have common areas of interest or research to chat to each other on an informal basis. This takes the place of colleagues gathering around the table in a cafe or informal office visits where they can discuss different areas of work.
Since the communication process can be informal individuals over a period of time are able to get to know others who have similar interests and explore the possibilities of collaborating on any future projects.
This informal communication process can lead to collaboration on particular projects that do not involve close proximity. They can be nation wide or global in nature.
If researchers are using IRC and other modes of computer communication on an informal level then they are familiar with it and more likely to be using it often. Using this computer medium for collaborative work could become a natural progression. As discussed in chapter two IRC allows individuals to do the following:
- Synchronous communication
- Informal- open chatting
- Formal - closed conferences
High speed file exchanges between users.
- Keep a record of the communication for future reference.
Most collegiate work groups at the present time, outside of environmental situations such as Law and Accounting firms are found in Academia and Research. It is appropriate therefore, to look at collaboration within these types of work groups and what effects communicating via IRC have in engendering collegiality amongst collaborative work groups in real life case studies.
Since up to this present time no collegial organisations have been observed (by this researcher) using IRC as a means of communication, two case studies were designed which involve the members of two collaborative work groups who used IRC as a communication medium.
4.1 Two case studies using IRC
Case one. This group used a combination of IRC and face-to-face communication.
Case two. This group used only IRC and E-mail as a means of communicating between work group members.
Background and context
The aim of these case studies was to examine the effectiveness of using a synchronous computer conferencing system (in this case IRC) as a means of engendering collegiality amongst the members of a work group.
Areas of specific interest were:
How effective is IRC for communication?
How does this differ from face-to-face communication?
How effective is IRC in developing collegiality?
4.2 Case One - University of Melbourne
The work group
This study involved three individuals (two acting under the direction of a supervisor (Assistant Programmer) and who were second year Software Engineering students) that worked to complete two separate Software Engineering projects for the University of Melbourne during the Summer vacation.
All three individuals are very competent at using Unix workstations, PC’s and Macintoshes (to a lesser extent). All of them would use a Unix computer (Sun MicroSystem) most of the time as either part of their work (supervisor) or undergraduate degree.
One individual was employed to work on a fault simulation program for a floating point multiply and add integrated circuit. The other person was employed to work on a Graphical User Interface (GUI) image (Synthetic Radar Aperture) tool. Although working on separate projects they collaborated in using their combined knowledge and technical expertise (especially in the area of programming and debugging for their respective programmes) as a resource for the group as a whole.
This group used a combination of computer mediated communication and face-to-face communication to talk to each other, both when working on the project and at play (outside of working hours).
This case study involved several observations of the communication processes between group members via IRC. Data was collected using a questionnaire sent to each group member via the E-mail system sometime after their work projects were completed (see appendix three). This questionnaire was designed to gather information about individual members perceptions on the effectiveness of IRC as a communication system and whether it helped to form a collegial group structure.
4.3 Individual perceptions on work and IRC
Learning to use IRC
The University of Melbourne’s work group have a high level of computer competence and were experienced in the use IRC and E-mail so communication in this way was a natural part of their working environment.
How effective is IRC for communication?
The individuals comprising this work group found that communication using IRC was sometimes difficult and differed from face-to-face communication. As a result the processes of communication between members using IRC and social means was different, for instance when using IRC individuals were more careful in how they worded messages to others in the group. The supervisor for the Melbourne project stated the following about IRC.
IRC was very useful in taking care of small things very quickly, such as fixing things that didn’t work and letting me know what they were up to, what problems they had or when they needed help.
He thought that IRC was an effective way of communicating provided that we [all] were thinking about the same thing it was almost the same as being face-to-face
He did point out however, that he found communicating with IRC different from talking face-to-face because there was less certainty using IRC i.e. there was a smaller chance that I might misunderstand them face-to-face. He stated that because of this he was more careful when talking to the individuals that he was supervising via IRC.
Perceived benefits/problems of IRC
Although IRC has some limitations in the area of communication the Melbourne group thought that it had many benefits that in some cases outweighed the limitations of the system. One of these benefits was that individuals did not have to be in another group members physical location to communicate with them if they were logged on to the network.
We didn’t have to actually physically find each other to sort out problems. Whenever we were working we could have an IRC window open.
One individual thought that using IRC was good so long as the queries were not too complex. He felt that face-to-face communication was more efficient, but the time needed to visit a person became annoying.
This group felt that IRC was effective because it enabled them to ask questions and verify points with a minimum of effort.
IRC served as the first point of call if I had a question/query, it would first be raised in IRC and if the subject/contents were being misunderstood, then IRC would be used to inform Richard [the supervisor] that I’d be visiting him in a second.
They worked on the second floor while there supervisor’s office was on the third floor of the Electronic and Electrical Engineering building.
This group was able to overcome the limitations of communicating via IRC because this was not their only mode of communication. When they had problems with IRC they would talk to each other face-to-face in order to work out any obstacles they encountered.
IRC and collegiality?
The Melbourne work group thought that having a social side to IRC helped them form a close collegial network. Not only were they able to chat to each other outside of working time and the environment but while they were working chatting on IRC was a way of overcoming frustrations.
Richard [the supervisor] was not the big bad boss as we knew him as a person not as a boss. It made things more relaxed. It made it [the work] enjoyable. IRC served as a nice way to let out frustration when something was not working properly.
They also felt that knowing others were on line to help if needed was reassuring.
Even if our supervisor was not available [for technical help] there was always someone we could ask questions of and this made it far less stressful.
This was possible because of the discipline in which they are studying. The majority of individuals on the IRC network are university students who study in the Computer Science or Engineering fields. This made it much easier for the two individuals working on these projects to find someone to whom they could ask questions and find possible solutions, if for some reason their supervisor was not immediately on hand to help.
The members in this group were effectively able to use each other as an information resource to add to their own body of knowledge or to save time in having to find the information elsewhere.
It was easier to message our supervisor than to look through source code, so if was of an aid. I think that I might have abused this ability a little bit, until an equilibrium level was reached.
4.4 Attaining collegiality - University of Melbourne
This group can be described as neo collegial, (which will be defined more fully in the next chapter).
The members of the group had a knowledge base that set them out as a speciality (as compared to non collegial collaborative work groups) as well as a firm commitment to the product and the processes of work. Some changes in the structure of this group such as formal egalitarianism, autonomy and collective decision making would see this type of group become fully collegiate.
Each member of the Melbourne work group shared a common band of knowledge that was the basis of the work they did. In this case it was Software Engineering. When individual members were encountering difficulties on the projects that they were working on, IRC enabled them to access the knowledge resources of other members quickly.
Equality and collective decision making
Two of the individuals in this group worked under a supervisor and were employed to work on specific projects so there was not a formal egalitarian system in the group. There was however, a mutual sharing of expertise and knowledge when the need required in order to get the projects completed.
Scrutiny of product/performance
Each member of this group was able to scrunitize the work of the others to make sure that the product was of an accepted standard. Since this was also supervised work the product and work performance had to reach a level of competence to suit the employer i.e. University of Melbourne. One of the major benefits of IRC in the case of this group was that it it allowed the whole group to develop a single gaze toward the product(s) they were working on because the products were in a textual form i.e. program codes.
When an individual member of the work group encountered a problem they were able to copy the code or program in question and paste it onto the IRC screen so that their colleagues could peruse the text. As a result there was immediate feedback on the nature of the problem and immediate changes could be made. IRC allowed individuals to make collective decisions about the product in the actual stages of development.
The Melbourne group were able to communicate face-to-face as well, if they found that IRC was not meeting their communication needs. This provided another way of gaining group access to the product.
4.5 Case Two - University of Tasmania
The work groups
The work groups included 18 Postgraduate students in Social Science at the University of Tasmania. Age varied from 21 to 50.
Most of them were full-time students about one third of the class (of 27) consisted of part-time students. All of them have had some experience in using a Macintosh computer but most of them had not used the E-mail system or IRC previously to this study.
Briefing and Training
A workshop was conducted to briefly introduce Elm (Electronic Mail Facility) and IRC to the individuals in this group. It was after this introductory workshop that individuals had the opportunity to allocate themselves to one of three groups:
Group one IRC/E-mail communication (this group were not allow to communicate by any other method except computer mediated communication).
Group two (control group) social communication (this group was not allowed to use the computer to communicate i.e. E-mail).
Group three (individuals working by themselves) these were part time students who because of the constraints of time could not participate in either group. These individuals did not participate in this case study.
A further two hour workshop was conducted with those individuals who were in the IRC group to provide some basic training on how to use this system, executing specific commands within IRC, protocols to use etc. The members of this group were then encouraged to play with the system before engaging in the work project so that they could become more familiar with it, therefore more comfortable using it. It was hoped that by playing with IRC the members of this group would not have to take time out from working on the database/entry form to master the basics of the communications systems that they were required to use as part of this case study.
As part of their Graduate Diploma of Social Science course these students were asked to design a database entry form (based on questions from the Visitor Survey: Tourism Tasmania, 1991) using the Macintosh application FilemakerPro. They were to work in groups to complete the following tasks.
To construct a data entry form as an interface for the database.
They had to include into this data entry form the ability for contingency questions to be flagged (i.e. if the score for question A was a yes then the data entry person would see question A1 if the answer was no, then question A1 was not seen).
The entry form had to generate a count that would automatically update the database as new cases were added.
Group One (IRC communication) were able to use IRC for conferencing purposes and the E-mail system to leave messages such as meeting times etc. This group was not allowed to sit at the same computer and work on the project together. In order to further discourage illegal talking they were encouraged to use different computing facilities on campus while engaging in computer conferences with each other.
Group Two (control group) could use any social means to communicate (e.g. face-to-face meetings, writing messages, using the white board etc.). They were able to sit around one computer and work on the project together if they desired.
The main method of data collection was the same post use questionnaire that was sent to the work group in Melbourne.
The questionnaire was sent to the IRC group via the E-mail system and most of the replies were sent back the same way. Data was collected from the social communication group via observation and a report form collected after the project was completed. The social communication group was to act as a control in contrasting the effectiveness of communication using a computer medium.
Logs were also kept and collected from the IRC sessions in which group one members were conferencing
4.6 Individual perceptions on work and IRC Learning to use IRC
Once those in the University of Tasmania’s work group had become more familiar with the technology behind IRC and the E-mail system they found that they were able to use it well and gained some competence with them both.
Many of the members in the IRC group actually became so engrossed with the play aspect of IRC that they forgot why they were mastering this technology i.e. for their project! However it was by playing with IRC that they were able to become familiar enough with it to use it for work purposes. One group member commented in the following manner.
Using IRC for social purposes initially was good practice for learning how to use the system. It was also beneficial as the people that you linked up to might be of help to you [in mastering the technology of IRC].
How effective is IRC for communication?
Many group members stated that they had to concentrate on what they were trying to say so that their messages could be put into short precise wording in order to be understood by all. One person explained that with,
IRC it is harder to communicate because you have to write things so that they can be easily understood. When you talk to people [face-to-face] it can be easier to explain as you can use gestures and draw things and point to things, as well as do demonstrations. None of this can be done that easily on IRC
Perceived benefits/problems of IRC
The Tasmania group found that IRC was a good way to isolate difficulties that arose from communicating with other group members such as being able to explain to others clearly the concepts that were being formed about FilemakerPro and in forming relevant questions to ask. Although IRC was able to identify areas of difficulty in the communication process it could not in the case of this group, overcome them because of the constraints put upon group members to communicate with each other by only using this medium.
One member stated;
On a technical level, I feel it falls down, unless all parties have a common technical competence or a good reference manual [FilemakerPro] available to resource. At a more peripheral level I think it works well, although if there are many people on the net [channel] at one time it can be quite hard to keep track of the conversation flows. At another level the inability to type reasonably is an asset that may hinder appreciation of the system.
Another major problem encountered by those in this group was that of time management. Arranging times to meet proved difficult because this all had to be done by E-mail. Since this medium of communication was new to many group members they had not as yet formed the habit of checking their mailboxes for messages scheduling meetings etc. One comment sums up the situation.
At first this was quite difficult [arranging Meeting times] as people had/have different time schedules and priorities. Without some overall control/controller it ran into some scheduling problems. This was to some extent overcome at the end but never really completely solved. This was not an individual problem, rather an operational one as people had no habit of checking mail for messages on meeting times.
IRC and collegiality?
Since this group had problems with time management in the setting up of meetings etc. and being able to all work on the project together most of them felt that there was no collegiality amongst them. In many cases there was discontent amongst the members of the group with many of them stating that they did not think that the distribution of work amongst group members was equal. Some of the group members failed to turn up to meeting and to do their designated share of work in the project. One member voiced her feelings in the following way:
No! [when asked if everyone was equal in the group as far as work input went] It was hard to track some people down. There were some people that I didn’t even know were in the IRC group as nothing was heard from them and they definitely didn’t do a single thing.
Problems with work input may be the result of the fact that half way through the project one of the lecturers involved with these Social Science graduates introduced a project into the course that they had to work on subsequently many of them were put off track and it was hard for them to get back into the project etc.
The Tasmania group were unable to find help for their project outside of the other members of their work group. This points out the success of having a wider collegial group in which one can draw on as a resource of information.
If this mode of communication was used by more students in the Social Sciences or more Macintosh users this problem could be lessened. As more and more interest groups adopt this type of communication collegial networks will be able to expand even further.
4.7 Attaining collegiality - University of Tasmania
This collaborative work group displayed some of the characteristics of collegiality described by Waters as outlined below, but they failed to become collegial or even proto- collegial (as it will be termed in the next chapter).
Since this group contained students, their status was formally marked as lacking theoretical knowledge. While the group had a knowledge base in the Social Sciences the computer expertise of individual members was on different levels of competence. Some members of the group relied heavily on the expertise of others to get them through this database/entry form project. IRC had the effect of enhancing greater equalisation of patchy knowledge amongst these students. Computer competence also effected the communication quality amongst some group members. Those who were able to master the technology of IRC were able to fully utilise its communication capabilities while those who did not, found this system a difficult medium for communication and for getting the project completed.
Equality and collective decision making
The organisation of group structure was left entirely up to the group. If they wanted to elect a coordinator or a secretary etc. they had the freedom to do so. Since group members mediated their communication via IRC the need for committees and associated service roles was minimised. Parts of the project were divided up amongst the members of the group and each individual was responsible for getting their part completed and reporting their progress back to the group.
Scrutiny of Product/work performance
The IRC group was not able to collectively view the database (object) at the same time, while the control group (group two) was able to gather around the one computer screen and discuss the database/entry form while they were working on it.
Figure four The social communication group
The members of the social communication group were able to develop a common gaze around a commonly owned object, they all had a vision of it as a complete entity and how the work of each member contributed to the whole. As problems came up they were able to be corrected immediately with the input of the whole group, thus sharing the collective expertise on hand. Each member was able to have equal input into the development of the database/entry form, contributing their area of expertise, while drawing on the knowledge base of other members to supplement the deficiencies in their own. The communication process of this group was less on the processes of their work e.g. setting up meetings, discussing what part of the project each member would do, but on the actual product itself.
The IRC group were unable to meet together in the same place and talk about the project at hand, make diagrams or other things the help them sort through their problems.
Figure five The IRC communication group
Individual members of the IRC group were all working on a different part of the database/entry form. Instead of being one object there ended up being small fragmented parts of the same data base which the group had to try and piece together in the end to make a whole. When they actually did have meetings on IRC to discuss problems they found it hard to visualise the same part of the database or problem and in some cases the finished product at all.
It would seem that one of the major limitations of IRC is that it does not provide the chance for the whole group to own the object if it is not in a textual form. The Melbourne work group were able to do this because the objects in this case were textual, program codes etc. When a member of the Melbourne work group had a problem they were able to copy the code or program in question and paste it onto the IRC screen so that their colleagues could view the text. As a result colleagues were able to look at the code type out solutions into the IRC screen which could then be copied and pasted it into the original document.
As a result of failing to develop a single gaze towards a commonly owned object the Tasmanian IRC group remained a social group very similar to a club. With a stronger knowledge base and with an appropriate visual interface providing a common object this group would have moved towards proto collegiality. Individual members were able to support each other but not in a collegial way, it was more like holding the persons hand.
Since the individuals in the IRC group did not have an object to fully focus their minds and efforts on while communicating via IRC many group members became so caught up in the play aspect of IRC and its social opportunities that they failed to fully come to grips with the project on a professional nature. While having meetings they would carry out private conversations on a social basis with each other or with other IRC users.
Most of the communication between the group members was on coordinating the work, for example who was responsible for what part of the project, meeting times etc. and less on the actual product itself.
If this group were able to have had access to the common object a single gaze towards it and the processes of work could have allowed them to become proto collegial. The control group at the University of Tasmania were more proto collegial because it developed these characteristics. All group members had access to a commonly owned product and shared a common gaze towards it.
In comparison to the University of Melbourne work group this second case study has fewer characteristics of collegiality. In some ways it was not a useful case as was originally expected because of the confounding effects of the group age (young) and the IRC interface (lacking visual interface).
5.1 New Infrastructures for collegiality
None of the case studies presented in this thesis reveal the type of collegiality that was specified by Waters. While it might have been useful to study academics (for example) using IRC as a medium of communication, the problem is that this type of technology is not as yet on their desks.
The point of this thesis was to explore how, what appears as a convenience (real time chat amongst colleagues) can be transformative. Elements of transformation were revealed in both case studies. To show this transformation process, it is useful to outline a series of social forms that range from social groups through collaborative work groups, and finally to classical collegiality. IRC has potential in enhancing what may be termed proto collegial forms and neo collegial forms. These come between work teams and the kind of structure of collegiality developed by Waters.
5.2 From social groups to proto collegiality
Work groups move from being defined as social groups towards proto collegiality as a band of knowledge develops, that is the basis of the work they do. This knowledge base does not have to be formal such as a university degree, but it does require some type of study, either on the apprenticeship level or as part of a course such as those offered by technical colleges.
Once a knowledge base is established a code ( a language that is specific to the group) develops that provides group closure, because those on the outside do not know the right words in which to be able to communicate on the same level. For instance if an engineering lecturer visited the Sociology department they would probably find that they would not understand the in house language that sets sociologists apart e.g. Weberian, looking glass self, socialisation, post modernism etc.
Similarly if a sociology lecturer visited the Engineering faculty they would have the same problem. A knowledge base allows group members to be in the know by establishing a set of codes that establishes group closure.
IRC as a form of communication can create group closure at a lower threshold of expertise. In order to fully utilise IRC as a communication system one must learn the code that is associated with its use. For instance the University of Melbourne’s work group were computer competent and had been using IRC for some time. These individuals were familiar with the code that users of IRC have developed to facilitate communication, and were able to use it. The University of Tasmania group had to learn this code, as well as trying to master the technology of the system at the same time, some group members were unable to do this. Thus apart from the technical content of communication on IRC, a series of local idioms has also developed e.g.
btw - this is the abbreviation of by the way
re - re hi or hello again
cul8r - see you later
Proto collegiality can be defined as a collaborative group that does not have theoretical closure but does, through the immediacy of intercommunication, have a code that requires study and a certain etiquette to use .
5.3 Neo collegiality
The term neo collegial refers to a group whose code does have a formal theoretical content and its work is accessible as discretely visible objects, modifiable by any member of the team. Neo collegial groups may lack a formal career as well as the formal recognition of a distinct group. However this group structure still tests new members and socialises them to the standards of the group.
The University of Melbourne work group developed into a neo collegial form. The individuals in this group had a theoretical knowledge that was the basis of their work. The other important feature of this group that made it neo collegial was that a common object was involved i.e. program codes that were able to be accessed by all the members of the group at the same time. Individuals were able to discuss the development of the product while still in the developing stages.
This was accomplished through the use of IRC. Internet Relay Chat as a synchronous computer conferencing medium allows groups to engage in real time conversations. As a result of this individuals are able to discuss problems, developments, improvements about the projects as these issues come up. Work groups, like the one in Melbourne no longer have to call formal meetings to discuss issues to do with the product, they can be done right in the work place as they arise.
There are problems however, if the product is similar to the database/entry form that the University of Tasmania work group had to develop. Since IRC is a text only interface the members of this group, could not access the product at the same time, therefore they could not form a common gaze towards it. A different interface for the IRC program needs to be developed before issues like this can be addressed.
5.4 Classical collegiality
None of the case studies in this thesis were collegial in the way in which Waters describes. The Melbourne work group moved from from becoming a work group structure to that of neo collegial. IRC was a communication system that supported this type of work group. IRC has the potential to support value adding activities amongst collegial groups such as academics, for example in interdisciplinary work.
The characterisation given by Waters of collegiality, plays down an aspect of solidarity that IRC brings to the fore. Collegiality, like charisma is not tied to social space (or locale or organisation). Members of a collegial group may be highly dispersed. It so happens that the logistics of communication that is appropriate to collegial groups has not been possible to date except in real time (e.g. conferences, board meetings, seminars, papers read etc.).
IRC allows academics and researchers from dispersed places to engage in more immediate and informal forms of collaboration. IRC provides a strong support towards globalising networks. On an informal basis IRC allows individuals to chat about the work they are doing or the research interests that they have with those who share similar views. This can replace informal visits to a colleagues office. Over a period of time academics are able to build up networks of potential collaborators.
IRC also provides a means of communication between those who are already involved in the collaboration process. This is done by the use of either informal chats or formal conferences that are held in real time.
The major change that can be expected to occur in moving some groups from a classical form of collegiality to what has been termed neo collegiality will be the valorisation of intellectual property. This is a separate issue but one in which powerful interests will seek to set up networks to encourage a pooling of ideas and practices that may prove financially rewarding. This is already seen in the shift towards patenting discoveries that used to be seen in a public domain material (e.g. DNA for life forms). Such a trend will be powerfully assisted by the capacity to set up closed channels of information sharing.
The arguments outlined in this chapter can be summarised as follows:
Figure six new infrastructures for collegiality
Computer mediated communication appears as a convenience when it is first seen. Many individuals hold back from fully embracing it, or using it to its fullest capacity because in some cases it still remains difficult or non intuitive to use. With the advances in computer technology much of the current difficulties faced by users of this or related technology will disappear.
The technical issues of information technology however, hide far more reaching social prospects. In particular computer mediated communication provides a new infrastructure of work groups, collegial groups, and dispersed enterprises.
The most interesting aspect of CMC is its capacity to enhance collegiality by both enforcing the classical from that developed by Waters and allowing work groups to become what might be termed proto collegial and neo collegial.
When one hears the term cyberspace, cyber punks and virtual reality immediately come to mind. Internet Relay Chat allows individuals who wish to engage in more serious activities to move into the realm of cyberspace supported by the collegial form.
Archee, R., (1992) Cyber punks say don’t drop out you can jack in! The Australian 6 October 1992
Arrow, K., (1974) the limits of organization W.W. Norton & Company inc New York
Bikson, T., (1990) The interplay of work group structures Eveland, J., and Computer Support in Jolene Galegher, Robert E Kraut and Carmen Egido (eds) Intellectual Teamwork: Social and Technical Foundations for cooperative work Hilldsale New Jersey: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates inc.
Drucker, P.,(1991) The New Productivity Challenge Harvard Business Review Nov-Dec
Eveland, J.,(1988) Work group structures and computer support Bikson, T., A field experiment ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems Volume 16, Number 4 pp. 354-379
Kehoe, B.,(1992) Zen and the art of Internet: A beginners guide to the Internet first edition
Kraut, R.,(1988) Patterns of conduct and communication in Egido, C., Scientific Research Collaboration in Jolene Galegher, Robert E Kraut and Carmen Egido (eds)Intellectual Teamwork: Social and Technical Foundations for cooperative work Hilldsale New Jersey: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates inc.
McConnell, D., (1989) Case study: the Educational use of computer conferencing ETTI Volume 27, Number 2
Mulry, I.,(1992) Uses for IRC (unpublished guide)
Pioch, N.,(1992) A Short IRC Primer, edition 1.0
Postel, J.,(1988) An experimental Multi Media Mail System
Finn, G., ACM Transactions of Office Information Systems
Katz, Alan., Volume 16, Number 1 pp. 63-81
Rapaport, M., (1991) Computer Mediated Communications John Wiley & Sons inc New York
Reid, E.,(1991) Electrolpolis: Communication and Community on Inter Relay Chat (unpublished Honours thesis, University of Melbourne)
Ridge, J.,(1992) IRC at the University of Tasmania (unpublished guide)
Robertson, J. (1991) Collaborative Computing Work Groups (unpublished thesis Master of Arts qualifying, University of Tasmania)
Trim, J.,(1990) The Internet Relay Chat Program - IRC Lindahl, G., (unpublished guide)
Rice, R.,(1988) Access to, Usage of, and Outcomes from an Electronic Messaging System ACM Transactions of Office Information Systems, Volume 16, Number 3 pp. 255-276
Volpato,R., (1991) Legal Professionalism and Informatics Journal of Law and Information Science Volume 2, Number, 2, pp.206-229
Volpato, R., (1992) Research Work: Making it happen in real time (paper, 30th Annual Conference of Clinical Biochemists (Australia))
Waters, M., (1989) Collegiality, Bureaucratization, and Professionalization: A Weberian Analysis American journal of Sociology Volume 94, Number 5, pp 954-972
Weber, M.,(1978) Economy and Society, Guenther Roth, Claus Wittich (eds) University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles
Wright, C., (1992) Group networking growth could have unexpected consequences The Age 11 August 1992
Appendix one sample log from How to Host a Murder role play
<inspud> OK EVERONE WE ARE GOING TO BEGIN ROUND 2 NOW <AliBa> now thatr is important <era> Rogher Watersdown <RandyTS> yes <probates> so there you go <Malprac> so Prosper, did you write this will!! <rog> I'm in the Money!! What a shock . <probates> i thought he had me out <RandyTS> yeah well what if it is an old one <AliBa> I wonder it this is what caused teh argumnet between sir rog and donny on fri night? <probates> write this will bollocks <RandyTS> yeah <AliBa> I heard them at it <Malprac> no rog, you get fuck all <era> Yes Pro is Sir older illegitmate son <probates> who heard who at what??hmmm <rog> WaIT A MINUTE I'M CUT OUT THE BASTARD SCUM. HOPE HE ROTS IN HELL <Malprac> but if already told you this, then perhaps you killed your father rog? <donny> this is very interesting <RandyTS> well... pro asked me to persuade sir roger to change his will leaving everying to him and not to rog <AliBa> well donny what were you and sir rog arguing about on fri night wsads it the will?? <probates> just wait a sec rog baby just because you thought you had dads money and turned out to be wrong is no reason to get shitty <Malprac> where did you find this will era?? <era> I did persuade Sir to leave everything to Roger rather than Pro, this is a complete shock <donny> were we arguing? <AliBa> you know you were I could hear shouting <Flowing> i heard a male voice coming from sir rogers bedroom <probates> see i told you she hated me <inspud> hi, nethack here <donny> but you didnt see me did you <era> Could you what they were shouting <probates> who wAs??? <rog> Get stuffed. I have nothing to lose now. Ijust want to find the murderer. What did everyone seee. <donny> that was pro <Malprac> randy, you were very good in that prono film, Stiff Upper Lip!! <RandyTS> what are you talking about <AliBa> no I wasnt listening but i could hear raised voices bvut not clear about what they were saying they sounded very angry thought <Malprac> era, where did you get the will from?????? <rog> I have the video. You were goood <RandyTS> sure thing <RandyTS> *sarcasm* <era> It just sort of fell into my hands <Malprac> so you don't deny it Randy, you slut <AliBa> yes era where did you get the will <rog> I SAW PRO IN SIR ROGERS BEDROOM AT 4:30. What was he doing, the blackgard. <AliBa> <-- loved being a detective! <Malprac> what do you mean fellinto your hands!! <Flowing> well i heard a womans voice in sir rogers bedroom i bet it was era <era> WEll I was Sir's secertary <donny> look, the only person here who raeally needs the money is pro <Flowing> oh sure good excuse era <Malprac> did you get his keys!! <probates> NOW I HAVE HAD IT WITH YOU WITCH HUNTING BASTARDS, RANDY WAS ONLY JUST TRYING RECENTLY TO BECOME AN HONEST actress, i was helping her persuad sir roger to helpher <era> I didn't get his keys <RandyTS> Well I'm surprised era cos just after i arrived on frid night i saw you and rog whispering and thought i heard trhe word money, but you soon changed the subject and soon parted <Malprac> Yes pro, you were on the scaffolding late this arvo <AliBa> well flo I saw you trying to get into sir rogs sitting room and you looked very sneaking <donny> she was looking for me <era> What wre doing on the scaffolding <Flowing> i saw era and rog together and they looked more than casual acquaintances at a womens rights rally not so long ago <Malprac> IMPORTANT: HAS ANYONE SEEN SIR ROGER'S KEYS?? <AliBa> well why was she being sneaky? <probates> WAIT !!!! whats this talk about me Mal??? <donny> she w as looking for me <rog> THE MONEY. I wanted to donate to eras cause. she's a Feminist. Only now I have no money. <AliBa> no I havent seen any keys <Malprac> Prosper, answetr the question, what were doing on the scaffolding!! <RandyTS> you feminist bitch i know how to get the me <Flowing> thats right i was looking for my husband because i had a headache <RandyTS> men *** Action: RandyTS smiles seductively <era> You know Mal, Sir always susupected you of giving Lady Watersdown an overdose of sleeping pills <Malprac> smiles like she does in those porno films!! <donny> i hear in the city that pro is heavily in debt because of gambling losses <RandyTS> what if mal slopped some in <AliBa> really?? <era> Pro can you deny it? *** The time is 9:30PM <donny> that what I heard <AliBa> so where was everyone at 4.30 on Sat? <Malprac> Pro, if you knew you were in the money, and had debts, you had the motive! <RandyTS> mal wanted to bump both of them off maybe <probates> its ok randy im sorry that you are trying to get your life straight but its people like sir rog and his smutty movies that are keeping you from it <rog> SO we can see that PRO needed money Quickly. You SCUM. Poor PAPa <Malprac> <__walking outside at 4.30, said g'day to prosper, on the scaffold <AliBa> well that certianly gives him a motive doesnt it? <donny> pro why are you trying to be the bleeding heart <era> maybe Mal had an old score to settle with Sir <RandyTS> but i am a talented actress <probates> i know he has threatened to expose your past and ruin your future career and that sucks!! <Malprac> I was Sir Rog's doctor, what score would I have??? <rog> AliBa Pro was in sir rogers room. I was on the scaffold. Love those Gargoyles. <RandyTS> are you taking esctacy or something pro <RandyTS> your halucinating <era> What was Ali doing in Sirs room? <RandyTS> garbage coming from you lips pro <AliBa> when???? *looking very innocent* <Malprac> donny where wer you at 4.30 <era> Don't play innocent with me <donny> when? <Flowing> he was with me <AliBa> well what makes you think I was in his room? <Malprac> at 4,30 this arvo?? <probates> just hold your horses rog 'brother' of mine whats the problem with me having the cash, i was first afterall until you waltzed in <donny> wht day is it? <rog> Saw flo in sir rogers sitting room at 4:15. She seemed to be looking for something. Does this help any one??? <era> You werew seen <donny> flo was looking for me <era> Sir was popular wasn't it? <Malprac> now n ow brothers, neither will get the money if sir rog was murdered!! <era> how come <AliBa> well I know that nowone else was in the upstairs lounge at 4.30 because I went there <donny> any way was that thr real will <rog> PRO I am a true son, kidnapped by my NAnny. You're just so much bonking in the hay. Common as Muck!! <Malprac> were you looking for his keys maybe flo? <RandyTS> yeah doony it could have been an earlier will <Flowing> whos keys? <donny> maybe the will is a fake <Malprac> prove it authenticity ERA? <rog> Yes what was the will before it was changed. I'M SURE THIS IS IMPORTANT. <RandyTS> whos hand writing is it <donny> afetr all pro needs the CASH <era> It is in his handwriting <AliBa> who saw me in sir rogs room era?? <Malprac> flo: sir roger's keys, he told me they were missing <RandyTS> but what is todays date <era> pro I think <RandyTS> and what was the date of the will <Malprac> when is it dated era? <rog> yeh when <donny> when you bitch <era> 12 Jan 1936 <RandyTS> yes <donny> thank you <RandyTS> and what is the date today <Flowing> i really don't know anything about sir rogers keys mal, you will probably have to ask era as she seems to be the closest to sir rog <Malprac> is the ink dry? <era> that O.K dogs ball <donny> 12 of jan dork <rog> 12 Jan shit <AliBa> yes you know all about these secretaries!! <donny> so...lets have a party *** Action: RandyTS sucks lips and spits on donny and rog <probates> well its like i said earlier era has all of the keys <AliBa> hehehehe <AliBa> well done randy dear! <donny> donny licks lips and winks <AliBa> bravo <rog> Back to my poison theory. I saw Randy (from the platform) in Sir R's Room at 4:15. She took a sip from his glass, put her hand to her head. She then went into the the Dressing Room. I thought this strange. <Malprac> Was the will signed in front of a lawyer, a certain Pro bates maybe!! <Flowing> i would imagine that era would know alot *cynical look* <era> I don't know I didn't witness it <donny> yeah <Malprac> Randy is that true?? <rog> rog wipes off spit with family poodle. <donny> yeah to mal <RandyTS> is what true <Flowing> poor poochie <Malprac> that dog is a spitting image of the one I have a t the surgery <AliBa> <-- calls for a servqant to take teh pooch away to be bathed <Flowing> if thats the way you treat members of your family rog then you don't deserve anything <era> Please we seem to be forgetting that there has been a murder here and one of us is the murderer <inspud> REMEMBER THE YEAR IS 1936, PORNO FLICKS WERENT QUITE THE SAME, VIDEO WASNT INVENTED STU/ONLY RELEVANT INFO IS SUPPOSED TO BE DISCLOSED THANKYOU PEOPLE!!!! <Malprac> I AM CONCERNED THAT SIR ROG"S KEYS ARE MISSING, they would allow access to the will <Flowing> yes you most probably doesn't veryone think so? <AliBa> well sounds like there are some men here that have the perfect motive for murder <era> How do you know theya re missing? <Malprac> good point insopector!! <donny> here here <inspud> FOCUS PEOPLE <Malprac> why should it be the men ALI? <AliBa> <-- couldnt murder anyone <rog> If I had spent les time with my Gargoyles I mght still have my father and my inheritance. If the will was tampered with. Who was last in that room?? <RandyTS> <---- doesnt have a motive <AliBa> well because of all this fuss over money and stuff its mens stuff <Malprac> ERA: sir rog was disatressed that the keys were missing. that was during his medical at 2 <donny> pro was arguing about the will remeber <RandyTS> yeah and he tried to get me to talk to sir rog about leaving it all to him <era> Why didn't you mention this tome at 3 when you told me about the pills, Mal? <Flowing> <------is quite innocent of anything as horrible and callous as a murder <RandyTS> i'm out <Malprac> so are you and Pro having a fling? <rog> I'm fresh out of clues (for this round). How about the rest?? <AliBa> yes I heard an argument but it was between donny and sir rog donny never explained that argument <RandyTS> what me and pro not that i know of <donny> if you were so interested in helping randy why did you want all the money pro <probates> ok randy just because sir rog wouldnt change his mind about your movies theres no reason to gang up on me now <AliBa> <-- finished clues <inspud> WHEN THE ROUND IS FINISHED PLEASE LET ME KNOW SO THAT I CAN START THE NEW PROCEEDINGS FOR ROUND 3 <era> Finished clues <AliBa> finished <RandyTS> i'm not ganing up on you <Malprac> Well after your performance in Stiff upper lip, you would do it with any one!! <Flowing> <--- finished clues also <RandyTS> finsihed clues <rog> likewise done
Appendix two sample log from Who has what cards? game
*pers4* do you have the 7 of spades??? <Wed Sep 2 15:58> <per3> god you two! i can see you! -> *pers4* nope *pers4* :P <Wed Sep 2 15:58> *per3* do you have a 1234 run? <Wed Sep 2 15:58> -> *pers4* ace of spades? -> *per3* i will tell you if you tell me if you have a pair of jacks? <person2> per 5 do you have the 10 of hearts? *** The time is 4:00PM *per3* yes <Wed Sep 2 16:00> <per6> not telling per3 <per6> nuh pers4 <per5> nope do you have 6 spades? <per3> ic per6 <pers4> thanks per6 :) -> *per3* well I dont sorry :) *per3* beast! <Wed Sep 2 16:01> <per3> per5 why do you have this funny message? <per5> per 6 you have jack clubs? <per5> what funny message *looks innocent* <per6> i will give out my total which includes joker, if someone wii haggle <pers4> hmm... <per6> no per5 <per3> ok per6 *pers4* do you have a pair of 5's? <Wed Sep 2 16:04> <per5> per1 you have six spades? *per1* what it worth <Wed Sep 2 16:05> <per6> not me, but i do have a pair of eights and a pair of sevens!!! *pers4* can you do me a favour pleeease? <Wed Sep 2 16:05> -> *pers4* what?? *pers4* ask person 2 if they have a pair of 2's??? :-))) <per6> clever aren't you per3 -> *pers4* ok if ytou tell me what suit your 2 and 4? <per3> of course per6 *pers4* okie dokie.....she if she answers you first before i tell you!! <Wed Sep 2 16:07> <per3> not telling you per4 <person2> who has the ace of hearts? <pers4> why not per3...pretty please???? <per3> not me *per6* i have to quit because someone has booked this mac <Wed Sep 2 16:07> <per5> ok i have -> *per6* tell them to come in here <per3> reaoly per4 are you buttering me up by anychance/ *per6* help please <Wed Sep 2 16:08> *person2* do you have the ace of hearts? <Wed Sep 2 16:08> -> *per6* mini lab tell them you are in an experiment <per3> oh poor per5 <person2> where did per5 go? <pers4> i am just your average kind, good-hearted soul....i would never try anything like that! -> *person2* i will tell you if you tell me if you have the joker? <per3> no????? <pers4> nup! :) *person2* ok it's a deal? <Wed Sep 2 16:09> <per3> per4...what's your total? -> *person2* well do you have the joker? *pers4* did you ask? <Wed Sep 2 16:09> <per3> might trust you per4 <pers4> now...per3 if i answer you that....would you tell me the answer to my question?? *person2* yeah do you have the ave of hearts? <Wed Sep 2 16:09> -> *pers4* what was it again? <per3> ooooh err ill think about it -> *pers4* yep *pers4* slacko!!! does person2 have a pair of 2's? <Wed Sep 2 16:10> <pers4> dont think too hard! <per3> really per4.... <pers4> :) <person2> per3 do you have all black cards? -> *person2* do you have a pair of twos <per3> do yoiu know who's got the ten of hearts? -> *pers4* ok am asking ok what were the suits ai wanted? <per5> I know *pers4* just a pair of 2's...any suit <Wed Sep 2 16:11> *person2* you haven't told me if you have the ace of hearts? <Wed Sep 2 16:11>
Appendix three Questionnaire on IRC and collegiality
This questionnaire was sent to each member of the IRC groups over the E-mail system.
IRC AND COLLEGIAL SYSTEMS 1) How effective did you find IRC in developing a collegial system (system of collegues working together on a project)? 2) How well did you think that IRC helped you efficiently communicate your needs or wants to others? 3) How did this differ from face-to-face communication? 4) Did also having a social side to IRC help in the formation of a close collegial network? 5) In what ways do you feel that using IRC for work (or study) purposes can be improved? (technically) (sociallly if appropriate) 6) Did knowing that individuals were in the network, were always on line, help you to know that help or information was readily available? 7) How did this effect your work or work perfoprmance? 8) Was everyone in the group equal as far as input or work was concerned? 9) In what ways did you as an individual help or receive help from others? i.e. sharing expertise in getting the job done.