Virtual Communities and Collaboration

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Track Chairs

Shu Schiller, Wright State University,
Brian Mennecke, Iowa State University,
Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah, Missouri University of Science and Technology,

Track Description

The goal of the Virtual Communities and Collaborations track is to disseminate research and extend our knowledge and understanding of virtual communities and collaborations, which play an increasingly important role in the trend toward globalization. Virtual communities are collective groups of individuals who utilize computer-mediated environments to interact and pursue mutual goals. They can be found in virtual worlds, social media and crowdsourcing sites, among others. Research areas range from design issues in collaboration systems, sense of community and engagement in virtual communities, to impact of virtual collaborations and communities in domains as diverse as business, education, and government. This track aims to extend our understanding of virtual communities and collaborations to enhance the theoretical foundation for research, share important empirical findings related to these venues, and provide guidance to practitioners.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

Mini-Track 1: Opportunities and Challenges in Distributed Group Decision-Making

A. K. Aggarwal, University of Baltimore,
Doug Vogel, Harbin Institute of Technology,
Yuko Murayama, Iwate Prefectural University,

Emerging issues like big data, data analytics, visual analytics, data mining, crowd–sourcing, e-government, e-health and m-commerce are giving new meaning to distributed decision making. In addition, recent outbreak of Ebola epidemic, missing Malaysian flight 17, earthquake in Japan are only some of the examples of swift virtual teams requiring collaboration. Coordination among individuals with varying skills is becoming common. Gartner group predicts that virtual distributed teams will become norm in the future. These teams must be able to adapt quickly to the changing environment be it face-to-face, mobile or in the cloud. Agile teams adapt and deliver quickly and provide maximum customer satisfaction. Can distributed teams be agile and adaptable? This requires careful team configuration. This mini-track examines the emerging issues related to team configuration and performance in distributed environment. Some research related to outsourcing of structured tasks has been done, but research related to emerging issues like diversity, cohesiveness, agility and adaptability related to group collaboration across semi or unstructured tasks is still emerging.

Mini-Track 2: Social and Business Value of Virtual Communities

Vikas Jain, University of Tampa,

The interactive web environment of virtual communities is generating noteworthy interest among individuals and businesses alike. Some of the virtual communities provide an outlet for individuals to express themselves and develop a feeling of belongingness while some other provide a platform to share useful information on products, services, or current topics of interest. Beyond catering the needs of its members, virtual communities are also evolving towards business needs, such as recruiting for potential employees or conduct economic transactions. Some of these virtual communities are now being used to promote real-world goods and services, interactive shopping, customer support, and education. Businesses and people are increasingly participating in virtual communities and sharing content, creating social and business opportunities. While virtual communities have matured over time, it is still not clear how virtual communities can be used in different contexts. It cannot be denied that virtual communities hold a lot of potential, there is a need to examine the kind of social and business opportunities being enabled by virtual communities, the challenges virtual communities are facing today, and the opportunities they promise for the future.

Mini-Track 3: Social and Ethical Implications of Virtual Communities

Bo Sophia Xiao, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa,
Christy M.K. Cheung, Hong Kong Baptist University,
Tommy K.H. Chan, Hong Kong Baptist University,

Recent years have witnessed an increasing permeation of virtual communities throughout our society and economy, transforming the way we work, study, socialize, and participate in public life. However, as noted by Rob Kling (1996) and other like-minded researchers (e.g., Majchrzak, Markus, & Wareham, 2012; Tarafdar, Gupta, & Turel, 2013), the implications of virtual communities (just as the implications of any ICT) are not universally positive. Indeed, the positive outcomes of the use of virtual communities are often accompanied by negative side effects. To echo the growing interest amongst the scientific community in the potential social and ethical implications of virtual communities, this mini-track aims to develop theoretical insights and understanding on topics and issues pertaining to the actual or potential, intended or unintended social and ethical consequences of virtual community use. It provides a forum for the exchange of research ideas related to social and ethical challenges in virtual communities.

Mini-Track 4: Virtual Communities and Social Media in Health Care

Brenda Eschenbrenner, University of Nebraska at Kearney,
Xiaofeng Chen, Western Washington University,

Virtual environments provide new platforms for individuals to acquire and share information regarding health concerns. Virtual communities can provide an additional means for patients to provide support to one another facing similar health issues. Healthcare providers are utilizing virtual environments to connect with patients and consult with other providers, while healthcare organizations are creating new ways to manage and improve healthcare operations. Virtual environments present new channels to educate the public on various topics such as healthcare crises or managing chronic diseases. It also provides opportunities to garner information from individuals to identify emerging issues, such as flu epidemics. However, concerns also arise with leveraging virtual environments for healthcare-related purposes, such as patient privacy and information accuracy. Hence, this minitrack seeks to explore the opportunities as well as the issues associated with virtual communities and social media in health care. We encourage paper submissions that study the development, use, and assessment of virtual communities and social media in healthcare, which can be from a variety of perspectives (e.g., patient, healthcare provider, and healthcare organization). We welcome papers that study the application of virtual communities and social media in this context as well as challenge such applications. This mini-track is open to both theoretical and empirical studies, and is open to all research methods (e.g., survey, field study, case study, experimentation).

Mini-Track 5: Virtual Crowdsourcing Communities

Ulrich Bretschneider, University of Kassel,
Ivo Blohm, University of St. Gallen,
Jonathan (Hua) Ye, Harbin Institute of Technology,

Virtual Crowdsourcing Communities (VCCs) have emerged as high activity domains on the Internet. VCCs are designed for a variety of purposes, ranging from VCC for Creation (Wikipedia), for Work (odesk), or for Funding (Kickstarter). The significance of these communities is evident by the impact they have on information and content generation. For example, today, Wikipedia is quickly becoming a primary source of information in a variety of domains. Crowdsourcing is also becoming more and more attractive for firms. By practicing Crowdsourcing firms tend to get access to services, ideas, or content from a large group of people via VCC. For example, firms source the generation of innovations or the work on tasks through VCCs as the examples of Dell’s Ideastorm or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk illustrate. This mini-track is for IS researchers interested in studying interaction patterns and the operational mechanisms of VCCs as well as design aspects of information systems for VCC.

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