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Student Research

Joy Robinson (Ph.D. Student, TECH) researches Communication, Leadership, and Virtual Teams

Joy Robinson

Joy Robinson is working on her Ph.D. in technical communication with Karl Stolley, associate professor. Her dissertation, “Communication, Leadership, and Virtual Teams,” is an experiment in how communication can provide viable insight into the leadership roles at work inside virtual teams, and problems with interpersonal interactions (e.g., poor trust, lack of nonverbal communication cues, no status and social cues); cultural challenges (e.g., intermixing of cultures, ill–matched expectations, inherent biases); coordination and logistics issues (e.g., temporal differences); and technology competency problems (e.g., technophobia, poor proficiency, nerd jealousy) (Kayworth & Leidner, 2002).

It is thought that leadership must, at least implicitly, address these challenges in order for any team to be successful (Ebrahim et al., 2009). However, due to the varying types of roles, behaviors, and leadership functions, there are few specific, identifiable variables that directly correlate with success and leadership.

Face–to–face teaming is a natural human phenomenon; we know many things about how teams operate, how they are led, and the factors that influence team success. However in virtual teams, where communication is predominately via ICTs (information and communications technology including email, forums, voice–over IP, land line phones, chat, etc.), little is known about the roles leaders play in informing success in teams.

Leadership bubble

An extensive repertoire of leadership roles is the hallmark of an effective leader according to behavioral complexity theory. In this experiment—a case study of two virtual teams playing World of Warcraft for six weeks—Robinson will examine how virtual teams are led with or without an appointed leader, and how effective leaders use a menu of specific roles to bring about successful teams. This work is accomplished by mapping the communication exchanges within each team to the various leader roles. Ultimately, Robinson hopes to be able to associate specific leader roles with team performance factors. Updates about the ongoing experiment are found at www.wowleaderstudy.com/blog.





Recent graduate, Jing Gao

Jing Gao Studies International Voices in IMDb

Jing Gao (M.S., TCID, 2012) recently finished her master's program in technical communication and information design.  Working with Jahna Otterbacher, assistant professor of communication and information, her master's thesis is a case study of the International Movie Database (IMDb) to investigate if U.S. and international reviewers write differently.

This work was motivated by her interest in online intercultural communication. Gao wanted to know whether international voices find an audience online and whether these voices contribute a different perspective. The results show that there are some discernible differences between U.S. and international reviewers but overall the international reviewers who contribute similar content find larger audiences. Her future work intends to investigate if international reviewers change their writing style to appeal to their audiences.





A Graduate Student's Perspective on Academic Conferences

-Halcyon Lawrence (TECH, Ph.D. Candidate) | In the last year, I've been able to present my research at two international conferences. I'm fairly new to the conference "circuit" and to be honest, I often find the environment overwhelming because of the sheer number of people in attendance. Despite this, I have found conferences to be a very rewarding experience. For example, in July 2011, I had the opportunity to present my master's research on "The Effect of Mood Induction on Adolescent Speech Behavior" at the plenary meeting of the International Society for Research on Emotion (ISRE) held in Kyoto, Japan. I attended the conference just before I sat for my comprehensive exams and was in part hoping for a dissertation "aha" moment. It never came, but what I received instead was equally rewarding: this conference was rich in methodological diversity and interdisciplinary discourse. I was impressed that each researcher took time to explain their choice of research methods, and how those choices influenced the outcomes of their research. Read More