The 2006 International Symposium on Collaborative Technologies and Systems (CTS 2006)

In Technical Cooperation with
The IEEE Computer Society
Technical Committee on Parallel Processing (TCPP) and
Task Force on Human Centered Information Systems (TFHIS)
The IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetic Society (SMCS)

Luncheon Keynote

Effects of Culture on the Use of Collaborative Technologies

Susan R. Fussell

Human Computer Interaction Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA



Technologies for computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW) and computer-mediated communication have been available for many years, and researchers have conducted numerous studies of the effects of these technologies on group processes and outcomes. Yet to date the preponderance of this work has been done in Western societies. Asian cultures differ from their Western counterparts along a number of dimensions that might influence CSCW. For example, Asian cultures have been described as collectivistic?stressing communal well-being and harmony in lieu of a more Western emphasis on individual initiative and prestige. Asian cultures have also been described as high context, meaning that they rely more heavily on situational information for interpersonal communication (e.g., nonverbal behavior, personal relationships) than do their Western counterparts.

In recent work, my students and I have been exploring how cultural dimensions interact with the features or affordances of communication technologies such as audio conferencing, video conferencing and instant messaging. In this talk, I will present an overview of our laboratory experiments and survey studies that indicate significant interactions between culture and communication medium. I will also describe our initial designs for new tools to facilitate cross-cultural communication. I'll conclude with a discussion of some of the theoretical and methodological challenges we have faced in conducting cross-cultural studies of collaborative work.


Susan R. Fussell is a Research Scientist in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She earned her PHD in social and cognitive psychology from Columbia University in 1990. Dr. Fussell's expertise lies in the social and communicative dynamics of collaborative teamwork. Her current research projects include the development and evaluation of new tools to support video conferencing, large scale coordination across multiple projects and tasks, conversational dynamics between humans and robots, and cultural effects on interpersonal interaction. She has published numerous journal and conference proceeding articles and edited two books, Social and Cognitive Approaches to Interpersonal Communication, and The Verbal Communication of Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

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