Publication Date

9-1-1975

Approximate Date

1975-09-01

Report Number

2

Abstract

This paper is a selective review of small group experiments in the area of the relationship between communication (modes, structures, processes) and group decision-making or problem solving. There are literally hundreds of these experiments; the purpose of this effort has been to isolate and summarize the results of those experimental traditions which may have the most bearing upon:

  1. our understanding of the probable social effects of computer conferencing as a communication mode;
  2. the identification of possible experiments utilizing computer conferencing which appear to be potentially most fruitful in terms of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of computer conferencing in facilitating or inhibiting group decision-making processes;
  3. determining the potential for gaining further insight into the nature of human communications processes by employing computerized conferencing as a communications tool;
  4. understanding the characteristics and capabilities of conferencing software which would be necessary in order for a non-programmer social scientist to carry out such experimentation.

For those who are not familiar with computerized conferencing as a communications medium, the paper begins with a brief overview of its nature and social characteristics. It then proceeds to review several classes of experiments on communications and group problem solving, and to deduce the implications of their findings for group decision making using communication via computerized conferencing. A section on the desirable characteristics of software and monitoring systems in order to facilitate similar controlled experiments utilizing computer conferencing follows. Finally, the conclusions which flow from the literature review are presented in the form of a summary of potentially fruitful experiments and an inventory of hypotheses.

I am indebted to the other members of the NJIT research team for many excellent suggestions, and particularly to Murry Turoff, the Principal Investigator for the project, who made extensive, constructive criticisms of earlier drafts. Peter Anderson coauthored the chapter on software requirements. I would also like to thank Alphonse Chapanis of Johns Hopkins and Andrew Van deVen of Kent State for their cooperation. Finally, I would like to thank Daisy Lane of N.J.I.T. for a job well done in deciphering my handwriting and typing the manuscript.

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