CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

A Study of Delayed Time and Real Time Text-Based Computer-Mediated Communication Systems on Group Decision Making Performance

Date of Award

1991

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Science in Information Science

Department

Center for Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Phillip M Admas

Committee Member

John A. Scigliano

Committee Member

Joseph R. Winslow

Abstract

This study explored the dynamics of delayed time and real time computer-mediated communication (CMC) when small groups use text-based computer communication programs to reach closure on a priority setting problem task. This study was a preliminary investigation into the effects of computer-mediated communication mode on several measures: decision quality, gain-loss scores and utilization resources, time to solution, text sequencing, and text readability. The problem related to identifying mode of transmission (delayed time and real time) as a variable that can directly impact computer-mediated discourse. Prior studies involving CMC and group decision making were performed using either delayed time or real time computer-mediated communication mode (Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1984; Sproull and Kiesler, 1986). This study investigated group communication under both modes. Thirty two (N=32) three-person member groups completed a priority setting problem online in a unix* environment that supports computer-mediated communication in delayed and real time modes. Ninety six participants were randomly assigned to one of two computer- mediated communication modes (delayed time or real time). All participants completed the task from their home locations, communicating via modem connection to Nova University's VAX 8550 mini-computer running DEC's version of Unix, "Ultrix" Version 2.3.

Participants were physically, and potentially geographically and time-zone dispersed from others with whom they participated with in the experiment. There was no face-to-face interaction among group members. Transcripts of electronic mail (delayed time) activities and recordings of "Phone" (real time) computer conversation program activities were made during the experiment and later analyzed.

It was hypothesized that there would be a difference between CMC mode and group decision making performance and that coordination of communication would be reduced more under delayed time CMC than under real time CMC. Additionally, it was hypothesized that delayed time groups would take longer to reach closure on the task than real time groups. It was also hypothesized that delayed time groups would prepare and share more text than real time groups. It was also hypothesized that delayed time groups would produce higher text readability grade levels than real time CMC groups. Two of four hypotheses were supported. Bonferroni protected univariate F analyses were performed at the .01 level of significance. Results indicated that while patterns of group process to reach closure were unique according to respective CMC modes, there were no significant differences between groups in regard to decision making quality (score on task).

Group decision making is achievable through CMC despite time delays and absence of face-to-face or voice communication. Delayed time groups took longer to reach closure on the task than real time groups. Real time groups exchanged more messages than delayed time groups. There were no significant differences between CMC groups in regard to the number of sentences and words exchanged. Delayed time groups produced text that was of higher readability quality. However, it was discovered that short text exchanges by groups from both CMC modes influenced the readability analysis, thus misleading true text readability grade levels under CMC modes. It was recommended that future research is needed to provide further insight as to why users would choose to use delayed time computer communication versus real time computer communication. This will become increasingly important to ascertain as more end-users increase their utilization of interactive computer mediated communication, now a standard feature offered under multi-user and multi-tasking operating system environments.

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