Virtual Worlds Enabling Distributed Collaboration

Marko Hakonen, Petra M. Bosch-Sijtsema


Despite the growing prevalence of distributed work as an organizational form, the virtual world literature has largely neglected to consider the potentials of this new media in distributed collaboration. In the present study, we studied how virtual worlds (VWs) are used in professional distributed work and how they influence new forms of collaboration in distributed work settings. The study is based on a partially grounded theory analysis method of 47 semi-structured interviews. The interviews revealed several new collaboration potentials of virtual worlds in distributed work, like new forms of training and learning, as well as enabling small group meetings and large events. Based on the interview findings we developed a conceptual model in which psychological processes supported by the VW enable distributed collaboration in terms of immersion, engagement, social presence, and trust. Furthermore, technological features of the VW, like the use of avatars, import of 3D objects, and use of physical clues, enable distributed collaboration. The psychological processes and technological features’ new forms of collaboration are largely interdependent. In sum, our results indicate that virtual worlds provide many opportunities for innovative collaboration in distributed work.


virtual worlds, distributed work, collaboration

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