Computer-mediated communication: synchronicity and compensatory effort



Groups might perform compensatory communicative actions if media characteristics impede a particular communication process. The present study examined this hypothesis for the process of information integration, which is a sub-task in collaborative problem-solving. Synchronous media characteristics support the information integration process, while asynchronous media characteristics impede it. The synchronicity of the medium was varied by manipulating parallelism and the immediacy of feedback within real-time, text-based computer-mediated communication. A Conversational Games Analysis (CGA) was performed in order to investigate the functional purposes of the task-oriented contributions. All groups successfully solved the problem. However, groups interacting in the asynchronous communication mode produced significantly more functional contributions for the purpose of mutual task-oriented understanding and clarification, compared to the synchronous groups. Moreover, members of asynchronous groups repeated unshared pieces of information more often. These differences are interpreted as communicative efforts that balance the hindering influence of asynchronous media characteristics on the process of information integration. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.