Conveying information effectively in a virtual world: Insights from synthesized task closure and media richness

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Abstract

Scholars and practitioners alike increasingly emphasize the importance of the virtual world as a new medium of communication. Key to the success of this digital medium is its ability to support information exchange when compared with face-to-face communication. Its potential is highlighted by the literature illustrating the inadequacy of traditional computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools, such as e-mail and video conferencing, to support communication among geographically dispersed coworkers. Many of the traditional CMC tools lack the needed support for effective information exchange to varying degrees. The emergence of a sophisticated virtual world, such as Second Life, has met this dearth. We draw on the theories of task closure and media richness to propose a parsimonious model of information exchange behavior in a virtual world context. Observations from a series of group-based project discussion sessions in face-to-face and virtual world settings, respectively, suggest that the information exchange between coworkers in both settings could be similar. Specifically, virtual coworkers might be able to achieve task closure (i.e., the complete transmission of intended work-related information) in the same way as their counterparts in the face-to-face context.

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