Platforms of Collaboration: Exploring social exchange in the Digital Domain

Barrett, Jennifer Eve orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6795-1615 (2019) Platforms of Collaboration: Exploring social exchange in the Digital Domain. In: CIB World Building Congress: 'Constructing Smart Cities', 17-21 June 2019, Hong Kong. (Unpublished)

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This paper highlights social exchange as a critical factor in digital collaborative relationships in the planning, design, and construction of buildings. The nature of the social space in which project team collaboration occurs is becoming increasingly digital and remote, and less likely to be physical and face to face, due to cost and convenience factors. Moreover, the growth of the freelance economy also increases the likelihood that project interactions will take place using digital platforms. As use of digital platforms such as BIM, the online forum, or video conferencing become the norm, so we must re-understand how collaboration happens. This paper will raise awareness of this new landscape of collaboration via a socio-psychological perspective. Findings from a social network analysis (SNA) of collaboration with industry participants reveal socio-behavioural differences in the use of various digital media, commonly used in construction. These factors include differences in strategic control, dominance, and democratic contribution, and thus, that different digital collaboration platforms can yield different design outcomes. The paper will present how project teams exchange ideas, values, norms to create cohesive, integrated, and inclusive teams in face to face environments comparative to a selection of digital project environments. These findings are applied to construction projects to indicate that certain collaboration platforms are limited to data or information exchange, with deeper and abstract information offered by others. Where deeper, abstract exchange occurs, then a deeper collaborative relationship can ensue, with positive effects in design outcomes and long term relationships. The paper, therefore, summarises how project members may make an informed digital collaboration platform selection, according to the purpose of their interaction and its desired outcomes. This paper also acts as a call to CIB researchers to develop a social narrative in parallel with and supportive of techno-operational innovation, towards process efficiency and excellence.

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