Re-DNA: Re-designing nonverbal actions for design team collaborations

PI: Prof. Dr. Michael Shanks


Ironically, platforms that remote design teams use to collaborate often beget miscommunications that undermine team success. Emotional aspects of interactions are critical to design teams’ subjective and objective performance and remote teams are particularly susceptible to emotional effects of unclear communication. While online platforms effectively transmit explicit verbal communication, and some nonverbal actions (such as Facebook Likes), they fail to transmit intentions and other contextual information behind and accompanying those communications and actions. Because these actions are highly interpretable, and contextual information strongly colors interpretation, the absence of such information leads team members to interpret communication breakdown due to platform design as transgressions by remote collaborators. This leads to frustration, disagreement, and negative feelings, resulting in degraded team cohesion and performance. We ran pilot surveys comparing individuals’ affective and cognitive interpretations of actions on creative collaborative platforms. Preliminary findings indicate that unexplained actions perceived as coming from others led to a breakdown in trust and misattribution of others’ motives. We propose an investigation to characterize affordances and weaknesses of collaboration platform features as they are used by designers. We aim to develop and test ways to integrate emotional interaction dynamics, and to establish principles for designing tools to support remote communication in design teams.