Academic journal article American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal

Anonymity and Group Task-Conflict in GDSS Supported Meetings

Academic journal article American Academic & Scholarly Research Journal

Anonymity and Group Task-Conflict in GDSS Supported Meetings

Article excerpt

Abstract. Understanding how participants of a GDSS (Group Decision Support Systems) meeting perceive anonymity is a vital issue towards improving its outcomes. This paper aims to investigate how participants of a GDSS meeting interact with the anonymity feature to generate task-conflict. Particular investigation emphasis is on the argument that the users of this system can exploit and employ technology in a way that achieves their own purposes. The strategic component of the SIDE (Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects) theory has been tested within GDSS meeting context. The paper reports on the results of semi-structured interviews conducted with experienced facilitators, technical support experts and users of these applications in real business environment settings. The two GDSS meeting applications investigated in this research are the 'FacilitatePro' and 'MeetingSphere'. The paper findings indicate that members of a GDSS anonymous environment were found to be task-focused, and that the anonymity feature plays a significant role in fostering taskconflict discussions within these meetings. SIDE's strategic component assumption that anonymous users of CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) exploit and use their hidden identities to achieve personal objectives could not be found and then could not be proven. Depending on this paper's investigation, it's suggested that future research needs to investigate 'Same Time / Different Places' meeting configuration, which could provide a solution to some of the participants physical proximity concerns and may yield new findings for this type of GDSS supported meetings.

Keywords: Anonymity; Group Decision Support Systems; Task-Conflict; Strategic Component of the SIDE Theory.

1 INTRODUCTION

A GDSS is "an interactive computer-based information system which combines the capabilities of communication technologies, database technologies, computer technologies, and decision technologies to support the identification, analysis, formulation, evaluation and solution of semistructured or unstructured problems by a group in a user-friendly computing environment" (Er and Ng, 1995, cited in Fan et al., 2007: 816), where group members gather around a discussion conference table, each group member has his own computer terminal linked to other terminals by a computer network. The meeting is guided by a facilitator; who holds the duties of running the session, categorizing and prioritizing the questions and the suggested solutions by the meeting members. Participants' comments, contributions and other meeting procedures appear, anonymously, on each members screen and/or on a shared large display screen fitted at the front of the participants (DeSanctis et al., 2008; Sweeney et al., 1997 cited in Klein et al., 2007).

Implementing Group Decision Support System (GDSS) to support decision making process is aimed to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization, and most importantly to change how groups behave (Nunamaker and Deokar, 2008), in order to bring forth more productive group meeting outcomes (DeSanctis et al., 2008; Miranda and Sanders, 1995). One of the critical features the decision support systems provide is anonymity, which allows participants to exchange generated ideas anonymously (DeSanctis, 2008; Reinig and Mejias, 2003; Miranda, 1994), freeing members of the group from the influences of other high ranked or powerful individuals (Wilson et al., 2010; Postmes and Spears, 2002; Dubrovsky, 1991 cited in Lee, 2005) and evaluating members' contributions and ideas based on the idea's value, not on the author's status (Jessup et al., 1990).

Anonymity in GDSS supported meetings is designed to promote more open participation (McLeod, 2011; DeSanctis et al., 2008), increasing the ability for strategic resistance within group members (Spears et al., 2002; Coffy and Woolworth, 2004; Miranda, 1994), without the fear of criticism or retribution (Rains, 2007; Jessup et al. …

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