Roland Buß, Lothar Mühlbach, and Detlef Runde Heinrich-Hertz-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik Berlin GmbH (HHI) Einsteinufer 37, D-15087 Berlin, Germany, http://www.hhi.de Phone:+49 30 31002 240, Fax: +49 30 31002 213, E-mail: email@example.com
By "informal communication" we mean a kind of communication that is spontaneous, coincidental and impromptu. It happens on office floors or in the course of coffee breaks of a congress. Various studies have shown that informal communication is crucial for creative work groups, such as research and technological development teams. This applies not only to the well-being of the group but also to its efficiency and productivity ( Kraut and Streeter 1995). Especially in the negotiation phases of forthcoming projects the frequency of informal communication acts is very high and consolidates the later cooperation ( Finholt, Sproull and Kiesler 1990).
Considering this, several attempts have been made to develop telecommunications systems that support informal communication. Among those are the VideoWindow ( Fish, Kraut, Root and Rice 1992), the Cruiser ( Root 1988), the Polyscope system ( Borning and Travers 1991), the Electronic Agora ( Travis 1995), the FreeWalk system ( Nakanishi, Yoshida, Nishimura and Ishida 1996), Piazza ( Isaacs, Tang and Morris 1996), etc.
As in face-to-face situations informal communication is very important at telework and tele co-operation if team workers are forced to co-operate very closely. The contents of informal communication in these situations are: