Special Issue: Digital Collaboration

Robert M. Fuller, Souren Paul, and Lina Zhou
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 25, Number 1, 2021, pp. 3-6.

Over the past three decades, organizations have engaged in business-process, organizational, and technological redesigns to take advantage of the opportunities enabled by internet innovation. Often these changes have resulted in the potential for new forms of interaction and relationships, leading to changes in how, when, with whom, and where these interactions occur, facilitating new ways of working together, new organizational forms, and new market opportunities among individuals, groups, organizations, and even societies. A key domain of opportunities created by this evolution (and sometime revolution) is in digital collaboration [9], defined generally as the use of information and computing technologies to enable work between parties to produce or create something.

Research in the digital collaboration domain has likewise evolved, reflecting the underlying realities formed through technological and social innovation. This research has examined changes in work because of facilitating technologies such as group support systems, e-mail, video conferencing, social media, and virtual worlds. It likewise has examined the change in social work systems, identifying new forms of relationships and collaboratories such as virtual teams, virtual communities, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer exchanges that increasingly work together in partnership to solve problems, expand knowledge, and create value. As new innovations in both technology and social structure have emerged, new research is attempting to understand how these changes influence the nature and manner of exchange, expectations for collaboration, and ultimately how value is developed and maintained and even expanded.

Much of the prior research in digital collaboration has focused on the intersection of technology innovation and human interaction, examining in detail the influence of one factor on the other. This stream of research has shown how participant characteristics influence the manner in which the technologies underlying digital collaboration are applied and exploited for desired outcomes (e.g., [4, 6, 8]). Alternatively, prior literature has also examined the manner in which technology capabilities influence the engagement of and interactions between participants in digital collaborations  (e.g., [1, 2, 7]).

While this approach to research on digital collaboration has served well to foster an understanding of key issues in the development and application of technology to support relational and collaborative development, additional and innovative approaches and perspectives are needed and encouraged to develop a new and deeper understanding regarding the symbiotic relationship between the social, technological, and organizational blending that underlie modern digital collaboration. Today, participants no longer respond to technology but take part in its creation and application in social collaborative contexts, often beyond the intention of technology designers [3, 5]. These developments in our understanding regarding technology, social, and organizational interaction provide new avenues for fruitful discovery of new theory and deeper insights on the relationships between these elements, within new contexts and opportunities for value creation.

The purpose of this special issue is to highlight and present the wide perspective of current research efforts and to suggest new frontiers in digital collaboration. The selected research below represents exemplars from various research perspectives and approaches that we hope will inspire new research ideas and approaches in digital collaboration.

In “Autonomous but Interdependent: The Roles of Initiated and Received Task Interdependence in Distributed Team Coordination” by Marthe Berntzen and Sut Wong, the authors contribute to research on distributed team interaction and coordination by examining self-managed autonomous teams, a digital collaboration where team members themselves determine the manner in which work is planned, performed, and completed. Through the use of a field study, the authors examine how these teams deal with the dual concerns of autonomy and dependence in their tasks and how this influences team interaction and perceptions of self-management and coordination. This research provides insight on how team interaction structures affect perceptions of coordination and how task interdependence can have differing effects on coordination perceptions depending on the source of task interdependence.

In “Personalized Ranking of Online Consumer Reviews Based on Preferences for Product Features” by Anupam Dash, Dongsong Zhang, and Lina Zhou, the authors contribute to research on online consumer review (OCR) systems, an emerging platform for digital collaboration among consumers making purchase decisions. This work explains and articulates the different informational needs of consumers in terms of in product features and the manner in which OCR systems can help (or impair) consumer decision making. The authors introduce a theoretical framework, the Product-feature-based Personalized Review Ranking (P 2 R 2 ), which leverages the similarities between consumers to help predict review helpfulness based on consumer preferences in product features. An empirical evaluation of a P 2 R 2 prototype provides evidence for its generating review rankings that are more similar to users’ self-rankings than those generated by a helpfulness vote-based ranking counterpart. The research offers theoretical insights, novel technical design, and empirical evidence for collaboratively improving OCR platforms through the P 2 R 2 .

In “Trust and Team Performance in Human-Autonomy Teaming” by Nathan McNeese, Mustafa Demir, Erin Chiou, and Nancy Cooke, the authors contribute to the research on teams made up of human and autonomous agents by examining the nature of trust in these specific contexts of digital collaborations. Through the use of a Wizard of Oz methodology, 44 teams included an autonomous agent simulated as a team member in a remotely piloted aircraft system environment activity. The results of the study include both short-term and longitudinal insights on how individuals on teams of varying performance levels view both their autonomous and human team members over time as it relates to trust. This research provides insight on the nature of trust in human–autonomous team contexts, and its difference from human–human teams, over time.

In “Social Media Affordances to Engage Clients During the Sales Process: Sequential versus Multiplex Media Use” by Matthew Weber and Müge Haseki, the authors contribute to the research on digital collaboration in social media and its use in sales processes by examining the various uses of social media that meet the strategic purposes of relationship development between seller and client. Based on case data collected from a large multinational corporation, the authors apply an affordance lens to examine how seller social media strategies are used to build and develop relationships with customers. The authors find how multiple social media are applied in ways to develop stronger client relationships. The research furthers the application of social media to help align social media selection with the sales cycle based on capabilities afforded by various media choices.


We thank all the authors for their submissions and valuable contributions to this special issue and all the reviewers for their constructive and detailed comments on the papers. Finally, we thank Editor-in-Chief of IJEC Professor Vladimir Zwass for his continued support for the special issue.

ROBERT M. FULLER is the Jan R. Williams Professor at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He received his Ph.D. in management information systems from Indiana University. Dr. Fuller’s research interests focus on the use of collaborative technologies, communication media, and social media for virtual team interactions and performance. His research has been published in MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Decision Support Systems, and other journals.

SOUREN PAUL is a professor of information systems and the chair of the Business Informatics Department at Northern Kentucky University. He received his Ph.D. in Management Information Systems from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. His research interests include digital collaboration, virtual teams, and social media. His research has been published in such journals as in Journal of Management Information Systems, Decision Support Systems, and Information & Management.

LINA ZHOU is a professor in the Department of Business Information Systems and Operations Management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research interests include social media analytics, deception detection, business analytics, and so on. She has (co-) authored papers published in such journals as MIS Quarterly and Journal of Management Information Systems.


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