The Social Dimension of Visual Telefacilitation

The Social Dimension Of Visual telefacilitation  

Groups resist social change. The changes wrought by teleconferencing are drastic enough in and of themselves, so the introduction of VTF into the work setting must initially create the smallest possible disturbance in group dynamics. The style called the "meeting recorder" [Straus76] is this grass roots, level-0, least social change method for VTF. In the meeting recorder style, the teleconferencing group does everything in exactly the same way as they did before, without VTF. All social roles and behaviors are exactly the same. The only difference is that there is now a text-graphic record of the meeting available to look at and refer to if any of the group members so choose. At social level-0 VTF, it is important that the meeting recorder not be a member of the group. Remember, no changes in behavior for any group member. Instead, at social level-0, the telefacilitator is an objective and friendly outsider "attached" or linked to the meeting for the express purpose of being the recorder.

And what about the possibility of having a member of the telegroup facilitate? This is a useful option in cases where the group can tolerate the additional social discord when one of its members is playing a dual social role. However, it has some distinct disadvantages:

1. Regular group members simply won't do it. Face to face meetings are held in rooms with whiteboards all the time, and very rarely does someone jump up and start recording the meeting as a whole.

2. The social role of objective recorder is unfamiliar to most people, and extremely demanding. It is difficult to listen to everything the group says and succinctly represent it with text and graphics in real time      a professional facilitator has the training, experience, and aptitude to do this job effectively.

3. It will remove that group member from participating in the teleconference. Recording a meeting is a fulltime job      it is almost impossible for the facilitator to also contribute content. And so if that group member's contribrutions are dispensable, why is he or she there in the first place?

4. Facilitator is too intimately acquainted with technical content      uses obscure terms and acronyms, assumes greater level of technical expertise for the group than may in fact be the case. An intelligent layperson's view is often a useful reflection of the issues, and helps communicate to the people in the group who are not up on the latest minutiae or jargon, but who are reluctant to admit it.

On the other hand, there are also advantages to having one or more of the group members do the facilitation:

1. Saves the time and expense of securing the services of an additional person.

2. Having a group member facilitate eliminates any possible problems of confidentiality.

3. Facilitator is intimately acquainted with technical content. There are times when it is a definite advantage to have a facilitator who really knows the minute details of the meeting's technical issues.

Techniques for training group members to do visual telefacilitation will be investigated as part of the VTF project [see long-term deliverables below].


(C) Copyright 1994 PGC