Exploring communication in remote teams: Issues and methods

Ute Fischer, Daniel Morrow, Chris Miller, Kathleen Mosier, Beth Veinott, Judith Orasanu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Teamwork in many operational settings, such as air traffic control or telemedicine, involves members who are at different locations and, as in space exploration missions, may communicate under time-delayed conditions. Collaboration and coordination in distributed teams differ from face-to-face interactions in a number of important respects (Brennan & Lockridge, 2006). Remote communication eliminates visual cues and thus requires more effort to establish common ground. Unlike co-present partners, distributed team members cannot rely on gestures and facial expressions to direct the other's attention and provide feedback on their understanding. Voice communication between remote partners maintains the meaning nuances of face-to-face interactions that is lacking in text-based conversations. On the other hand, writing enables partners to re-read and thus to remember past communications, and to review and revise their messages prior to sharing them with others. These resources are not available in spoken discourse where participants have to rely on their memory or external aids (e.g., note pads) to keep track of the flow of the conversation and to compose their contributions. Transmission delays between partners' contributions further complicate grounding (Olson, G., & Olson, J., 2000). The timing of turns is challenging, and individual contributions may be out of sequence, making it difficult for team members to follow the thread of a conversation and thus to develop shared situation models. Moreover, distributed teams frequently consist of individuals with different expertise and different goals, differences that may hamper mutual understanding and collaboration (Bearman, Paletz, Orasanu, & Thomas, 2010). This panel brings together researchers who have examined team communication in a variety of domains: healthcare (Morrow), aviation (Mosier), Navy (Miller), disaster response (Veinott), and space missions (Fischer, Miller). Panelists will be asked to characterize the constraints faced by conversational partners in these domains, to present analytic tools for studying remote communication and to discuss procedural or technological solutions to facilitate collaboration and coordination in distributed teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, HFES 2013
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 2013
Event57th Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting - 2013, HFES 2013 - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Sep 30 2013Oct 4 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
ISSN (Print)1071-1813


Other57th Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting - 2013, HFES 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


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