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Northwestern Professor Gives Technology and Collaboration Workshop

By Dan Li

Our daily lives are covered with so much work that sometimes we aren’t aware of the little things that affect the way people see and interact with us.

That’s why Jeremy Birnholtz, an associate and research professor of the School of Communication, joined the MSCLE cohort for a full day of workshop to enhance students’ negotiation and interaction abilities, especially when it comes to instant messaging.

“If people aren’t in the same place, give them a place to interact,” said Jeremy. He emphasized the importance of interaction and how it affects big corporate business like Facebook, where they have a completely flat working space of 4000 square feet and 28,000 employees. Through a study Jeremy conducted, he proved that teams who are put into a room are more efficient and productive when they are doing individual work. Working in a same room showed immediate availability, awareness of each other’s’ state, and visible shared artifacts.

Trust is the building block towards a stable and successful relationship. As cohorts continued the class, they played a game called Day Trader, which is similar to the social dilemma situation. The game got exciting, since cohorts needed to trust each other to maximize individual profit through investing in the group rather than keeping the money to oneself. It was an exercise many cohorts enjoyed, but further proved that face to face interaction improves the level of trust compared to video calls, voice calls, and text chat.

At last Jeremy talked about the issue of negotiating social attention. An example he gave was “Padma goes ‘invisible’ on Skype to avoid incoming calls but has ‘available’ on WhatsApp because there is less obligation to answer right away.”

With the presence of different kinds of communication platforms, people’s attention and response is harder to catch, which leads to ways of entering, exiting, and arranging social interactions.