Swagata is one of Chris' Spring 2012 Professional Speaking students at Carnegie Mellon. Here she writes about virtual communication.
The primary urge of human race to remain connected with its peers has time and again inspired it to innovate. Science has provided mankind a window to peep into the other side of the world by bridging the gap between the physical locations. As a result communication has evolved from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone to Zennstrom and Friis’s1 Skype.
Today’s globalized world is witnessing scattered clients and distributed systems. Outsourcing has become the norm for information technology companies. In such a scenario where the parts of a machine are manufactured in one country, assembled in other and maintained in another, virtual communication provides the foundation of businesses. ‘A virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact through specific media, potentially crossing geographical boundaries in order to pursue mutual interest and goals’2. Thus, virtual communication refers to the act of connecting together a virtual community through a virtual medium often called internet. It encompasses a wide array of technologies, concepts and practices that today form a prominent part of our quotidian. Internet telephony, video conferencing, online chatting, VOIP, and texting all form a part of virtual communication. The two most important advantages of virtual communication can be stated as under:
Saves money: Virtual communication aids in saving money spent on travelling, while allowing a group of people located across various continents to collaborate over an issue.
Saves time: This mode of communication saves the time of individual that could have been wasted in airports lobbies or in travel. Moreover, an email with explicit facts and a list of action items is at times more expressive than word of mouth.
Virtual communication is an art. Based on my prior work experience I can list the following key points which are essential for virtual communication:
1. Identify the communication medium to be used
2. Formulate a clear message
3. Understand the time lag of the digital medium.
4. Ability to comprehend the language of a message by effective listening.
My stint at Infosys Limited where I led a team across two geographical locations and collaborated with the client situated in a different continent, virtual communication formed a daily part of my routine. From live meetings that were conducted every morning, to daily status meetings over Skype during the evening, this mode of communication formed the basis of our project’s everyday work. I remember how we sought out team issues with the help of our onsite project manager, based in Charlotte within no time. My team was coached from a person sitting in U.S. about the way we were supposed to handle changes in client’s requirement. I still cherish the moment when I was praised by the client team directly for my efforts in delivering results. Having such compliments from the client directly became possible because I was a part of a meeting that was going on in the States, while I was enjoying my coffee back in India.
It is not just professional arena where virtual communication comes in handy. Belonging to a close knit Indian family, coming to US was a tough decision to make. The apprehension of my mother about not being able to see her only child, i.e. me, was understandable. This is not just my story. This is the story of a lot of students like me that come for higher education from different countries. But the power to make a video call early morning to be able to wish a mother happy birthday, wipes away all the distance related worries. Thank to virtual communication.
The use of Virtual Communication is not limited to just communication as a part of leisure or business. It has for more widespread areas of application. The seven major areas where virtual communication is used are:
1. Information Sharing and Knowledge Exchange
2. Collaborating and Team Work
3. Decision Making/Voting
4. Document Sharing
5. Project Management
In a survey conducted by RW3LLC, New York, to find the success of working in a virtual team, just about 2% responded from across the globe that such type of working does not work3. Here the target people were working professionals, 80% of whom said that they were a part of a virtual world with members outside their country. This shows the level of success virtual communication has been able to offer.
Of course it is a well-known fact that the best of the communications is when you see the person you are speaking to face to face. The fact is well supported by a research at Cornell University4. Does this fact really shadow the advantages of virtual communication? I strongly believe that it does not. The basic design of virtual communication itself answers the above question. Just as the primary purpose of a wheelchair is to aid people with disability, similarly virtual communication is primarily designed to make people who are far off, interact.
Considering the wide spectrum of areas where virtual communication finds no parallel such as business, online education, medical research and operations, defense, astronomy, and personal chats, virtual communication can be deemed as one of the most important inventions that mankind has ever made.