Drs. Giuseppe Valetto and Sean Goggins Explore the Structure and Leadership Strategies of Virtual Organizations

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September 17, 2012 — Dr. Sean Goggins (PI), assistant professor at the iSchool, and Dr. Giuseppe Valetto (co-PI), assistant professor of computer science, received a NSF grant for the project, “VOSS: Toward a Context Adaptive Theory of the Relationship Between Structural Fluidity and Virtual Organization Performance." The total amount of the three-year project is $399,944 and will be split respectively between the iSchool and Department of Computer Science.

A virtual organization (VO) is a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed geographically, but who function as a coherent unit through the use of cyberinfrastructure. A major assumed advantage of VOs is flexible membership and participation. VO members are able to join and leave VOs at will, and can change whom they collaborate with at any point in time. Different VOs follow different models and conventions, and can exhibit different degrees of such "structural fluidity.” Structural fluidity, in turn, is supposed to make VOs more efficient in the completion of knowledge- and collaboration-intensive work than traditional organizations.

This research will gain a fundamental understanding of the relationship between structural fluidity and virtual organization performance. The investigators will examine the log data generated by the technical systems used for coordination and information sharing in VOs, as well as interview VO participants and measure VO performance in context-specific ways. The project will examine VOs in software engineering, disaster relief, online learning, and public discourse communities.

The techniques pioneered in this proposal will increase understanding of how to use technical systems that support VOs and their log data to more quickly identify the most effective social structures and leadership strategies in VOs. The results of the project will provide insights related to VO performance optimization for industry and government organizations that increasingly rely on the virtual organization model for their endeavors' success.