7 Beyond the 3C Model in Collaboration Platforms: A Case Study – Innovation Management

Jorge da Silva Correia Neto, Jairo Simião Dornelas*, and Andrea Gomes Santos

7 Beyond the 3C Model in Collaboration Platforms: A Case Study

Abstract: Whereas the information society emerged supported by the Web, the collaboration society is emerging with the Web’s online applications, platforms and media, which formed what is known as Web 2.0 and empowered interactivity and participation. In the 1990s, the 3C collaboration model introduced the collaboration construct as formed by the dimensions of communication, coordination and cooperation. However, using this model to guide the development of modern artifacts of collaboration, such as social network sites and interactive collaboration platforms, raises the following question: Is it possible to identify something beyond the 3C model through the analysis of features provided by collaborative platforms? This study presents a preliminary analysis that posits a fourth dimension to the collaboration construct: the interactivity dimension.

7.1 Introduction

Whereas the World Wide Web, or simply the Web, created what is known today as the information society, the Web 2.0, with its online applications, platforms and media, is leading to the emergence of the collaboration society, as indicated by Tapscott and Williams [1]. Since the late 1990s, a new product family (wikis, podcasts, blogs and social networking sites, among others) began to settle what is known today as Web 2.0 or the social web, which has as its main differential a new kind of interactive and participatory environment [2].

Jorge da Silva Correia Neto: jorgecorreianeto@gmail.com

*Corresponding Author: Jairo Simião Dornelas: Federal University of Pernambuco, Administrative Science Department. Email: jairo@ufpe.br

Andrea Gomes Santos: andrea.g.santos@gmail.com

In addition to communication and interactivity, another key concept in Web 2.0, as already emphasized, is collaboration. Peng and Woodlock [3], p. 202 point out that a person must be constantly collaborating to create, share and distribute value and capabilities with others, because “collaborating social actors integrate knowledge and expertise from different sources, trigger new ideas that challenge the current understanding and provoke the emergence of new solutions.” Thus, in this communication universe powered by Web 2.0, as stated Vreede, Briggs and Massey [4], p. 121, the collaboration becomes “a critical phenomenon in organizational life.” Therefore, many organizations have begun to appropriate the dynamics of social networks for increased synergy between their employees [5] and between business partners [6], i.e. with intra- and inter-organizational developments.

When collaboration involves a large number of people to obtain services, ideas, contributions or content, with extremely low cost or voluntary actions, building something that is beneficial to the community as a whole, this practice is known as crowdsourcing, as posed by Howe [7] and Doan, Ramakrishnan and Halevy [8].

New challenges arise for the implementation and use of these tools, which go beyond expanding the communication with the market. In fact, these challenges are also used for the co-creation and co-production of goods and services. As pointed out by Ramaswamy and Gouillart [9, p. 4], the consumer experience is “central to value creation, innovation, strategy and leadership,” because success lies on using the experiences of this engaged community to generate ideas that improve the nature these interactions.

In order to develop their collaborative platforms, organizations can use one of the most recognized models in the academic world, the 3C collaboration model [10]. Originally proposed in the early 1990s by Ellis, Gibbs and Rein [11], this model used a slightly different terminology. Nowadays, the 3C model [12] involves communication, coordination and collaboration as the three dimensions of the systems that support group work.

Researchers conceptualize collaboration as being formed by the dimensions of communication, coordination and cooperation [10]. Thinking about how a model originated in the 1990s is still being used to guide the efforts of the development of collaborative platforms such as these social and interactive platforms raises the following question: When analyzing features provided by current collaborative platforms, is it possible to identify dimensions beyond the ones present in the 3C model?

To investigate this question, the present chapter is structured in three sections that follow this first and introductory section. The second section presents a literature review; the third section presents the methodological procedures. Finally, the fourth section presents the results section and final considerations.

7.2 Literature Review

This section will explore the concepts within the 3C model of collaboration and interactivity, aiming to discuss the main components of the dimensions present in the current collaboration platforms.

7.2.1 3C Collaboration Model

Generically, collaboration involves two or more people sharing complex information in pursuit of a common goal or purpose [13]. Corroborating with this view, Briggs et al. [14] argue that collaborative efforts are conducted jointly and target a mutual goal, regardless of individual positions on tasks to be performed or goals to be individually pursued. Moreover, collaboration “also connotes a more durable and pervasive relationship than the rudimentary level afforded by simple interaction” as Harley [15], p. 64 explains.

In the 3C collaboration model, proposed by Fuks et al. [12], collaboration is seen as a combination of cooperation, communication and coordination. The present study envisages the possibility of adding to this model the interactivity dimension, which is seen as crucial to the understanding of collaboration in the context of Web 2.0.

In the 3C collaboration model, “communication is related to the exchange of messages and information between people; coordination is related to the management of people, their activities and resources; and cooperation, which is the production being held in a place shared” [12, p. 637]. Figure 7.1 shows how these dimensions interact with each other to support and empower collaboration to create a shared workspace.

Fuks et al. [12], say that the 3C model should not only be used to classify collaborative systems, but especially to implement groupware (collaborative software), providing the features mapped in its key aspects, or dimensions. According Fuks et al. [16], collaborative systems should consider the following dimensions of collaboration:

  • – Coordination: There are three kinds of coordination. Coordination of people is related to communication and its context; coordination of resources is linked to the shared environment where interactions occur; and coordination of the work involves the management of interdependencies between tasks performed to achieve a common goal;
  • – Cooperation: the members of a group cooperate in producing, manipulating and organizing information and, also, building and refining the objects cooperatively;
  • – Communication: the media to be transmitted must be defined (e.g. text, speech, images, etc). The transmission mode (synchronous/asynchronous); restriction policies (text size or time of the videos), meta-information (such as title, date, priority, category, etc.) and the structure of conversation (linear, hierarchical or network) must also be defined.

Besides these dimensions in this collaborative context, the perception, a new variant, stands out, and helps to understand the activities of the other group members and how they are developing in the shared space, serving as a positive or negative indicator of the individual performance enhancement.

Finally, as shown in Figure 7.1, the record of group activities are completed, cataloged, categorized and structured around the cooperation objects. Ideas, facts, issues, views, conversations, discussions, decisions and so on, could be recovered, providing historical context and collaboration about the activity that took place in that shared environment. However, to the literature presented here, the perception of the activities carried out by other actors is just part of the interactive collaboration process; other social factors also appear to contribute to the exchanges that occurred in this shared space, as will be shown in the next section.

Fig. 7.1. Interacting in a shared space work. Adapted from Fuks et al. [12].

7.2.2 Interactivity

The term interactivity emerged in the mid-nineteenth century and came from the idea of “two people or things affecting or causing any effect on the other; enabling two-way flow of information between a computer and a user, responding to a stimulus from this user” [17]. It can also be seen as a “resource, environment or communication process that allows the receiver to actively interact with the user” [18], p. 484.

Regardless of etymological perspective, Lemos [19] considers interactivity as more specifically digital interactivity, as a specific case of interaction, a kind of relationship between technological and social, a dialogue between man and machine, mediated by graphical interfaces and real time. Kiousis [20], p. 355 also points out that interaction is composed “by the media and psychological factors, which vary in terms of communication technology, communication context and perceptions of the people involved.”

Aiming to provide an explanatory overview of this concept, as displayed in Table 7.1, McMillan [21] defines interactivity based on its resources, processes and perceptions on the one hand; and with respect to the actors, among which the interaction takes place, on the other hand. These interactions can be human–human, human–computer and human–content.

As stated by Ramaswamy and Gouillart [9], models of collaboration must provide components to strengthen interpersonal relationships, for example, highlighting the contributions made by individuals in their cooperative activities. Therefore, beyond the basic dimensions – coordination, cooperation and communication – collaboration models should increase interaction between subjects and between subjects and objects when pursuing the desired group results, suggest these quoted authors.

Table 7.1. The concept of interactivity in terms of resources, processes and perceptions. Based on McMillan [21].

Accordingly, Silva [22, p. 10] points out that the interactivity emerges as a result of this conversational computer technology, but it is also a result of a marketing dimension that seek to broaden the dialogue between producer and customer. These relations are a product of a social dimension that seeks autonomy and no longer passively accepts references that determine meanings, such as church, ideology, and so on. In this new socio-historical context, interactivity provided by computation creates a new communication mode in which the message is modifiable; the sender constructs a network (and not a single path) of territories to explore and the receiver handles the message as co-author, reinforcing the sense of “participation, intervention, bidirectionality and multiplicity of connections” [22, p. 13].

Silva [22] also indicates that there are three elements of interactivity. The first plea, the binomial interest-intervention, increases the presence of the public in the communication process and gives them the ability to become managers of media. It also changes the nature of the receiver, because receiver and transmitter change their statuses when the message content is presented and manipulated by both actors. The sender assumes the receptor’s participation-intervention because participating is interfering in the message.

The second plea, the binomial bidirectionality-hybridization, is the critical key to the functionalist view of classical communication theory, in which the relationship between sender and receiver is unidirectional. This new scenario empowers a joint and participative production. Thus, there is a recursion between sender and receiver. Communication is a joint production of the sender and the receiver. Both poles encode and decode.

The third plea, the binomial potentiality-interchangeability, allows the creation of multiple articulatory network connections. It does not propose a closed message; in contrast, it provides information on network connections allowing people freedom of association and meanings to the receiver and produces wide freedoms and several possible (potential) narrative combinations (interchangeability).

7.2.3 Related Work

Assuming learning management systems (LMS) as a type of groupware system, it is possible to abstract the learning experience reported in Fuks et al. [24] with the LMS AulaNet, developed based on the concepts of the 3C model. In this context, the authors exemplify each dimension of the 3C model from the discussion of environmental features, discussing how the 3C collaboration model guided the definition of the software requirements.

In another study, conducted by Gerosa et al. [25], the development of groupware is analyzed with the lens of componentization. Based on the aforementioned 3C model, researchers analyzed the “sharing services such as chat, forum, calendar, file management, whiteboard, and so on; and the services themselves that share elements such as list of participants, session control, timing objects, permission control, and so on”, reinforcing the use of this model for the development of collaborative platforms that contain the same functionality as the platforms of co-creation, which are the targets of this study.

Ferro and Heemann [26] reflect on the use of the 3C model for the design of collaborative services franchise networks, pointing to the relevance of this model for the design of more collaborative processes between the various stakeholders involved.

In the same direction of the work summarized here, this article aims to analyze the functionality of a system from the perspective of the 3C model. However, beyond the three dimensions of the model, we intend to investigate if on a collaborative platform is it possible to identify the presence of other elements, not represented in the 3C model, such as interactivity, as discussed by Silva [22] and raised here as an emerging conjecture.

To do this, first it was necessary to build a list of the features of the automaker Local Motors’ co-creation platform. According to Anderson [27], Local Motors has been implementing, since 2007, one of the most successful experiments of co-creation in the world, especially in the automotive industry. In order to enlist these functionalities, the platform was directly analyzed to select and describe these features, similar to the work of Magalhães et al. [28].

7.3 Methodological Procedures

This research used an exploratory-descriptive qualitative approach in order to identify and analyze the functionalities available on Local Motors’ co-creation platform, which was the studied case. Subsequently, the main features identified were analyzed by a team of experts who considered the intention of each functionality in the context of collaboration between users. It must be emphasized that this co-creation platform was designed by the company for its users to develop prototypes and designs of new vehicles. In this sense, the functionalities were captured from the platform in January of 2014.

Exploratory studies aim to provide greater familiarity with a problem, to make it more explicit, especially when dealing with an under-investigated topic or a topic that has not been previously addressed [29]. The case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon that does not have boundaries or context clearly evident and which requires multiple sources of evidence [30].

To sort the functionality of this collaborative context, a team of experts was formed, composed of: a teacher with 20 years of experience, with a Doctor in Business Administration and research focusing on decision making; an expert on groupware and collaborative technologies and leader of a research group in information systems; a teacher with over 20 years experience, with a PhD in biomedical engineering and leader of a research group in collaborative healthcare technologies; two PhD students in Business Administration with focus on information technology and teachers with four years of experience in research on open innovation collaboration and enterprise social networking platforms; and two master’s candidates in Computer Science with a focus on software engineering and experience in design and development of a collaborative social network to support health.

The process of selection and classification of features occurred in four steps:

  • – First stage: a pair formed by the two master’s candidates using a public profile on the platform selects the features available to the community as well as a description of the actions of these features;
  • – Second stage: the same pair, working independently, does the classification of features extracted by observing their actions and classifying them according to the settings of the 3C model and interactivity, described in Section 7.2 of this paper;
  • – Third stage: these masters and the doctoral candidates analyze the classified features and discuss it, trying to achieve a consensus, and adding more experience to the classification process in order to create a single list;
  • – Fourth stage: the constructed list goes through an evaluation process with the two senior researchers in order to discuss the final ranking of the features. Figure 7.2 illustrates the process of this method as applied to this research.

The research method applied in this work resembles, in some points, the Delphi method of qualitative research, in which a group of experts meet to discuss and enter into a consensus on a particular issue [31]. Furthermore, the method also has some similarities with the formation and organization of a team of researchers to conduct a systematic literature review. In this process, the team is divided into two groups working independently in the extraction and classification of information. Subsequently, the group meets to discuss what has been accomplished and to try to find a consensus on divergent issues [23].

Fig. 7.2. Selection and classification of features procedure.

7.4 Results

In this section, the results of the research and the full discussion of the issues observed in the analysis of the collected information are presented.

7.4.1 Description of the Platform

Before discussing each of the platform’s identified features, it is necessary to define some platform modules: Ideas are the basic features for each innovative project that may be created; Designs (or sketches) hold art drawings, renderings and models for the community; Projects are collaborative spaces where designers, engineers and enthusiasts come together to design and build solutions; and Challenges are competitions in which community members presents solutions to a given problem, with a chance to win a reward. Figure 7.3 shows the use case built to illustrate the main features available in the co-creation of the Local Motors platform.

Fig. 7.3. Functions of Local Motors’ co-creation platform.

Based on the use case diagram, Table 7.2 shows the functionalities available on the platform and their descriptions.

7.4.2 Analysis of the Features of the Platform

Considering the action performed by each platform functionality, it was possible to put together a list of each functions’ purpose in the context of collaboration according to the definitions given in the literature review of this article. During the analysis phase, it was observed that beyond the traditional dimensions of the 3C model, interactivity was present, indicating that this dimension seems to be crucial to understand collaboration in the context of Web 2.0.

The features related to coordination demonstrate lack of communication or interaction between users of the platform. Basically, there is a type of relationship between the user who performed the login and the environment itself. Coordination is directly associated with management activities involving objects arranged on the environment and how the user performs these activities. The coordination features located were: view, create and follow.

On the other hand, cooperation, characterized by the union of manipulation and organization of information, was observed in the action of reporting. This is a group action on the shared space, and the result of the task is to tell the system that there is some kind of activity detrimental to the community. It was noticed that, unlike other features, the action report could only be implemented if there was cooperation between members.

Table 7.2. Description of Local Motors platform’s features.

Feature Description
Preview This feature is related to the presentation of pages containing ideas, designs, challenges, projects, and files for a project on the platform, i.e. by clicking on the menu option Ideas, for example, the user displays a feed with the ideas that she or he has requested to receive notifications for. From this feed it is possible to access the page of a specific idea. The same happens in the menus of Designs, Challenges and Projects
Create The Creation functionality refers to the publication of new ideas, designs, projects or challenges on the platform. The user can add a title, a message and/or attachments. This feature can be considered the most important of the platform, since it is from these publications that interactive discussions are generated for the development of new models of vehicle design or collaboration in the improvement of ideas
Follow From this feature it is possible to monitor the updates on ideas, designs, projects and challenges in order to receive notifications about these items. By following some of the mentioned domains, his/her feed is updated
Denounce This feature allows community members to report ideas, designs, projects or challenges they deem unfit for presentation on the platform
Vote This feature allows a user to give positive or negative feedback to a particular idea or to vote on a design. From the number of votes it is possible to obtain statistics of the success of a particular item. It is also possible to add votes (positive only) to comments published on pages
Comment Allows comments on ideas, designs, projects, challenges and topics. In this way, community members can add their opinions and contribute to the development of a car design. For example, based on comments on a previously published design a member of the community can improve this design and publish the changes. It is also possible to attach files to comments
Answer This feature allows the posting of an answer to a particular comment. Thus, besides the flow of general comments, sub-conversations can be created based on a particular comment
Share Allows users to share ideas, designs, projects and challenges on social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Google+)
Add discussion topics Enables the creation of a new forum of discussion on a design, project or specific challenge. Therefore, unlike the comments, which have a general flow of conversation, and occasionally answers to every comment, topics serve to intentionally divide discussions on issues
Contribute This functionality allows users to download files, computer aided design (CAD) or not, concerning a project and make changes and then add them back to the platform (via comments or forum posts on the project to which that file belongs) so that other members can discuss the changes made
Participate This feature allows users to submit, within a specified time, their solution to one of the challenges available. If a user does not wish to be a participant, he or she may contribute by sharing ideas and voting on proposed solutions given by other users. There is also a deadline for validation of submissions and subsequently, it is opened the voting period, when the platform members can vote on solutions

Regarding communication, it was observed that in two features there is an exchange of messages and information between users, without necessarily being related to it directly: vote and add discussion topic. The information provided by the act of voting provides to the user a knowledge about the object of his/her review posted, without any kind of relationship with those who did not vote. Meanwhile, the creation of a topic transmits the information to the community in general, without any direct interaction with a member.

Finally, interactivity was seen as a key point for collaboration within the platform. When participants talk about a new idea or project, they are conveying more information than the user who performed the postage of the idea; the focus of the review is a modifiable, manageable and constructive contribution to the network. This aspect is strengthened by the action of answering a comment. The meanings of participation, intervention, bidirectionality and multiplicity are observed in the action to contribute, in which users can collaboratively build the same object. However, as this construction happens asynchronously, since the engineering files (CAD) are typically large, the action cannot be encompassed by the scope of cooperation. Interactivity also occurs in the relationship between the user and the community when participating in the action of a challenge and, finally, in sharing elements of the environment on other networks, increasing their freedom of association.

It should be noted that during the consensus phase some functionalities received a second ranking, based on the result of their actions. They were: the following function (that besides cooperation has a certain degree of interactivity it can be seen as a relationship that results in feedback and comment) and reply to a comment (because the user can transmit information without aggregating any contribution to another user, i.e. without a direct relationship, thus being considered as the communication dimension). However, the first classification is the most suited to the collaborative intent of the functionality within the platform. Table 7.3 summarizes the classification of the extracted features discussed above.

7.5 Final Remarks

Considering the question that guided this research, it can be concluded that, when analyzing the purpose of the features provided by current collaborative platforms, one can see something beyond the 3C model: the interactivity. In the context of the case study analyzed, it does not seem possible to describe the actions performed within collaborative environments in the context of Web 2.0 without this important element.

Even within the current tools, as reported by Fuks et al. [24], which are based only on the 3C model, the fact that interactivity can enhance the volume and quality of production that happens on LMS was not considered. In his work, Fuks and colleagues [24, p. 3–4] described the communication dimension as “providing features such as forum, chat, instant messages and e-mails”; coordination was seen as the size of the provider features “notifications, evaluation and monitoring of participation.” Finally, cooperation has the features bibliography and co-authoring for both teachers and pupils.

Table 7.3. Classification of Local Motors platform functionality.

Functionality Classification
1 – View (ideas, designs, projects, challenges, and feed files) Coordination
2 – Create (ideas, designs, projects and challenges) Coordination
3 – Follow (ideas, designs, projects and challenges) Coordination
4 – Report (ideas, designs, projects and challenges)) Cooperation
5 – Vote (ideas and designs) Comunication
6 – Comment (ideas, designs, projects, challenges and topics) Interactivity
7 – Reply to comment Interactivity
8 – Share on social networks (ideas, designs, projects and challenges) Interactivity
9 – Add Topics Discussion (designs, projects and challenges) Comunication
10 – Contribute Interactivity
11 – Attend a challenge Interactivity

It is noted that the co-authoring functionality – key in the context of Web 2.0, where students interact via open social networks site – has no components that strengthen interpersonal relationships, as suggested by Ramaswamy and Gouillart [9]. Co-authoring is seen by Fuks and colleagues [24] just under the operational and functional point of view, regardless of its purpose. It can be extended to capture an underlying social essence, as shown by Silva [22] and Ramaswamy and Gouillart [9].

By assuming the co-authoring functionality under the interactivity dimension, as related to “participation, intervention, bidirectionality and multiplicity of connections” components [27, p. 13], schemes should be leveraged, as it is the case with several features mentioned in the Local Motors platform.

These findings demonstrate the need to carry out further research in this context. Thus, a qualitative study has been proposed as future work. This study would involve managers, who demand these collaborative platforms, and developers who are experts in collaboration and collaborative systems, so that the researcher can confirm the presence of interactivity on current collaborative platforms from the field. This preliminary study indicates that a new model of collaboration is emerging, a model that involves interactivity, communication, cooperation and coordination.

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