Researching the Role of Trust in Distributed Collaborations

Project Dates: 
January 2013
Project Description: 

Trust remains a key challenge for globally distributed teams despite decades of research. Awareness, a key component of collaboration, has even more research around it. However, detailed accounts of the interrelationship of awareness and trust are still lacking in the literature, particularly in the setting of software teams. The gap we seek to fill with this article is to examine how software tool support for awareness can engender trust among globally distributed software developers. We highlight qualitative results from a previous and extensive field study that shows how trust is still a problem in contemporary teams. These results motivate a specific examination of how developers form attributions of one another. We describe a collection of visualization widgets designed to address the specific issues found in the field. To evaluate their effectiveness, we performed a controlled laboratory study with 28 students and 12 professional software developers who used these visualizations collected into a tool environment called Theseus. The results show that in general, participants using the visualizations make more accurate attributions, and their perceived trustworthiness of their remote teammates more accurately reflects actual circumstances. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our results for theory and practice.