Collaborating Globally: Cultures in the Social Interactions in Organizational Computer-Mediated Communications

Culture shapes interpersonal communication. However, little is known about how culture interacts with computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools in a business context. We present a large-scale empirical study of cultural differences in social interactions through CMC tools by using data from a global company. Our dataset includes 9,000 volunteer users and more than 20 million records of their email and Instant Messaging conversations. We compared people working in eight countries in terms of their social network within the organization, preferences for CMC tools, and sentiments expressed in English conversations. Significant cultural differences emerged and the patterns are consistent with the inherent cultural characteristics as suggested by cultural theories. In addition, we reveal the complex interactions between culture and different communication contexts (e.g., hierarchy relationship, and IM vs. email) as well as the divergences within East Asian or Western culture groups. The overall picture suggests the pervasive existence and complexity of cultural differences, thus requiring sufficient investigation and consideration in designing cross-cultural collaborative systems.