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Effective Communication in Virtual Adversarial Collaborative Communities
Unformatted Document Text:  9 centuries was capable of preventing and dealing with major conflicts that would have threatened the public interest [51]. The question now is: how can successful adversarial collaborative communities for managing the public interest come to be? Why would their participants interact at all? They all have their own interests and objectives, which somehow have to match for collaboration to emerge. To better understand how private and public interests can be made to agree, the concept of stakeholder needs to be worked out. Adversarial communities for the public interest are composed of many stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who have an interest in a particular decision, either as individuals or as representatives of a group [15]. From this definition, some factors can be derived that complicate effective communication among stakeholders. First, all parties have their private interests to defend. This may lead to actions such as secrecy (not revealing all information to other parties), advocacy (pushing their own position as far as possible), and discovery (strategic revelation of partial information) [8]. Depending on the language game being played, such strategic behavior may be legitimate, for example in a commercial transaction or legal dispute. However, stakeholders often defend their private interests in illegitimate ways, sometimes even leading to sabotage of the collaborative process. Besides there being private interests, there is also a decision or public interest affecting all stakeholders. The public interest will only be safeguarded if an equitable and fair balance between the various stakeholder interests can be achieved [46]. However, when has such a balance been achieved? How can the end result be acceptable to participants? Often, only an unsatisfactory compromise is achieved, in which one of the participants has illegitimately gotten the upper hand [52]. Another factor complicating effective communication in adversarial communities for the public interest is that not all discussants are participating on their own behalf, but instead may represent the interests of others. This means that conflicts may emerge and secondary communication processes may be necessary. Cohen et al. claim that in adversarial collaboration the problem is the widely diverging goals [8]. We argue, however, that in adversarial communities the real problem is the disagreement between interests, not objectives. In BCFOR, agreement was reached quickly that writing a joint group report in fair process, was a good way of building common ground. However, it was considered to be very important that the process in which this objective was to be achieved would be legitimate. The main issues of conflict and confusion thus revolved around how to balance the interests. To position communities for the public interest in which effective communication is important, we classify communities along two dimensions. The first one is whether interests of community members are mainly shared or opposed. We call these communities harmonious and adversarial, respectively. The second dimension relates to the objectives. If there is just discussion without collaboration, we call them communities of interest, while collaborative communities aim to accomplish common objectives, such as the authoring of a group report. Our main focus in this paper is on adversarial collaborative communities. To clarify the classification: we consider each of these two dimensions of interests and objectives to be a continuum: Interests can be more or less shared. At the one end of the continuum, interests are opposed, at the other end they are shared. Similar, for objectives. These can range from being individual objectives only to completely joint objectives.

Authors: de Moor, Aldo. and Weigand, Hans.
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9
centuries was capable of preventing and dealing with major conflicts that would have
threatened the public interest [51].
The question now is: how can successful adversarial collaborative communities
for managing the public interest come to be? Why would their participants interact at
all? They all have their own interests and objectives, which somehow have to match
for collaboration to emerge.
To better understand how private and public interests can be made to agree, the
concept of stakeholder needs to be worked out. Adversarial communities for the
public interest are composed of many stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who have
an interest in a particular decision, either as individuals or as representatives of a
group [15]. From this definition, some factors can be derived that complicate effective
communication among stakeholders. First, all parties have their private interests to
defend. This may lead to actions such as secrecy (not revealing all information to
other parties), advocacy (pushing their own position as far as possible), and discovery
(strategic revelation of partial information) [8]. Depending on the language game
being played, such strategic behavior may be legitimate, for example in a commercial
transaction or legal dispute. However, stakeholders often defend their private interests
in illegitimate ways, sometimes even leading to sabotage of the collaborative process.
Besides there being private interests, there is also a decision or public interest
affecting all stakeholders. The public interest will only be safeguarded if an equitable
and fair balance between the various stakeholder interests can be achieved [46].
However, when has such a balance been achieved? How can the end result be
acceptable to participants? Often, only an unsatisfactory compromise is achieved, in
which one of the participants has illegitimately gotten the upper hand [52].
Another factor complicating effective communication in adversarial communities
for the public interest is that not all discussants are participating on their own behalf,
but instead may represent the interests of others. This means that conflicts may
emerge and secondary communication processes may be necessary.
Cohen et al. claim that in adversarial collaboration the problem is the widely
diverging goals [8]. We argue, however, that in adversarial communities the real
problem is the disagreement between interests, not objectives. In BCFOR, agreement
was reached quickly that writing a joint group report in fair process, was a good way
of building common ground. However, it was considered to be very important that the
process in which this objective was to be achieved would be legitimate. The main
issues of conflict and confusion thus revolved around how to balance the interests.
To position communities for the public interest in which effective communication
is important, we classify communities along two dimensions. The first one is whether
interests of community members are mainly shared or opposed. We call these
communities harmonious and adversarial, respectively. The second dimension relates
to the objectives. If there is just discussion without collaboration, we call them
communities of interest, while collaborative communities aim to accomplish common
objectives, such as the authoring of a group report. Our main focus in this paper is on
adversarial collaborative communities.
To clarify the classification: we consider each of these two dimensions of interests
and objectives to be a continuum: Interests can be more or less shared. At the one end
of the continuum, interests are opposed, at the other end they are shared. Similar, for
objectives. These can range from being individual objectives only to completely joint
objectives.



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