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Making International Collaboration Work: Twitter, Gchat, Skype, and Google Docs
November 29, 2011 - 10:00pm

How do you balance working and living in different time zones? How do you make international collaboration work?

Ernesto Priego (UK) International collaboration is what keeps me going, but I must admit it is not always easy. Not every culture and/or individuals have the same attitudes to online work, so often ‘connectivity’ across time zones exists in potency but not in pragmatic terms. I rely a lot on shared Google Docs (like the one where these lines were originally typed); I like the ability to work collectively on the same surface remotely, often at the same time. As much as I believe we must “harness the power of social media” for international collaboration in academia, I also believe it’s important we go out and work together face to face. Nothing replaces the experience of meeting in real life, of physically traveling to places, and this is what for me makes the Internet and the Web wonderful Faustian factories of nostalgia and melancholy: it makes us think everything is possible simultaneously, but we are still human, constrained by our physical existence and non-work life demands.

Liana Silva (US) I’ve gotten used to working across time zones. For one, my parents live two time zones away from me (but only one during Daylight Savings Time), so I’m always thinking about what time it is back home. I’m also far from my home campus. How do I manage? I try to be flexible. When it comes to making phone appointments with my advisor and my mentor I try to find times that work for both of us, even if it requires me to wake up a little earlier. Also, Gchat and my hands-free headset make things much easier!

Ana Dinescu (Germany) I rarely have the opportunity to work in exclusively local teams. Sharing and accommodating different cultural backgrounds, languages and time zones is part of the daily practice and one of the richest lessons learned that I fully enjoy every time. As for the practical problem of time, the adjustment is the easiest task, given the fact that I don’t need too much time to sleep.

Denise Horn (US) Gender, language and status are intimately linked wherever I go, and sometimes that's the hardest thing for me to adapt to. I'm keenly aware that my gender and white skin affect how I am treated. In Thailand, my status as a professor (Ajarn Denise) means that I am treated with a level of respect that sometimes makes me uncomfortable (students who literally have to creep on the floor to keep their heads lower than mine), and in India, being a Western (blonde) woman often means I face a lot of harassment on the street, yet too much deference in the classroom.  Finding meaningful ways of connecting with my students abroad, though, means I spend a lot of time consciously watching and listening to how others communicate with each other, not just verbally.  Body language is sometimes more important than words!

Meg Palladino (US) When working with colleagues across time zones, I rely on email and Skype.  Sometimes there are early morning or late evening phone calls.  The occasional trip overseas or visits from colleagues from abroad also helps maintain that personal connection.

Rosalie Arcala Hall (Philippines) Living in the Philippines, but with an outward projected academic career means I have to pay attention to time zones quite a bit. Whether submitting proposals or manuscripts, I am happy that I have 12-hour lead time from a US deadline. Given my rather frank disposition in emails, I have previously run into trouble with some Asian collaborators who said I was “too demanding”; “militaristic” and intolerant of long silences. In my region, silence is preferred to saying no or giving bad news. Very frustrating.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe (US): Heavy use of Gchat!  Allows for conversation in the wee hours without a ringing phone or raucous conversation waking others.

Itir Toksoz (Turkey) I am friends with most of the people I work with internationally. So that means for emailing, Skyping or instant messaging, I sometimes have to be up until late hours. That is OK for me because I do not consider that work but being with friends. When it comes to travelling for conferences, I actually make an effort to go to conferences in new places. As my area is international relations, anywhere I go is an open book to me. I actually do collaborate with more academics from outside of Turkey then from Turkey.

Lee Skallerup Bessette (US) Canada is, on paper, a bilingual country. In practice, it is anything but. The connections between researchers doing similar research (particularly in my field of Canadian literature) are limited. There is a language barrier, geographic barriers, and also a general academic culture that doesn't nurture inter-institutional cooperation in research. Or, at least it didn't. I wish I had an answer, as it is one that I have been searching for as a comparatist.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten (Sweden) I love to work across cultures! It is part of the advantages of doing comparative or transnational research like I do in European Studies to be in contact with a huge diversity of scholars and of societies. A shared language (either that of the academia or that of the everyday communication) is essential, I believe, in working cross-cultures or cross-continents. Reiterated interaction and frequent contacts via virtual communication channels also help establish mutual knowledge and trust.

Afshan Jafar (US) I am fortunate to have grown up in the country that my research often focuses on (Pakistan), so I don't run into language or other cultural barriers. Still, I live in the U.S. which means I do and have spent many years away from "home". I rely on social media to help me stay connected when I am not physically present in Pakistan and  of course having my own family still living in Pakistan, helps keep me connected and up-to-date!

Mary Churchill (US) The fact that I usually wake up between 4 and 6am helps tremendously in bridging the time zone divide. The simultaneous use of Twitter, Gchat, Skype, and Facebook chat allows me to initiate and maintain multiple conversations in ‘real’ time and asynchronously. These methods don’t work for everyone and I try to schedule phone meetings when it makes sense and to add a (seemingly) less ephemeral element to the ongoing dialogue. However, nothing tops meeting folks face-to-face and I draw on those physical memories during virtual chats and phone conversations.

What’s your secret? How do you make international collaboration work for you?

 


 

 

 

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