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  • Journal Article
    Conventions and Commitments in Distributed CSCW Groups
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 37500) Mark, Gloria
    Conventions are necessary to establish in any recurrentcooperative arrangement. In electronic work, they are importantso as to regulate the use of shared objects. Based on empiricalresults from a long-term study of a group cooperating inelectronic work, I present examples showing that the group failedto develop normative convention behavior. These difficulties informing conventions can be attributed to a long list of factors:the lack of clear precedents, different perspectives among groupmembers, a flexible cooperation media, limited communication, thedesign process, and discontinuous cooperation. Further, I arguethat commitments to the conventions were difficult, due to theconventions not reaching an acceptance threshold, uneven payoffs,and weak social influences. The empirical results call for aspecific set of awareness information requirements to promoteactive learning about the group activity in order to support thearticulation of conventions. The requirements focus on the roleof feedback as a powerful mechanism for shaping and learningabout group behavior.
  • Journal Article
    Introduction to the Special Issue on Activity Theory and the Practice of Design
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 2002) Redmiles, David
  • Journal Article
    Supporting Public Availability and Accessibility with Elvin: Experiences and Reflections
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 2002) Fitzpatrick, Geraldine; Kaplan, Simon; Mansfield, Tim; Arnold, David; Segall, Bill
    We provide a retrospective account of how a generic event notification service called Elvin and a suite of simple client applications: CoffeeBiff, Tickertape and Tickerchat, came to be used within our organisation to support awareness and interaction. After overviewing Elvin and its clients, we outline various experiences from data collated across two studies where Elvin and its clients have been used to augment the workaday world to support interaction, to make digital actions visible, to make physical actions available beyond the location of action, and to support content and socially based information filtering. We suggest there are both functional and technical reasons for why Elvin works for enabling awareness and interaction. Functionally, it provides a way to produce, gather and redistribute information from everyday activities (via Elvin) and to give that information a perceptible form (via the various clients) that can be publicly available and accessible as a resource for awareness. The integration of lightweight chat facilities with these information sources enables awareness to easily flow into interaction, starting to re-connect bodies to actions, and starting to approximate the easy flow of interaction that happens when we are co-located. Technically, the conceptual simplicity of the Elvin notification, the wide availability of its APIs, and the generic functionality of its clients, especially Tickertape, have made the use of the service appealing to developers and users for a wide range of uses.
  • Journal Article
    Configuring Awareness
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 2002) Heath, Christian; Svensson, Marcus Sanchez; Hindmarsh, Jon; Luff, Paul; vom Lehn, Dirk
    The concept of awareness has become ofincreasing importance to both social andtechnical research in CSCW. The concept remainshowever relatively unexplored, and we stillhave little understanding of the ways in whichpeople produce and sustain `awareness' in andthrough social interaction with others. In thispaper, we focus on a particular aspect ofawareness, the ways in which participantsdesign activities to have others unobtrusivelynotice and discover, actions and events, whichmight otherwise pass unnoticed. We consider forexample how participants render visibleselective aspects of their activities, how theyencourage others to notice features of thelocal milieu, and how they encourage others tobecome sensitive to particular events. We drawexamples from different workplaces, primarilycentres of coordination; organisationalenvironments which rest upon the participants'abilities to delicately interweave a complexarray of highly contingent, yet interdependentactivities.
  • Journal Article
    A Descriptive Framework of Workspace Awareness for Real-Time Groupware
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 37500) Gutwin, Carl; Greenberg, Saul
    Supporting awareness of others is an idea that holds promise forimproving the usability of real-time distributed groupware.However, there is little principled information available aboutawareness that can be used by groupware designers. In thisarticle, we develop a descriptive theory of awareness for thepurpose of aiding groupware design, focusing on one kind of groupawareness called workspace awareness . We focus on how smallgroups perform generation and execution tasks in medium-sizedshared workspaces – tasks where group members frequently shiftbetween individual and shared activities during the work session.We have built a three-part framework that examines the concept ofworkspace awareness and that helps designers understand theconcept for purposes of designing awareness support in groupware.The framework sets out elements of knowledge that make upworkspace awareness, perceptual mechanisms used to maintainawareness, and the ways that people use workspace awareness incollaboration. The framework also organizes previous research onawareness and extends it to provide designers with a vocabularyand a set of ground rules for analysing work situations, forcomparing awareness devices, and for explaining evaluationresults. The basic structure of the theory can be used todescribe other kinds of awareness that are important to theusability of groupware.
  • Journal Article
    Articulating User Needs in Collaborative Design: Towards an Activity-Theoretical Approach
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 37316) Miettinen, Reijo; Hasu, Mervi
    This paper analyses the collaborative design ofa high-technology product, a neuromagnetometerused in the analysis of the activity of thehuman cortex. The producer, Neuromag Company istrying to transform the device from a basicresearch instrument into a means of clinicalpractice. This transition is analyzed as asimultaneous evolution of the product,producer-user network and user activities. Thenetwork is analyzed as a network of activitysystems. Each activity has a historicallyformed object and a motive of its own, as wellas a system of cultural means and expertise. Weuse these to explain and understand theinterests and points of view of the actors inrelation to the product and the contradictionsof the producer-user network. It is suggestedthat the emerging user needs of collectiveactors must be analyzed at three levels. At thefirst level, the use value of the product, itscapacity of solving the vital problems andchallenges of developing user activities, ischaracterized. The second-level analysisconcerns the creation and development of thenecessary complementary tools and services thatmake the implementation and use of the productpossible. This task presupposes collaborationbetween several communities of the innovationnetwork. The third level is the situatedpractical use of the product. In ourexperience, it is advantageous that researcherscontribute with their data to a dialogue inwhich the user needs are articulated.
  • Journal Article
    NetWORKers and their Activity in Intensional Networks
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 37316) Nardi, Bonnie A.; Whittaker, Steve; Schwarz, Heinrich
    Through ethnographic research, we document therise of personal social networks in theworkplace, which we call intensionalnetworks . Paradoxically, we find that the mostfundamental unit of analysis forcomputer-supported cooperative work is not at the group level for many tasks andsettings, but at the individual level aspersonal social networks come to be more andmore important. Collective subjects areincreasingly put together through theassemblage of people found through personalnetworks rather than being constituted as teamscreated through organizational planning andstructuring. Teams are still important butthey are not the centerpiece of labormanagement they once were, nor are they thechief resource for individual workers. We drawattention to the importance of networks as mostCSCW system designs assume a team. We urge thatdesigners take account of networks and theproblems they present to workers.
  • Journal Article
    Realist Activity Theory for Digital Library Evaluation: Conceptual Framework and Case Study
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 37316) Spasser, Mark A.
    A critical yet largely unexamined facet of digital library design anduse is how library content is assembled and vetted, which in turn hasprofound implications for ongoing digital library usefulness and usability.This article presents a social realist evaluation framework for anactivity theoretic case study of the Flora of North America digitallibrary. Social realist evaluation is a relatively new evaluationparadigm, positing that outcomes follow from mechanisms acting incontingently configured contexts. Because this study focuses on thedigital library content vetting process, a significant part of thepresent analysis concerns the publication subsystem of the Flora ofNorth America digital library – Collaborative Publishing Services –and how problems related to its design and use facilitates our abilityto explain the Flora of North America not only as a functioning digitallibrary project, but as a contradiction-driven organizational form inexpansive development. Activity theory is a philosophical and cross-disciplinaryframework for studying different forms of human practices in a multi-level,stratified manner, developmentally in time and through space. This intensivecase study of the Flora of North America digital library illustrates thatwhile social realism, itself content-neutral mechanics of explanation,provides a real foundation for activity theoretic analyses of workand technology, activity theory supplies a conceptually and substantivelyrich vocabulary for explanatory reasoning about technologically mediatedsocial practices, such as digital library assemblage and use.
  • Journal Article
    A View of Software Development Environments Based on Activity Theory
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 2002) Barthelmess, P.; Anderson, K.M.
    We view software development as a collaborative activity that is typically supported by a software development environment. Since these environments can significantly influence the collaborative nature of a software development project, it is important to analyze and evaluate their capabilities with respect to collaboration. In this paper, we present an analysis and evaluation of the collaborative capabilities of software development environments using an activity theory perspective. The discipline of software engineering (SE) emerged to study and develop artifacts to mediate the collective development of large software systems. While many advances have been made in the past three decades of SE's existence, the historical origins of the discipline are present in that techniques and tools to support the collaborative aspects of large-scale software development are still lacking. One factor is a common ``production-oriented'' philosophy that emphasizes the mechanistic and individualistic aspects of software development over the collaborative aspects thereby ignoring the rich set of human-human interactions that are possible over the course of a software development project. We believe that the issues and ideas surrounding activity theory may be useful in improving support for collaboration in software engineering techniques and tools. As such, we make use of the activity theory to analyze and evaluate process-centered software development environments (PCSDEs).
  • Journal Article
    Physical and Virtual Tools: Activity Theory Applied to the Design of Groupware
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 11, 2002) Fjeld, Morten; Lauche, Kristina; Bichsel, Martin; Voorhorst, Fred; Krueger, Helmut; Rauterberg, Matthias
    Activity theory is based on theconcept of tools mediating between subjects andobjects. In this theory, an individual'screative interaction with his or hersurroundings can result in the production oftools. When an individual's mental processesare exteriorized in the form of tools – termedobjectification – they become more accessibleto other people and are therefore useful forsocial interaction. This paper shows how ourunderstanding of activity theory has shaped ourdesign philosophy for groupware and how we haveapplied it. Our design philosophy and practiceis exemplified by a description of the BUILD-ITsystem. This is an Augmented Reality system wedeveloped to enhance group work; it is a kindof graspable groupware which supportscooperative planning. The system allows a groupof people, co-located around a table, tointeract, by means of physical bricks, withmodels in a virtual three-dimensional (3D)setting. Guided by task analysis, a set ofspecific tools for different 3D planning andconfiguration tasks was implemented as part ofthis system. We investigate both physical andvirtual tools. These tools allow users toadjust model height, viewpoint, and scale ofthe virtual setting. Finally, our designpractice is summarized in a set of designguidelines. Based on these guidelines, wereflect on our own design practice and theusefulness of activity theory for design.