JCSCW Vol. 01 (1992)

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  • Journal Article
    From ethnographic record to system design
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 3, 1992) Hughes, John A.; Randall, Dave; Shapiro, Dan
    This paper explores the issues involved in moving from ethnographic explorations of work in context to a practical contribution to system design. It does so using the example of an interdisciplinary research project involving sociologists and computer scientists in the domain of air traffic control systems. It forms a pair with another paper (Sommerville et al., 1992) exploring these questions from the perspective of our computer science partners. We characterise ethnography as a research method, and consider the differences between undertaking it for strictly sociological or anthropological purposes by contrast with interdisciplinary and design purposes. We summarise some of our results in ethnographic explications of the work of air traffic controllers, and the sociality which it manifests. We describe the dialogues involved in rendering these observations ‘informative’ for systems design, and the mutual translations implied in attempting to reconcile sociological with software engineering questions about supporting the work. We conclude by specifying some features of cooperative work which an engineering approach is in danger of overlooking; the ways, and limits, in which ethnographers can form a ‘bridge’ between users and designers; and some of the conflicts of interest entrained in generating technical change.
  • Journal Article
    Blurred partitions but thicker walls
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 4, 1992) Snellen, I.; Wyatt, S.
    In this paper, we explore public administration as a site of use for Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) applications, and outline the particular opportunities and challenges that CSCW and public administration pose for each other. We argue that public administrations in modern democratic societies are in both their organizational structures and their activities subservient to legal and political norms in a way that is different from private organizations; therefore, public administration cannot slavishly emulate CSCW applications that have proven themselves in a private context. Public administrations have to assess forms of CSCW in the light of the normative structure that is specific for them. We argue that the introduction of CSCW will further the tendencies to bureaucratisation and skew power biases towards public administration and away from the citizen. We give evidence for this contention on the basis of a comparison of different national attempts to introduce CSCW in Social Security offices in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Although each of these countries is inspired by different ideals about the relationship between state and citizen in the social security sector, the influence of CSCW in all three cases goes in the same direction.
  • Journal Article
    Why do users like video?
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 3, 1992) Tang, John C.; Isaacs, Ellen
    Three studies of collaborative activity were conducted as part of research in developing multimedia technology to support collaboration. One study surveyed users' opinions of their use of video conference rooms. Users indicated that the availability of the video conference rooms was too limited, audio quality needed improvement, and a shared drawing space was needed. A second study analyzed videotapes of a work group when meeting face-to-face, video conferencing, and phone conferencing. The analyses found that the noticeable audio delay in video conferencing made it difficult for the participants to manage turn-taking and coordinate eye glances. In the third study, a distributed team was observed under three conditions: using their existing collaboration tools, adding a desktop conferencing prototype (audio, video, and shared drawing tool), and subtracting the video capability from the prototype. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected by videotaping the team, interviewing the team members individually, and recording their usage of the phone, electronic mail, face-to-face meetings, and desktop conferencing. The team's use of the desktop conferencing prototype dropped significantly when the video capability was removed. Analysis of the videotape data showed how the video channel was used to help mediate their interaction and convey visual information. Desktop conferencing apparently reduced e-mail usage and was perceived to reduce the number of shorter, two-person, face-to-face meetings.
  • Journal Article
    On the social organisation of organisations
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 1-2, 1992) Jirotka, Marina; Gilbert, Nigel; Luff, Paul
    This paper considers a range of theoretical approaches to the understanding of organisations and the implications these views have for the design of computer supported cooperative work systems. Organisations have often been seen as structures which can be divided into hierarchically ordered parts or as networks of informal relations. Organisational theorists have also considered organisations to resemble organisms with needs for survival in potentially hostile environments or as information processors, with decision-making as their most important characteristic. More recently, developments in the social sciences have suggested that radical reconceptualisations are necessary for the study of work settings. Consequently, these developments have attracted attention due to their potential to inform system design. This paper reviews some of these efforts and comments on some of the outstanding problems that have to be overcome if studies of everyday work settings are to inform the design of systems to support collaborative work.
  • Journal Article
    Survey of collaborative drawing support tools
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 3, 1992) Peng, Chengzhi
    Along with recent experiments in the design of communication or computer tools for supporting various kinds of group working, the development of collaborative drawing systems has emerged as a notable research area within the field of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. This paper reports a survey of the experiments in collaborative drawing support tools with an objective of reviewing how the issues of supporting collaborative design have been addressed by the research prototypes. The survey is presented in three parts: (1) findings from the observations of group interaction in drawing and design activities, (2) a framework for classifying the design issues experimented with by prototypes developers, and (3) a categorisation of the current prototype systems by interrelating the patterns of group use observed with the system features classified. The survey indicates that there are currently at least three different strategies of developing collaborative drawing support tools, which reflect the existence of diversified understanding and technological responses to what and how human collaboration in design may be supported.
  • Journal Article
    Negotiating temporal orders
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 4, 1992) Egger, Edeltraud; Wagner, Ina
    This paper focuses on time management as a cooperative task. Based on an analysis of the cultural complexity of scheduling surgical operations in a large clinic, possibilities of using information technology are explored. A computer system can be used to facilitate and change the negotiation of resource deployment in complex organizations by a) providing an integrated view of time management problems and decision-making within a complex organization, and b) by improving coordination. The paper discusses some design options for such a system which combines negotiation support with an auromatic sheduling device and critically examines the rationale for an organization to accept and implement such a system.
  • Journal Article
    Can organisations afford knowledge?
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 3, 1992) Anderson, R.; Sharrock, W.
    “Affordance Theory” has been widely discussed as a potential resource for the design of interfaces for CSCW and other systems. In this paper, we discuss the extension and adaption of this concept beyond the psychology of perception to the social distribution of a common stock of knowledge. We suggest that a working division of labour as that is known, oriented to, and rendered visible by the management of space and artifacts within a working environment can “afford” knowledge of organisational routines and practices. Learning to see the working division of labour is coming to understand the organisation. The grounds for extending the concept in this way are derived from consideration of an actual example taken from fieldwork. Some implications for the design of CSCW systems are reviewed.
  • Journal Article
    Taking CSCW seriously
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 1-2, 1992) Schmidt, Kjeld; Bannon, Liam
    The topic of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) has attracted much attention in the last few years. While the field is obviously still in the process of development, there is a marked ambiguity about the exact focus of the field. This lack of focus may hinder its further development and lead to its dissipation. In this paper we set out an approach to CSCW as a field of research which we believe provides a coherent conceptual framework for this area, suggesting that it should be concerned with the support requirements of cooperative work arrangements . This provides a more principled, comprehensive, and, in our opinion, more useful conception of the field than that provided by the conception of CSCW as being focused on computer support for groups. We then investigate the consequences of taking this alternative conception seriously, in terms of research directions for the field. As an indication of the fruits of this approach, we discuss the concept of ‘articulation work’ and its relevance to CSCW. This raises a host of interesting problems that are marginalized in the work on small group support but critical to the success of CSCW systems ‘in the large’, i. e., that are designed to meet current work requirements in the everyday world.
  • Journal Article
    Collaboration and control - Crisis management and multimedia technology in London Underground Line Control Rooms
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 1-2, 1992) Heath, Christian; Luff, Paul
    Despite technical advances over the past few years in the area of systems support for cooperative work there is still relatively little understanding of the organisation of collaborative activity in real world, technologically supported, work environments. Indeed, it has been suggested that the failure of various technological applications may derive from their relative insensitivity to ordinary work practice and situated conduct. In this paper we discuss the possibility of utilising recent developments within sociology, in particular the naturalistic analysis of organisational conduct and social interaction, as a basis for the design and development of tools and technologies to support collaborative work. Focussing on the Line Control Rooms in London Underground, a complex multimedia environment in transition, we begin to explicate the tacit work practices and procedures whereby personnel systematically communicate information to each other and coordinate a disparate collection of tasks and activities. The design implications of these empirical observations, both for Line Control Room and technologies to support cooperative work, are briefly discussed.
  • Journal Article
    Coordinating computer-mediated work
    (Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 1, No. 4, 1992) Rogers, Yvonne
    Coordination of inter-dependent work activities is central to CSCW. However, little is known about how people coordinate their work activities, especially when confronted with computer systems that are intended to support collaboration. This paper examines how a close-knit group of engineers attempt to collaborate when managing a networked system whilst at the same time trying to maintain coordination of their interdependent work activities. Drawing from theoretical constructs developed in distributed cognition, an analysis is presented that contrasts the role played by common objects and mediating mechanisms in coordinating such activities with the negotiative practices that emerge when they break down. The implications of the problematic and dynamic nature of coordination is subsequently discussed in relation to CSCW design.