Collaboration Among Designers: Analysing an Activity for System Development
Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 14, No. 3
Workplace studies provide an important input to system development, yet there is no straightforward way of translating empirical results into requirements. This study contributes to the development of methods by reporting an activity theory based approach consisting of (i) field observations, (ii) modelling and (iii) a specific task analysis for system requirements. The research informed the further development of the Build-it system, a multi-user system designed to support co-located interaction between designers in engineering and architecture, and other stakeholders such as clients, operators, or inhabitants. The background research was conducted in four engineering companies and comprised of meeting observations, a questionnaire on design collaboration ( n =94) and the analysis of 20 artefacts. The findings indicate that collaboration is of critical importance to the design process, and at least some of the tasks in engineering design could be supported by a system like Build-it. The task analysis for system requirements involved potential users from engineering but extended the scope to other domains, namely architecture and chemical process engineering ( n =22). In all three domains a multi-user system like Build-it would be advantageous; however, the specific requirements varied more than expected. The study critically reflects on the use of generic concepts and the process of conducting research for the purpose of understanding work for design.