An Integrated Approach to Designing and Evaluating Collaborative Applications and Infrastructures
Collaborative systems include both general infrastructures and specific applications for supporting collaboration. Because of the relative newness and complexity of these systems, it has been unclear what approach should be used to design and evaluate them. Based on the lessons learned from our work and that of others on collaborative systems, we have derived an integrated approach to researching collaborative applications and infrastructures. The approach can be described as a sequence of steps: We decompose the functionality of collaboration systems into smaller functions that can be researched more-or-less independently. For each of these functions, we adopt general (system-independent) principles regarding the design and implementation of the function, identify collaboration scenarios at multiple levels of abstraction, identify requirements based on the scenarios, adopt an interaction model to meet the requirements, realize the interaction model as a concrete user interface, develop a logical architecture of the system, identify a physical architecture for placing the logical components in a distributed system, develop infrastructure abstractions, use the abstractions to implement applications, and perform lab studies, field experiments, and simulations to evaluate the infrastructure and applications. As in other models with multiple phases, feedback from subsequent phases is used to modify the results from the previous phases. In this paper, we describe, illustrate and motivate this research plan.