A Descriptive Framework of Workspace Awareness for Real-Time Groupware
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.